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President draws line on economic Cha-cha

Charles Dantes, Vince Lopez, Macon Ramos-Araneta, Maricel Cruz & Vito Barcelo

Keeps door open for tackling political provisions ‘in future’

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Tuesday said he supports efforts to amend restrictive economic provisions in the 1987 Constitution, saying the Charter was “not written for a globalized world.”

Mr. Marcos, in a GMA News TV “24 Oras” interview, said he even supports political amendments, but said these should not be tackled yet.

“We have to adjust so that we can increase the economic activity in the Philippines so we can attract more foreign investors,” he said.

The President, however, drew the line on which sectors or services should not be opened up to foreign investors.

He said he is not in favor of allowing foreigners to own land as this “will cause disruptions.”

“Corporations— maybe we can discuss this, except for the critical areas such as power generation, media, and all the strategic areas that we cannot allow to be influenced by a foreign entity, a corporation or another country. That’s what we have to decide—where we draw the line and how much,” the President said.

He said political amendments should not be discussed not so as “not to jeopardize the success” of efforts to amend the economic provisions.

Earlier in the day, Mr. Marcos urged the public to let the Commission on Elections (Comelec) validate the signatures submitted in a people’s initiative (PI) to amend the Constitution.

“Let the Comelec do their job,” he said.

The President said he talked to officials regarding speculation that people were being paid to sign the forms in the people’s initiative.

He also said he believed the Comelec would not accept signatures if people were indeed paid or promised benefits for signing.

”So, as far as I know, there is no such thing. What is said is not to pay in cash, but to promise some kind of benefits. We’re looking at it, [but]… our releases have not changed, they are constant,” he said.

“We just have to let Comelec… do their work to validate the signatures,” he said, adding that the signatures would not be counted if they were gathered in a suspicious manner.

So far, the Comelec said at least 884 cities and municipalities have received several pages of signatures of the people’s initiative.

As provided for in the Constitution, amendments can be directly proposed by the people “through initiative upon a petition of at least 12 percent of the total number of registered voters, of which every legislative district must be represented by at least 3 percent of the registered voters therein, a mode called people’s initiative.”

Once the number of required signatures are met, proponents of the people’s initiative will have to file their petition with the Comelec, which will scrutinize and verify the signatures.

If the poll body is able to verify that the signatures are authentic, it will schedule a national plebiscite or referendum where the people will vote on the petitioners’ proposed constitutional amendments.

Senate manifesto vs. ‘PI’

Meanwhile, the 24 senators stood their ground in absolutely opposing the people’s initiative, which was reportedly marred by incidents of bribery.

In a manifesto against people’s initiative, Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri said they are opposed to the Senate and House voting jointly in a constituent assembly.

“To allow joint voting will destroy the delicate balance on which our hard-won democracy rests,” the manifesto reads.

“It will destabilize the principle of bicameralism and our system of checks and balances.”

The manifesto, which Zubiri read on the Senate floor, was unanimously signed by all the senators.

If the people’s initiative prospers, further changes to the Constitution can be done with or without the Senate’s approval, or worse, even absent all the senators, the manifesto said.

Senator Robin Padilla, chairman of the committee on constitutional amendments and revision of codes, put a note near his signature that read: “I am for constitutional change. I support three modes for Charter change: a constitutional convention, and constituent assembly and a people’s initiative. I am against Congress voting jointly. It should be separately.”

The manifesto warned that should Congress vote jointly in a constituent assembly, the Senate and its 24 members cannot cast any meaningful vote against the 316 members of the House of Representatives.

It also cautioned that this singular and seemingly innocuous change in the Constitution will open the floodgates to a wave of amendments and revisions that will erode the nation as we know it.

With this change, the senators noted that the Senate is left powerless to stop even the most radical proposals:

“We cannot protect our lands from foreign ownership; We cannot stop the removal of term limits or a no election scenario in 2025, or worse, in 2028.”

It is ridiculous that the Senate, a co-equal chamber of the House, which is needed to pass even local bills, will have a dispensable and diluted role in Charter change the most monumental act of policy-making concerning the highest law in the land.

Throughout Philippine history, the manifesto said the Senate has always been one of the first targets by those who seek to undermine our country’s democracy.

“Today, the Senate once again stands as a bastion of democracy, as it rejects this brazen attempt to violate the Constitution, the country, and our people.”

“This Senate of the people will not allow itself to be silenced,” the senators said.

“The Constitution is the supreme law of the land. It is an enduring symbol of our democracy, enshrining the foundation of our nationhood and reflecting the consensus of our citizenry.

“We respect and recognize the people as our sovereign, with the right to call for Constitutional amendments. “

“We must, however, guard against any sinister and underhanded attempt to change the Constitution by exploiting our democratic process under the guise of a people’s initiative.”

House unperturbed by criticism

The leadership of the House of Representatives remained unperturbed to criticism against a people’s initiative as a route to amend the Charter.

In a statement, Speaker Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez also denounced any allegations of bribery or unethical practices in persuading citizens to sign the petition for the people’s initiative. “Such actions, if true, would violate the initiative’s spirit of honest and voluntary participation and erode our democratic foundations.”

Romualdez, representative of Leyte’s first district, said: “While the House respects and supports the people’s initiative as an independent, citizen-driven process, our role is to facilitate and encourage democratic participation without direct involvement in signature collection.”

“We are committed to ensuring that proposals are processed in accordance with legal and constitutional guidelines, maintaining the integrity of our Constitution in subsequent legislative actions,” Romualdez said.

“The House of Representatives stands committed to providing a transparent and accountable framework to support the people’s initiative, ensuring that it remains a true representation of the people’s collective will. We are here to support and respect the outcomes of this process, affirming the people’s initiative as the purest form of democracy,” he added.

He added: “In response to the discourse surrounding the people’s initiative, I wish to restate the House of Representatives’ commitment to this essential democratic process.”

Romualdez defended his position on the need to review the 1987 Constitution because foreign capital and direct investments are crucial to the economy.

“The recent collaboration with the Senate, led by Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri and the filing of Resolution of Both Houses No. 6, reflects a unified commitment to constitutional reform. This joint effort underscores our resolve to establish a reformed, responsive, and result-oriented constitutional framework. We envision an economy open to the investments needed to generate businesses, jobs, and livelihoods for Filipinos,” Romualdez said.

Comelec’s ministerial duty

The Comelec defended its move to accept the documents containing the signatures for a people’s initiative, saying it is only part of its ministerial duty and preliminaries of the process.

In an interview over ANC, Comelec Chairman George Garcia said there is still no formal petition filed yet before the Comelec and it is not within its jurisdiction to assume that there is indeed a people’s initiative.

He said the documents with signatures were being tallied based on the guidelines specified in the poll body’s Resolution 10650.

“We cannot change the guidelines when there is already a process ongoing,” he said.

“It is the local Comelec offices that would certify the signature forms that would form part of a petition that will be filed later,” Garcia said.

“There is no petition yet. The process has not yet started. At present, what the Comelec is doing is purely a ministerial function,” the poll chief said.

Once a formal petition has been filed, Garcia said the Comelec would then proceed to determine if it has been submitted complete with the required attachments.

Such requirements, he said, include the number of the actual voting population, and the number of signatures required to be collected — at least 3 percent of each of the 254 legislative districts in the country — certified by the Election Records and Statistics Department (ERSD).

The Comelec would then verify if the petition is “sufficient in form and substance,” meaning, if it clearly indicates the provision of the Constitution they want to be amended.

In other developments:

* Newly elected Deputy Speaker David Suarez of Quezon province denounced former speaker Pantaleon Alvarez’s recent accusations against the people’s initiative, labeling them as “baseless and a misguided attempt to sow discord within the House of Representatives.” The deputy speaker made the statement in response to Alvarez’s recent TV interview, where je questioned the legitimacy of the ongoing “people’s initiative” to amend the 1987 Constitution, alleging Romualdez’s involvement—a claim that has been denied.

* The labor group Nagkaisa! Labor Coalition urged Zubiri to focus on the pressing demands of workers, including wage hikes and not Charter change at this time, which is totally unnecessary. The labor group criticized the senator for leading the Senate in the filing of Resolution of Both Houses No. 6 (RBH 6) which aims to amend the economic provision of the 1987 Constitution through a Constituent Assembly. “Zubiri should redirect his focus to the pressing demands of workers, including a wage hike, an end to labor contractualization (endo), and employment guarantees to address the chronic jobs crisis in the country,” said Josua Mata, Convenor of Nakakaisa.

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