MANILA, Philippines — The House of Representatives is looking to present its proposed amendments to the constitution for the public's ratification alongside the 2022 national elections, House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco disclosed Sunday morning.
"We hope to finish the debates before the end of 2021 and present it to the public for ratification alongside the election of new leaders in the 2022 national elections. Until then, we assure the public that the debates on RBH 2 will be transparent and fair," Velasco said in a statement sent to reporters.
According to the House speaker, the lower chamber's constitutional amendments committee was looking at inserting the phrase “unless otherwise provided by law” in the charter's general provisions and sections on National Patrimony and Economy, Education, Science and Technology, Arts, Culture and Sports, among others.
"The addition of this phrase will allow Congress to enact laws to free up the economy to foreign investors, or maintain the status quo," Velasco added. "Foreign investment plays a crucial role in the Philippine economy by supporting domestic jobs and the creation of physical and knowledge capital across a range of industries. The need to attract foreign capital is critical to support our economy’s recovery from COVID-19."
However, should the attempt at charter change succeed, the same phrase would also be inserted in sections in the constitution providing that only Filipino citizens may control educational institutions and mass media companies, along with sections restricting private corporations' holding of lands of public domain.
Why does this matter?
When it last attempted to amend the constitution, the Palace said that doing so was not a priority of the administration despite Duterte's promising earlier during his campaign to the presidency to shift to a federal type of government which would require amendments to the constitution. With new leadership installed in the House — where the chief executive holds a supermajority — a change in its tune on the matter remains entirely within the realm of possibility, with a reinvigorated push for Cha-cha alive in well in the lower chamber.
Lawmakers under the Makabayan bloc in the lower chamber cast fear on Thursday that the renewed push for charter change would only give way to term extensions for elected officials. “It’s open season once debates on charter change start,” Rep. Ferdinand Gaite (Bayan Muna party-list) said then in Filipino. “That means any provision in the Constitution can be tackled. There will be no holds barred. It’s not true that it will only be limited to economic provisions,” he added.
— Franco Luna with reports from Xave Gregorio and Christian Deiparine
The consultative committee, tasked with drafting a new constitution, eyes the removal of the impeachment power of Congress over justices of the Constitutional Court, one of the proposed three Supreme Courts under the draft charter.
Concom proposes that the impeachment of justices in Constitutional Court be decided instead by the 15-member Supreme Court.
The proposed Constitutional Court will have a presiding justice appointed by the Supreme Court and six associate justices with two appointees each from three branches of government.
— with Edu Punay
Speaker Lord Allan Velasco says he wants to "liberalize the restrictive economic provisions in the Constitution" upon authoring Resolution of Both Houses 2, that seeks to emdn the 1987 Constitution.
The House leader adds that they propose to amend certain sections of Articles XII (National Patrimony and Economy), XIV (Education, Science and Technology, Arts, Culture and Sports) and XVI (General Provisions) to add the phrase "unless otherwise provided by law."
"As global economies slowly start to reopen, we cannot allow the Philippines to lag behind in terms of investments and opportunities. We need to seize the momentum if we are to fully recover from the economic devastation of COVID-19," Velasco says in a statement.
Two senators have filed a resolution to convene the 18th Congress as a constituent assembly to introduce limited amendments to the 1987 Constitution.
Sens. Bato dela Rosa and Francis Tolentino filed Resolution of Both Houses No. 2 on December 7, which seeks to revise the constitution "limited to the provisions on democratic representation and the economic provisions of the Constitution."
"WHEREAS, against the backdrop mounting economic and health concerns brought about by the pandemic, it is important to ensure that the subsequent national policies and strategies for the rehabilitation of our nation be responsive to the needs of our people in order to bring about genuine economic growth and sustainable development," the resolution reads.
House of Representatives leaders meet on Wednesday to discuss Charter change.
House constitutional amendments panel chair Alfredo Garbin tells Philstar.com that Speaker Lord Allan Velasco gave a directive to tackle proposed amendments to restrictive economic provisions in the Constitution.
"It’s long overdue, ours is a 33-year-old Constitution of which it’s restrictive economic provisions no longer conforms to the needs of time," Garbin says. — Xave Gregorio
House leaders met today to discuss Charter change. House constitutional amendments panel chair Alfredo Garbin tells @PhilstarNews that Speaker Lord Allan Velasco gave a directive to tackle proposed amendments to restrictive economic provisions in the Constitution pic.twitter.com/VDIsFWnMXG
— Xave Gregorio (@XaveGregorio) January 6, 2021
President Duterte does not intend to stay in power beyond his term, Malacañang said yesterday, as it maintained that the 2022 elections can only be postponed if the 1987 Constitution is amended.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque says the only elections that can be deferred are those that are not stated in the constitution like the barangay polls.
"It (postponing the 2022 elections) can never be an option for Malacañang unless the Constitution is amended," Roque says, noting that the Constitution specifies the date of the election of the President, Vice President, representatives, and senators.
"The President is not interested in extending his term and he leaves it to the Filipino people, the sovereign people, to decide if they want to amend the Constitution to postpone the elections," he adds.
The constitution states that the regular election for President, Vice-President, senators, and members of the House of Representatives shall be held on the second Monday of May. — The STAR/Alexis Romero
An attempt at the House of Representatives to change the 1987 Constitution to give local officials five-year terms will not prosper in the upper house of Congress, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon says Monday.
"If the House of Representatives would insist on passing Cha-cha, make it a point to include their return address, because the Senate and the Filipino people will not accept it," he says in a press statement.
He says charter change is not among the Senate's priorities, echoing an earlier statement from Senate President Vicente Sotto III.
The House committee on constitutional amendments reportedly approved in a closed-door meeting last week a resolution that would give House members and other local officials five-year terms from the current three-year terms.
The same resolution also adds the phrase "unless otherwise provided by law" to economic provisions in the charter.
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