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Solons start debate on Charter change bill today

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The House of Representatives will start its deliberations today (Monday) on Resolution of Both Houses (RBH) No. 7, which proposes amendments to the 1987 Philippine Constitution’s restrictive economic provisions through a joint vote of Congress.

Pampanga Rep. Aurelio Gonzales, Jr., one of the authors of RBH 7, said the Lower House would convert itself into a committee of the whole to expedite discussions.

Some resource persons, including noted economists, were invited to join the initial debates starting at 1 p.m.

“The conversion of the House into a committee of the whole, which is like a plenary session, aims to involve every one of our colleagues in discussions with our resource persons. This will facilitate proceedings leading to an eventual approval or rejection of the proposed amendments,” he said.

Congress would conduct three hearings a week and try to obtain a vote on the proposals before the Holy Week recess next month, Gonzales said.

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March also the original timeline set by Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri for the adoption of RBH No. 6, the Senate’s version of the measure, but it has since been moved to October.

RBH No. 7 is almost an exact reproduction of RBH No. 6, introduced by Zubiri and Senators Loren Legarda and Juan Edgardo Angara.

They are both entitled “A Resolution of Both Houses of Congress proposing amendments to certain economic provisions of the 1987 Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines, particularly on Articles 12, 14 and 16.”

RBH 6, however, is pushing for a separate vote of both chambers of Congress in approving the amendments.

“We in the House chose to be true to our Constitution by quoting exactly what it says, no more, no less. If they say joint voting is unconstitutional, separate voting is also against the Charter because it is not there. Let the experts interpret this provision,” Gonzales said.

The proposed House and Senate changes were on the grant of legislative franchises to and ownership of public utilities in Article 12, and ownership of basic educational facilities in Article 14, and advertising firms in Article 16.

The suggested principal amendments were the insertion of the phrase, “unless otherwise provided by law,” which would empower Congress to lift or relax present economic restrictions in the nation’s basic law, and the addition of the qualifier “basic” in Article 14.

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