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Tuesday, November 28, 2023

House panel okay of election of Con-Con delegates hailed

Lawmakers on Saturday hailed the approval at the committee level of a revived initiative to hold an election for delegates to the proposed Constitutional Convention (Con-Con) to amend the economic provisions of the 1987 Charter.

At the same time, Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte appealed to President Marcos to reconsider his position on constitutional reforms in order to sustain high economic growth under his watch by way of greater foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows.

“We are hoping that the committee vote for our Con-Con proposal would clear the way to its swift plenary approval by the House,” Villafuerte said. “It is our hope, too, that with this panel vote, President Marcos would reconsider his position on Charter change.”

Villafuerte, one of the principal authors of the proposed economic Charter Change by way of a con-con, recalled that during  the recent grand opening of the New Terminal Building of the Clark International Airport in Pampanga, President Marcos said that “we will do everything” to nurture strong partnerships between his administration and potential investors.

“Given that the 60-40 ownership cap in our Constitution is apparently one deal-breaker that has turned off foreign investors despite the investment-grade ratings of the Philippines for over a decade now,” said Villafuerte,  “we believe that giving priority to Charter change to take out this restrictive economic provision is one of the must-do’s that the President could consider to foster stronger partnerships with prospective investors leading to greater FDI (foreign direct investment) inflows.”

That the 60-40 ownership cap has apparently been a damper on foreign investor appetite is borne out, he said, by official data pointing to continued weak FDI inflows despite our country’s investment-grade ratings and status as one Asia’s economic over-achievers,” he said.

For his part, Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr rallied behind former Chief Justice Reynato Puno’s proposal for a “hybrid” con-con.

“I will be proposing an amendment during the committee deliberation of the consolidated bills and if not approved in the committee level, I am reserving my right to propose such amendment during the plenary discussions (on the con-con) bill,” Barzaga said.

Barzaga sent a letter to the Committee on Constitutional Amendments headed by Cagayan de Oro Rep Rufus Rodriguez to formalize his proposal.

While acknowledging that electing delegates to a con-con remains the best mode to amend the Constitution, Puno does not want Congress to take the traditional route where all the delegates are directly elected by the people.

Puno has proposed that the Rodriguez panel adopt a hybrid set-up “given the seeming deterioration of our political processes,” stressing that “there is the lurking danger that the elected delegates to a constitutional convention will just be proxies or factotums of political dynasties and economic oligarchs.”

The retired magistrate, who led a consultative committee in 2018 tasked to craft a proposed federal constitution, suggested that under the hybrid model, the con-con will be a combination of delegates jointly elected by the public and experts appointed and vetted by Malacañang and Congress.

“As we have heard in the course of the public hearings in Congress, there is an apprehension by some resource persons that in a constitutional convention, the delegates, in most instances, will be backed by politicians and the delegates would just be considered as alter-ego and in the words of former Chief Justice Reynato Puno, ‘proxies of proxies or factotums of political dynasties and economic oligarchs,’” Barzaga said.

Barzaga in his letter to Rodriguez is proposing that the con-con be composed of 51 delegates with three delegates elected per region and 40 delegates to be appointed by a committee composed of the President, the Vice President, the Chief Justice, the Senate President and the Speaker “who shall elect among themselves who shall be the chairman of the committee on appointments.”

“The appointees shall be of good moral character with known probity and considered as experts in their respective fields particularly, (1) health, (2) agriculture, (3) transportation, (4) information technology, (5) disaster resilience, (6) economics, (7) foreign investments, (8) environment, (9) labor, (10) infrastructure, (11) law and such other experts in other fields as may be determined by the committee on appointments and the various sectors in our community should be properly represented by at least one (1) appointee for every sector namely indigenous people, senior citizens, persons with disability, solo parents, LGBTQIA+, women, youth and other sectors which the appointing authority may consider necessary,” said Barzaga’s proposed amendment.

Barzaga said the hybrid set-up does not violate the Constitution, Article XVII, Section 3 of which states that, “The Congress may, by a vote of two-thirds of all its Members, call a constitutional convention, or by a majority vote of all its Members, submit to the electorate the question of calling such a convention.”

Last week, the House constitutional amendments committee on constitutional amendments approved by a 16-3 vote with one abstention a still unnumbered Resolution of Both Houses (RBH) seeking the election of delegates to study and propose reforms to the 1987 Constitution.

The approval came after holding several regular meetings and public hearings in various parts of the country on pending proposals to amend the Constitution either by a duly-elected Con-Con or by the Congress convening itself into a Constituent Assembly (Con-Ass).

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