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More push economic Cha-cha, Senate urged to heed biz group’s call

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Congressional leaders on Wednesday said the clamor of the business sector for economic and investment reforms in the Constitution must be heeded to create more job and income opportunities for the people.

Senior Deputy Speaker and Pampanga Rep. Aurelio Gonzales Jr. made the appeal in reaction to the report of the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) that the number of jobless Filipinos fell to 1.83 million in November from 2.09 million in October.

“This means that there were an additional 260,000 of our labor force who got themselves employed in jobs created in the economy through investments. We could create more job and income opportunities for our people if we could attract more investments, especially funds from foreign investors,” Gonzales said.

Senator Robin Padilla, for his part, said the time is right to amend the Constitution to revise its restrictive economic provisions through a people’s initiative.

He noted that this will pave the way for reforms that will create more jobs and economic opportunities for the Filipino people.

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Gonzales said attracting more foreign investors is the goal of the House of Representatives in pushing for amending the economic provisions of the Constitution, which restrict the flow of foreign capital into the country.

Reps. Robert Ace Barbers of Surigao del Norte and Joey Sarte Salceda of Albay echoed Gonzales’ view, saying the drop in the country’s unemployment rate means that the Marcos administration economic policies are working.

“The President and his economic team, and their allies in Congress, principally the House of Representatives, are on the right track. The newest data indicated that the economy has created more than 200,000 jobs,” Barbers said.

Barbers said investments are the principal driver for creating new job and income opportunities for the people.

He said the drop in unemployment gives more impetus to the House initiative to relax the “restrictive” economic provisions of the Constitution “so the country can attract more foreign investments.”

“More foreign investments will mean more jobs, more economic activities and more income for our people,” he said.

He added that the Charter’s economic provisions restrict foreign capital inflow “because they contain a cap on foreign ownership and investment that cannot be lifted or amended by any law.”

“That’s why constitutional amendments focused on the economic provisions are urgently needed,” Barbers said.

Salceda, chair of the House committee on ways and means, said the November 2023 unemployment rate is the lowest since April 2005, demonstrating the Marcos administration’s commitment to providing opportunities for decent

“While I celebrate this news, we must not rest on our laurels,” he said. “We must continue to encourage investments in manufacturing, which lost some 1.39 million jobs year-on-year. Durable manufacturing

jobs come from a strong industrial base, which can only be built through a steady stream of investments, availability of competitively-priced inputs such as lower power cost, and continued innovation among the country’s entrepreneurs,” Salceda said.

Gonzales said various groups representing the business community, the latest of which is the Foundation for Economic Freedom, support this objective.

The House leader noted that in the past, in position papers given to the House committee on constitutional amendments, other business organizations, including the Makati Business Club, expressed support for economic reform in the Constitution.

“So we are urging the Senate, which has consistently resisted any form of Charter change, to heed the clamor of the business sector. We can accelerate capital formation and hasten our economic growth for the benefit of our people if we can introduce constitutional reform,” Gonzales said.

He said the consistent refusal of senators to consider House initiatives for Charter reform has prompted many congressmen to push for the people’s initiative mode of proposing constitutional amendments, a mechanism that will bypass the Senate.

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and the Department of Health (DOH), meanwhile, denied a charge by Senator Imee Marcos that support for Charter change is a requirement to benefit from government programs.

“The only consideration of the DOH for the distribution of medical assistance for indigent and financially incapacitated patients is their circumstance as evaluated by a licensed social worker at a hospital or health facility,” DOH Deputy Spokesperson Assistant Secretary Albert Domingo said.

Labor Secretary Bienvenido Laguesma said only disadvantaged and displaced workers are eligible to receive benefits under the department’s TUPAD program.

Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Benhur Abalos denied that his agency was involved in a signature campaign to support a people’s initiative to amend the Charter.

Earlier, House Speaker Martin Romualdez said they were primarily looking at the economic provisions in amending the Constitution.

He said they would exhaust all means to open up the Constitution to further encourage more foreign direct investments so that more jobs and livelihood would be created in the country.

Padilla, who chairs the Senate committee on constitutional amendments and revision of codes, said amending the Charter should be handled carefully to avoid being used for personal interests.

Padilla said he favors amending the Constitution, which has remained unchanged for more than 36 years, through a people’s initiative.

He emphasized that only the people can bring about true changes in the system, for the betterment of our country.

Also on Wednesday, a law firm said PIRMA, the group that sought unsuccessfully to amend the Constitution through a people’s initiative during the Ramos administration, was behind a pro-Charter change advertisement that aired on TV networks this week.

Lawyer Alex Avisado of the Gana Atienza Avisado Law Offices told ABS-CBN News that his law firm was providing the legal help for PIRMA in anticipation of a long legal battle to push for Cha-cha.

PIRMA’s advertisement claimed that many Filipinos were “neglected” and “left behind” by the 1987 Constitution, and that the promised reforms on the sector of agriculture, education and economy all failed.

Albay town mayors, meanwhile, led by Mayor Raymond Adrian E. Salceda, said they support the call to amend the Constitution by way of a people’s initiative.

Former Ako Bicol Party-list Rep. Alfredo Garbin Jr. denied allegations of vote buying, saying he sees nothing wrong with the allocation of a mobilization fund that will be used to cover expenditures of volunteers collecting signatures for the proposed people’s initiative to amend the charter.

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman earlier claimed that coordinators from Ako Bicol party-list released funds for a ₱100 per voter campaign to change the Charter through a people’s initiative. This happened during a Jan. 5 meeting attended by Albay’s municipal mayors, as well as Garbin as a resource speaker to tackle the proposed charter change.

“The Omnibus Election Code on the ban on buying and selling of votes is applicable so there is a criminal offense here,” Lagman told CNN Philippines.

Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte denied telling village officials to gather signatures for a Charter change initiative.

She said the city government has nothing to do with the supposed distribution of money in exchange for people’s signatures by pro-Cha-cha advocates.

“The local government has nothing to do with it. That is the initiative of the congressmen,” she said.

She said village chiefs have approached her, informing her that there were several members of the House Representatives initiating the signature campaign.

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