The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) has presented to Congress the half-million signatures gathered across different provinces to signify grassroots support for “surgical” amendments to the 1987 Constitution, especially its economic provisions.
At the hearing conducted by the House of Representatives’ committee on constitutional amendments, Interior and Local Government (DILG) Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya, who is also a part of the Inter-agency Task Force for Federalism and Constitutional Reform, presented to congressmen the 555,610 signatures gathered during a roadshow promoting the merits of amending certain provisions in the Constitution.
The committee, chaired by Ako-Bicol Rep. Alfredo Garbin, resumed hearings on a resolution of both houses by Speaker Lord Allan Velasco, that seeks to amend restrictive provisions of the Constitution by adding the phrase “unless otherwise provided by law” to sections of Articles XII, XIV and XVI.
“These provisions have given rise to monopolies and oligopolies by some Filipino-owned industries at the expense of consumers,” Garbin said in his opening statement.
“We should not be afraid to compete in today’s globalized environment. In any case, the removal of these restrictive provisions through constitutional amendments cannot prevent Congress, when faced in the future by changing circumstances and new challenges, from introducing restrictions for national security and other ‘national interest’ reasons once we have attained our foreign investment targets and have sufficient capital from our domestic savings.”
In addition to the more than 500,000 signatures, Malaya said that 1,489 municipal mayors also expressed support for amending the Charter.
Malaya presented Garbin a resolution by the League of Municipalities supporting surgical amendments to the Constitution, including the restrictive provisions.
“There is no better time than now to lift the restrictive economic provisions of the 1987 Constitution,” Malaya said.
Deputy Speaker and Sagip Rep. Rodante Marcoleta stressed the need for senators to participate in the lower chamber’s effort to review the Charter, noting that “the Cha-cha deliberations of the House will be for naught if the Senate would not be able to obtain the three-fourths vote of its members.”
Marcoleta proposed the two houses of Congress vote jointly in proposing amendments to the restrictive economic provisions in the 1987 Constitution.
He said the Constitution does not categorically state the manner of voting for introducing amendments.
Velasco’s resolution, on the other hand, specifically provides that voting must be done separately.
Garbin said this should be the case.
“If we treat ordinary legislation as voting separately in those houses of Congress, how can we have a less stringent requirement on proposing amendments to the Constitution? And that is the very nature of a bicameral congress right now,” he said.
RBH No. 2 inserts the phrase “unless otherwise provided by law” to the constitutional provisions on national patrimony and economy; education, science and technology, arts, culture, and sports; and on general provisions to give Congress flexibility to enact laws that would free up the economy to foreign investors.
Garbin said the slight change in the Constitution’s language “will improve the investment climate and generate much needed investments and jobs to counteract the economic contraction caused by the pandemic.”
He also maintained that the proposed amendments will focus only on the economic provisions, and no political amendments will be discussed in the hearings.
Three professors emeritus from the University of the Philippines School of Economics (UPSE) on Wednesday expressed support for efforts to amend the restrictive economic provisions of the Constitution to make the Philippines more appealing to investors and help it accelerate economic recovery.
The UP School of Economics professors––Professors Emeritus Dr. Raul Fabella, Dr. Ernesto Pernia and Dr. Gerardo Sicat––invited as resource persons in the resumption of the House committee on constitutional amendments--touted the benefits of amending the Constitution’s economic provisions and said these were timely given the need to speed up the recovery of the country’s pandemic-hit economy.
Pernia said changing the economic provisions of the Charter is timely “because as you can see, although the economy has really been clobbered by the pandemic, the economy is recovering slowly––it is getting out of the hole little by little––and we need to accelerate that getting out of the hole.”
Sicat, the founder of the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS), echoed the sentiments of Pernia and explained that he considered the current economic provisions of the Constitution “the original sin” responsible for making it “really difficult for our country to progress in the attraction of foreign direct investments.”
Sicat said that amending the Charter, together with complementary and wise economic policies, would lead to the following outcomes: 1) sustained and a higher level of per capita GDP growth; 2) higher level of employment for Filipino workers; 3) improved overall level of productivity for the Filipino worker; 4) better nutrition of our worker’s children and capability to support their schooling; 5) enhanced capacity of workers to finance family housing and other needs; 6) the improved capacity for the state, through an upgrade of its finances, to undertake programs to ameliorate the conditions of those in poverty; and 7) a rising standard of living for all Filipinos.
Fabella, the only Filipino economist recognized as a National Scientist, told members of the committee that he agreed with his colleagues from the UPSE, as well as the view expressed in Resolution of Both Houses No. 2, “that the lifting of the constitutional limit on foreign ownership will make the Philippines more foreign investment-friendly.”
The Yale University product also said that he favored the lifting of restrictions on the foreign ownership of land and argued that land should be owned by whoever can make it more productive, regardless of citizenship.
“My belief,” said Fabella, “is that who can make the land flower best should own it; the land should be able to produce as much as it can.. and citizenship is not a condition for who makes flower the best.”
Former speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, on the other hand, questioned the timing of the Charter change deliberations, saying that anything unrelated to the COVID-19 pandemic should be set aside.
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