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Give chance to Charter’s economic amendments, Senate urged

The chairman of the House Committee on Constitutional Amendments appealed to the Senate yesterday to give the proposed amendments to the economic provisions in the 1987 Constitution a chance.

Ako Bicol Rep. Alfredo Garbin Jr., committee chair, made the call a day after his panel adopted Resolution of Both Houses (RBH) No. 2, that seeks to amend the restrictive economic provisions of the 34-year-old Charter by inserting the phrase “unless otherwise provided by law”.

The resolution particularly seeks to introduce five amendments to Article XII (National Patrimony and Economy), one amendment to Article XIV (Education, Science, and Technology), and one amendment to Article XVI (General Provisions).

“I hope that our Senate counterparts would give this a chance,” Garbin said in a media forum.

The measure prescribes a constituent assembly to propose amendments to the Constitution, which requires a vote of three-fourths of all the members of Congress, each house voting separately.

Garbin expressed hope that the proposed amendments will be approved by both houses of Congress, in time for the 2022 national elections, where the amendments will be voted upon by the public through a plebiscite.

“The public should approve of this, and they should have the final say if it is acceptable,” Garbin said. “Let’s give this a chance to let the Filipinos, who truly own the Constitution, decide. We should do this through a plebiscite.”

He said the RBH 2 is part of a long-term strategy to send a signal to the investment community that “we are truly liberalizing our economy and opening the country to foreign direct investment” to help mitigate the adverse impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.

Two of the country’s economic managers, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III and Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez, backed initiatives in Congress to further open up the economy, whether through Charter change (Cha-cha) or the enactment of laws.

Dominguez said the government should open up the economy to its widest extent, but with exemption to land ownership.

Lopez earlier said the removal of economic restrictions in the Constitution would help “unleash” the economic potential of the Philippines, the second-fastest growing economy in Southeast Asia.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra earlier said moves to amend certain portions of the Constitution would not require a constitutional convention (Con-con).

“A constitutional convention, where delegates will be elected by the people, is more appropriate if the entire Constitution will be revised. But if only certain provisions of the Constitution will be amended (such as the provisions on the national economy and patrimony), a constituent assembly, i.e., the two chambers of the legislature performing a sovereign act, is more expedient and less expensive,” Guevarra said in response to newsmen’s requests for a comment on the matter.

Guevarra, however, said amendments to the charter created either through a constitutional convention or a constituent assembly would need to be approved by the people through a plebiscite. “In either case, any revision or amendment of the Constitution will have to be ratified by the people,” Guevarra said.*PNA

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