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Senate urged: Keep an open mind on Cha-cha

Jess Diaz - The Philippine Star
Senate urged: Keep an open mind on Cha-cha
He said senators should tell the public if they are in favor of relaxing or lifting economic restrictions in the Constitution to allow for more foreign investments, participation or equity in the exploitation of the country’s natural resources, in public utilities, mass media, advertising and educational institutions.
Gerry Lee Gorit

MANILA, Philippines — The chairman of the House of Representatives committee on constitutional amendments is appealing to senators to have an open mind on his panel’s Charter change (Cha-cha) proposals.

“We are appealing to them to discuss our proposals instead of brushing aside Cha-cha as not among their priorities and declaring it as dead on arrival at the Senate. They should bear in mind that Cha-cha is the clamor of our people, based on our public consultations, which they should not ignore,” Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez told reporters.

He said senators should tell the public if they are in favor of relaxing or lifting economic restrictions in the Constitution to allow for more foreign investments, participation or equity in the exploitation of the country’s natural resources, in public utilities, mass media, advertising and educational institutions.

“We need to attract more investments and new businesses that would create jobs and income for our people, especially the 22 percent (at least 22 million) who are either jobless or underemployed,” he said. “Are senators opposed to that goal?”

He said there are not enough funds coming from new investors and businesses.

He added that last year, Singapore attracted $50 billion worth of investments, Vietnam had $24 billion, Malaysia and Indonesia had $15 billion each, while the Philippines had $8 billion.

The Rodriguez committee has endorsed four Cha-cha proposals in a resolution principally authored by him, Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, Majority Leader Martin Romualdez, Deputy Speaker Aurelio Gonzales Jr. of Pampanga and Reps. Lord Allan Velasco of Marinduque, Antonio Albano of Isabela, Teodorico Haresco Jr. of Aklan and Henry Oaminal of Misamis Occidental.

The proposed relaxation or scrapping of foreign ownership restrictions would be left to Congress through the insertion of the phrase, “unless otherwise provided by law,” in parts of the Constitution containing those limitations.

This means that the present restrictions would remain but the legislature would have the flexibility to allow expanded foreign equity in case a future situation would require it, Rodriguez said.

The other Cha-cha proposals are the extension in the term of office of lawmakers and local officials from three years to five years, the tandem election of the president and vice president to ensure a united leadership in the executive branch and the regional election of senators or three senators from each of the proposed nine regions.

If the proposals were approved by the two chambers of Congress and the people in a plebiscite, there would be 27 senators who would also have a term of five years and the vote for the president would be a vote for his vice presidential runningmate just like in the United States.

House members, senators and local officials would be limited to three consecutive terms of five years each, for a total of 15 years, while the president would still be restricted to a single term of six years. The vice president would have no reelection restriction.

At present, congressmen and local executives are restricted to a maximum stay in office of nine years (three terms), while senators have a term of six years with one reelection, for a total of 12 years.

Rodriguez said senators should declare whether they are in favor or against tandem election of the president and vice president, longer term for governors, mayors and other local officials, and the regional Senate voting.

CHA-CHA

CHARTER CHANGE

RUFUS RODRIGUEZ

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