LIVE: House resumes Cha-cha debates

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MANILA, Philippines — The House Committee on Constitutional Amendments is restarting Wednesday discussions on charter change after a year-long lull, upon the prodding of Speaker Lord Allan Velasco (Marinduque).

Constitutional amendments panel chair Rep. Alfredo Garbin (AKO BICOL party-list) said that the sole goal of the discussions is to amend “restrictive” economic provisions in the Constitution.

However, this has not allayed fears of critics of the renewed push for charter change and political observers who have said that tinkering with the Constitution can open the floodgates for all kinds of amendments, including those that would solely benefit politicians.

Critics have also questioned the timing of the charter change discussions, which are happening against the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic that has caused massive job losses and an unprecedented slump in the economy.

Proponents of the move to amend the Charter, however, said that there is no better time to push for changes in the 33-year-old Constitution than now so the country can attract more foreign investments and potentially recover from the economic damage brought by the pandemic.

Velasco’s proposed amendments to the Constitution would insert the phrase “unless otherwise provided by law” in provisions which restrict foreign ownership in land, natural resources, public utilities, educational institutions, media and advertising. If passed and approved in a plebiscite, this would give Congress the power to change the restrictions whenever it pleases.

Leaders of political parties and blocs in the House have thrown their support for Velasco’s proposal, following a caucus presided over by the speaker last Tuesday.

Velasco hopes to finish debates on charter change before the end of 2021 and present it to Filipinos for ratification in the 2022 elections.

Watch the House hearing LIVE, which will start at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2020.



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