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Pinoys have final say on economic Cha-cha – House
Ako Bicol party-list Rep. Alfredo Garbin Jr., chair of the committee on constitutional amendments, insisted that proposals they would make to lift prohibitive economic provisions of the Charter would ultimately be decided by Filipinos in a plebiscite come May 2022.
STAR/ File

Pinoys have final say on economic Cha-cha – House

Delon Porcalla (The Philippine Star) - January 25, 2021 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — A key leader of the House of Representatives yesterday doused fears of some business groups that congressmen are only out to extend their terms when they introduce economic amendments to the 1987 Constitution.

Ako Bicol party-list Rep. Alfredo Garbin Jr., chair of the committee on constitutional amendments, insisted that proposals they would make to lift prohibitive economic provisions of the Charter would ultimately be decided by Filipinos in a plebiscite come May 2022.

“In the final analysis, it is the people who truly own the Constitution because whatever we approve in the committee and in the plenary remains a proposal until it is ratified by the Filipino people and the plebiscite called for that purpose,” Garbin said.

“If that will not be ratified by the Filipino people, then nothing will happen with the proposal as it will still remain a proposal,” he added.

If only to dispel rumors that lawmakers want to extend their terms, their plan is to have a plebiscite included in the May 2022 presidential election, according to the senior administration congressman.

“Now does that mean we will lift our term limits?” he asked reporters. “Remember, we will still be having elections in 2022.”

“(The question to be raised in a plebiscite) is just a one line in our ballots that can be answered by yes or no. That will not pose any problem, the people will be asked if they agree with the economic amendments or not,” he said.

Garbin, a lawyer by profession, insisted that this has been the instruction of Speaker Lord Allan Velasco, where piecemeal legislation will be introduced to lift prohibitions on foreign ownership of lands, among other provisions that have held back the country’s progress, unlike its Asian neighbors.

“The next Congress will then have its leeway and flexibility to enact legislation that conforms to the present economic conditions. At least, we will no longer be tied to our old system like 33 years ago. We have been left behind by our neighbors who are open,” Garbin said.

Deputy Speaker Bernadette Herrera expressed optimism that the current 18th Congress (2019-2022) can carry out the proposals, and belief that they only need to show the same enthusiasm and willingness to approve such legislation.

“We will leave it to the next Congress (2022-2025) to introduce specific amendments to the Constitution. We will only insert the phrase ‘unless otherwise provided by law’ to give the next Congress some elbow room to amend the restrictive economic provisions,” Herrera, who represents the Bagong Henerasyon party-list, said.

She clarified that the 18th Congress would not immediately proceed to amending the Constitution once Resolution of Both Houses 2 is adopted by the House and the Senate “voting separately.”

Herrera insisted that the amendments on the economic provisions are long overdue.

“It’s been over three decades and our Constitution has so many antiquated laws that need to be changed to make them attuned with the times,” she said, noting that the House leadership under Velasco expects deliberations from January to December this year, with the plebiscite coinciding with the 2022 national elections.

“Only after the Filipino people have approved the one-line amendment in a plebiscite will Congress pass an enabling law for the changes in the economic provisions,” she added.

Meanwhile, Archdiocese of Manila apostolic administrator Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo yesterday said he is against moves in Congress to amend provisions in the Constitution.

In the homily he delivered for National Bible Sunday, Pabillo emphasized what the country needs is to have transformed leaders and people and not another effort for Charter change. – Evelyn Macairan

BERNADETTE HERRERA
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