House leaders intent on pursuing Cha-cha
Speaker Lord Allan Velasco revealed that the chamber will resume plenary debates and deliberations on the proposed constitutional amendments in his Resolution of Both House No. 2 when sessions resume this week.
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House leaders intent on pursuing Cha-cha

Edu Punay (The Philippine Star) - May 16, 2021 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The House leadership is hell-bent on pursuing the bid to amend restrictive economic provisions in the 1987 Constitution.

Speaker Lord Allan Velasco revealed that the chamber will resume plenary debates and deliberations on the proposed constitutional amendments in his Resolution of Both House No. 2 (RBH 2) when sessions resume this week.

“Hopefully, we will be able to pass Charter change in this Congress. The 30-year-old Constitution is outdated and I think it’s high time that we change it,” he said in an interview via Zoom.

Velasco said the House plans to pass RBH 2 before Congress adjourns sine die next month.

“Hopefully, we will get the support of the Senate. We’re hoping to finish the hearings in three weeks and pass it in the plenary. And after that, we will forward it to the Senate. To be honest, I don’t think that can be considered rushed,” he said.

The Marinduque congressman, a lawyer, insisted that the economic provisions in the Charter should be amended to allow foreign direct investments to come in, especially at a time when the economy needs to recover from recession caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Velasco believes that Cha-cha is feasible since the plebiscite for its approval could be held simultaneously with the general elections in May next year.

But another administration ally in the House, Camarines Sur Rep. LRay Villafuerte, slammed Velasco for prioritizing the proposed Cha-cha over urgent pandemic measures.

He said lawmakers should be better spend their energies on assisting the national government in defeating COVID-19 and revitalizing the economy amid a global infection surge.

Instead of focusing on Cha-cha, Villafuerte said the House should work on making sure that Filipino families get P10,000 each in one installment under the proposed Bayanihan 3 law, among others.

He said this would help vulnerable families cope with the economic shock of COVID-19 and, in turn, boost household spending nationwide.

“We should now start our stimulus program from the ground up,” said Villafuerte, arguing that Cha-cha will not bring about immediate reform that could help in the ongoing economic recovery efforts.

The House committee on constitutional amendments adopted RBH 2 last February via a vote of 64-3, but the subsequent plenary debates were stalled.

RBH 2 proposes amendments to economic provisions of the Constitution under Articles XII (National Patrimony and Economy), XIV (Education, Science, and Technology) and XVI (General Provisions) by adding the phrase “unless otherwise provided by law.”

This would then allow Congress to pass laws allowing foreign ownership of educational institutions, public utilities and mass media companies and lift the 40-percent foreign ownership restriction on corporations.

While it is seen to attract more foreign investments and help the country’s economic recovery from the pandemic, Congress’ action will not immediately relax investment-related provisions of the 1987 Charter.

He said the proposals under RBH 2 would ultimately still be decided by Filipinos in a plebiscite next year, at the soonest.

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