The Senate is ready to flex its muscles to work for the passage of amendments to the economic provisions of the 1987 Constitution, barely a year before President Aquino steps down from office.
Senate President Franklin Drilon revealed yesterday that many senators are supporting economic Charter change (Cha-cha).
Senators Sergio Osmeña III and Joseph Victor Ejercito have publicly acknowledged that they will approve the measure.
“I am personally in favor of the amendments because these will provide more flexibility given the fast-changing world that we have. Now that we have time, we will push it. It has not even been passed yet on third reading in the House but many senators have (expressed) support,” Drilon said during a roundtable discussion with dwIZ, CNN Philippines and BusinessMirror.
Last Wednesday, the House of Representatives approved on second reading Resolution of Both Houses (RBH) No. 1, which seeks to boost the inflow of foreign investments by easing the restrictive economic provisions of the Constitution.
The support for economic Cha-cha came as 12 senators believe that the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law is unconstitutional and that it will take constitutional amendments for the BBL to be a workable legislation.
It was not yet known whether the senators will also push to include in the Cha-cha moves the questionable provisions under the BBL in order for it to hurdle Senate approval.
Drilon recognized that with the frequent absences of Sen. Miriam Defensive Santiago, chairperson of the Senate committee on constitutional amendments, revisions of laws and codes, there could be some difficulty in speeding up economic Cha-cha.
“It is difficult to say breeze through because it is constitutional amendments but we will support it, we will try to without muzzling our colleagues, without depriving them of the opportunity to debate on this very critical issue,” he said.
Asked if the moves have the support of the Palace, Drilon said he thinks so once it gets majority approval at the House of Representatives.
“To be candid, I told Speaker (Feliciano) Belmonte, ‘Okay, let’s see if you are able to pass it.’ If there are enough votes there, that means that the Palace will be quietly supporting it because to be realistic, if the Palace will not support it, it will not get 2/3 votes in the House. That’s the reality,” he said.
Economic provisions only
The leadership of the House of Representatives, meanwhile, maintained yesterday that moves in Congress to amend the 1987 Constitution were limited only to its economic provisions.
House Majority Leader and Mandaluyong City Rep. Neptali Gonzales II described claims by militant groups that the landmark resolution will also propose amendments to the political provisions as “funny and impossible.”
“We’ve already closed the period of amendments, and approved it on second reading, and hopefully approve it on third and final reading soon,” Gonzales said in a telephone interview.
“Now, if they’re saying that amendments to political provisions will be proposed, that’s impossible. The senators will never allow that. In the House, we’ve passed it as is, only (changes to the) economic provisions proposed,” he said.
He said leaders of both the Senate and the House of Representatives have long committed that only economic provisions will be touched.
Gonzales also admitted that passing RBH 1 on third and final reading in the House is not as easy as its proponents want it to be as the affirmative vote of three-fourths of the 290-member chamber is needed.
The measure seeks to include the phrase “unless otherwise provided by law” in some sections of Articles XII (national economy and patrimony), XIV (education, science and technology, arts, culture and sports), and XVI (general provisions), which means the constitutional restrictions on foreign ownership remain until Congress enacts specific laws to remove or amend them.
Once it is approved by both chambers, the resolution will be subjected to a nationwide plebiscite. The House leadership said the plebiscite will practically not cost a single centavo if the question is included in the ballots for the 2016 elections.
Ako Bicol party-list Rep. Rodel Batocabe, one of the sponsors of RBH 1, and other leaders of the chamber said there is no need for Congress to seek the nod of President Aquino as the matter will be presented directly to the people in a nationwide referendum.
There have been several attempts in previous administrations to amend the Constitution, but mainly its political provisions.
Gonzales said RBH 1 will likely get the approval of Filipinos since it is apolitical.