By Charissa Luci-Atienza
There is a big chance that the proposed political and economic amendments to the 29-year old 1987 Constitution will hurdle the 18th Congress, a House leader said yesterday.
Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, chairman of the House Committee on Constitutional Amendments, noted that Charter change (Cha-cha) did not prosper in the 17th Congress because the proposed measure has “many objectionable features.” referring to former Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s Resolution of Both Houses No. 15.
“There is a big chance, we have three years. There will be a Charter change definitely. The President said there should be Charter change. In Congress, Mindanao congressmen, Visayas, and Bicol congressmen will be working together for an amendment to a federal system,” he said in a phone interview.
He assured that no “self-serving” provisions will be included in the Cha-cha measure.
“Controversial provisions will be stricken out. Hindi puwedeng walang term limit. There should be anti-political dynasty provisions,” Rodriguez said.
The Cagayan de Oro lawmaker is the principal author of House Concurrent Resolution No. 01, which proposes amendments to certain provisions on Articles VI, V, XII, XIV and XVI of the 1987 Constitution.
Under HCR No. 1, Rodriguez proposed that members of the House of Representatives shall have a four-year tour of duty, but limited to three consecutive turns.
“This will not be applicable to us, this will be applicable in the next election, in the next term. We will make sure there will be no conflict of interest and self-serving provisions. It will be applicable after it is ratified by the people in a plebiscite,” he said.
Rodriguez’s proposal also calls for the election of 24 senators with three representing each of the nine regions of the country. The proposed nine regions include the National Capital Region, Northern Luzon, Southern Luzon, Bicol Region, Eastern Visayas, Western Visayas, Northern Mindanao, Southern Mindanao, and Bangsamoro Autonomous Region.
It sets at four years the term of office of senators and prohibits them to serve more than three consecutive terms.
The barangay officials, on the other hand, shall have a four-year term of office, with three consecutive-term limit.
Rodriguez expressed confidence that economic Cha-cha would also hurdle this Congress.
“There is certain provision na acceptable, yung economic provisions. Everybody agreed. The Filipino businessmen, they are in favor because it is good for the economy and their businesses will do well if we have more employment and purchasing power,” he said.
HCR No. 1 authorizes Congress to provide for the exploration, development, and utilization of natural resources.
It seeks to insert the phrase “unless otherwise provided by law” to several sections of the Constitution which restrict foreign ownership of land, natural resources, public utilities, media, and advertising.
Rodriguez also filed Resolution of Both Houses No. 1, which seeks to constitute the Senate and the House of Representatives into a Constituent Assembly to propose revisions of the 1987 Constitution by adopting a federal form of government.
He had expressed optimism that the House leadership would soon include Charter Change in its top priority list after House Majority Leader and Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez disclosed that amending the 29-year old 1987 Constitution is “a priority, but not a top priority.”
Rodriguez said once his colleagues “see the wisdom” of the proposed constitutional changes and there will be collective support, Cha-cha “will become later a top priority.”
He assured that his panel would “work hard and overtime” to shepherd the approval of the Cha-cha measures.
Rodriguez said his panel is eyeing to start by last week of August its marathon hearings on resolutions proposing to amend certain provisions of the 1987 Constitution that would pave the way for a federal form of government.
He said his panel will meet twice monthly— second and fourth week of the month– to fast-track the approval of the Cha-cha measures.
Rodriguez said it is about time to give in to long overdue clamor to revisit the antiquated provisions of the Constitution and “make it more attuned and responsive to the demands of present conditions.”
“Recent events show that it is imperative that reforms be introduced in the present Constitution for it to be responsive to the exigencies of the times, including the need to provide a long-term solution to the decades-old conflict in Mindanao and spurt economic regional development in the countryside and provide impetus to much-needed socio-economic and political reforms,” he said.