Be careful with economic Cha-Cha, Minority solons tell House 

Published September 25, 2019, 7:34 PM

by CJ Juntereal

By Ellson Quismorio

House Minority Bloc officials have warned their congressmen-colleagues to be careful in going about the move to amend the existing 1987 Constitution, which includes the proposed lifting of its so-called restrictive provisions.

House of the Representatives (ALVIN KASIBAN / MANILA BULLETIN / FILE PHOTO)
House of the Representatives (ALVIN KASIBAN / MANILA BULLETIN / FILE PHOTO)

Deputy Minority Leaders, Bayan Muna Party-List Rep. Carlos Zarate and Quezon City 6th district Rep. Kit Belmonte on Wednesday expressed their reservations on economic Charter Change or Cha-Cha during the first hearing of the Committee on Constitutional Amendments this 18th Congress.

Tackled by the panel members together with several legal luminaries and resource persons were seven measures linked to revising the 32-year-old Charter.

Among these measures were Resolution of Both Houses (RBH) 2, which proposes amendments to certain economic provisions of the 1987 Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines particularly on Articles II, XIV and XVI. Marinduque lone district Rep. Lord Allan Velasco authored RBH 2.

“From all administrations after President [Cory] Aquino, there has been an attempt to amend, or to revise our Constitution. The common trend in those attempts is actually to attack or remove the protectionist provisions of our Constitution, specially the economic protectionist provisions,” noted Zarate, a lawyer.

“I certainly agree with Dean [Antonio] La Viña [who] earlier [said] that we have to be careful, especially now. We should not unilaterally disarm ourselves just for the sake of saying that more foreign direct investments (FDIs) will come after opening up our economy,” he said.

Zarate acknowledged that FDIs to the Philippines have increased a great deal the past 20 years.

“But until now, I’ve yet to see…is this increase in FDIs, is there a direct correlation [to] how the lives of our people are improving? Up to now, 70 to 80 percent of our people are still poor,” he pointed out.

“We have to hear the other stakeholders because in the end, [revising] our Constitution will not only affect the business sector, the economic sector. It will affect all of us, it will affect not only this generation…but generations yet to be born,” he further said.

For his part, Belmonte expressed fear that opening up the Charter’s economic provisions would expose the Philippines to the seeming worldwide trend of regressing toward authoritarianism.

“With all due respect to my colleagues in the Minority, in principle, we are for opening up, for liberalizing the economy as long as we can ensure that the people will have genuine benefit and protection,” he said.

According to Belmonte, tweaking the Constitution’s economic provisions will inevitably impact its political provisions, since the two are “tied together.”

“Maybe we should be very cautious with what is happening in the world…Ang tindi talaga ng trend sa mundo (there is a strong trend around the world) to push back from democracy, from civil political rights–in the guise of populism, in the guise of nationalism, in the guise of protectionism–[toward] authoritarianism. That’s what I fear when we open up,” he said.