Amending the Constitution, timing is critical —Gatchalian

Timing is an important factor in any move to amend the 1987 Constitution, preferably at the start of the one-time, six-year tenure of any Philippine president.

Senator Sherwin T. Gatchalian, former chairman of the Senate economic affairs committee, stressed this following a move of the House of Representatives to amend, through a Constituent Assembly (Con Ass), the Constitution’s supposed “restrictive” economic provisions and to recast a provision allowing the inclusion of party-list organizations at the Lower House.

Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian(Senate of the Philippines / MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)
Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian(Senate of the Philippines / MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

Gatchalian said that to amend the economic provisions at the homestretch of the Duterte administration is suspect.

President Duterte’s term started in 2016. It will end in June 2022.

“I agree with making amendments, particular to the economic provision but what is important is timing. When you open the Constitution to amendments, you cannot control or stop others from seeking other amendments. And that is not right. The best time is at the start of a President’s tenure,” Gatchalian said in Filipino.

Earlier, former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and former Speaker Feliciano Belmonte favored constitutional amendments, particularly for the economic provisions.

What some proponents, particularly foreign chambers of commerce, like to be amended is the 60-40 investment sharing between Philippine and foreign corporations, with the local entity shouldering 60 percent. They want this provision amended.

Another probable amendment being bandied about is deals with allowing foreigners to lease or buy lots.

Gatchalian recalled that when the Bayanihan 1 was being deliberated, many lawmakers wanted their ideas or provisions adopted.

“You cannot control the lawmakers. It is what will happen when you open the economic provisions. Political provisions might be taken up,” he explained in Filipino.

Gatchalian recalled having filed, at the start of his tenure as senator, a resolution seeking to amend the economic provisions of the 33-year-old Charter but this was not taken up.

He said the issue of whether the Senate and the House of Representatives should vote separately or jointly is a sore point.

Under a joint voting, the 300 House members will certainly overwhelm the votes of 24 senators.

On the party list issue, Gatchalian said the intention of the partylist system is to allow participation of the marginalized sector. But that spirit was broken when the rich were able to get themselves as partylist representatives.

President Duterte had said he was not happy when those who sought the downfall of the government were able to get themselves elected.