Even before Congress could make a move to amend the economic provisions of the 1987 Constitution, prospects of serious legal challenge were swiftly aired against a possible violation by the House of Representatives of the limited amendatory procedure embodied in the Charter.
Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman raised this warning as he assailed Resolution of Both Houses No. 2 for providing for what he termed as a “mongrelized process” of Charter change.
Authored by Speaker Lord Allan Velasco, RBH No. 2, in effect, grants Congress the power to amend the Constitution “in violation of the limited amendatory procedure prescribed in Article XVII of the 1987 Constitution,” noted Lagman.
Ako Bicol Partylist Rep. Alfredo Garbin, chairman of the House Committee on Constitutional Amendments, will start discussing tomorrow RBH 2 which seeks to amend economic provisions of the 33-year-old Charter.
“The introduction of the phrase ‘unless otherwise provided by law’ in those restrictive provisions, as proposed by Speaker Lord Allan Velasco, will give Congress the flexibility and leeway to alter the restrictions when the economic situation requires it,” said Garbin.
Actually, such proposal was originally present in a bill authored by former Quezon City Rep. Feliciano Belmonte Jr. when he was the speaker of the 16th Congress.
Lagman said the omnibus and boundless phrase “unless otherwise provided by law is an infirm or pseudo proposal because the real power to amend is fully vested in the Congress as a lawmaking body instead of being exercised by a Constituent Assembly, Constitutional Convention or People’s Initiative.
“Any proposed alienation of the nationality provisions in the Constitution on restricted foreign capital investment in sensitive industries as well as in land acquisition and ban on media ownership, among others, must be specific and complete for the consideration of a Constituent Assembly or Constitutional Convention, and the eventual ratification by the people who must be clearly informed of the parameters of the proposed amendments,” the veteran lawmaker stressed.
Lagman warned that RBH 2 grants Congress “as a legislature to exercise blanket authority to subsequently fill in the blanks or provide the details of the amendments to the economic provisions.”
“It is different when the Congress is authorized by the Constitution itself at the time of its ratification to enact implementing legislation which are not in the nature of constitutional amendments,” he explained.
The Bicolano lawmaker also described as “flawed” the lifting of nationalistic provisions, pointing out that “no less than the prospective foreign investors do not clamor for the removal of the so-called “restrictive” provisions which are salutary safeguards of Filipino posterity.”
Lagman stressed that various studies, including those of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), and the World Bank, show that the following factors principally determine the entry of foreign direct investments (FDIs): (1) ease of doing business, (2) adequacy and quality of infrastructure, (3) predictability of government policies, (4) government stability, (5) cost of power, (6) internet speed, (7) incidence of corruption, (8) transparency in public procurement, and (9) labor skills and wages.
“Removal or liberalization of the citizenship requirements in the Constitution is not one of the principal determinants for encouraging foreign investments,” the independent solon said.