Solons continuing Charter Change efforts

Published January 13, 2021, 12:50 AM

by Manila Bulletin

 There is a renewed move to amend the Constitution, with Speaker Lord Allan Velasco pushing for his Resolution of Both Houses  No. 2 seeking to amend the economic provisions of the 1987 Constitution, which   replaced the Marcos Constitution that, in turn, had done away with the 1935 Constitution.

Velasco said the county needs constitutional amendments to cushion the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic  by removing  the present constitutional provisions that limit foreign investments, particularly the 40 percent cap on foreign ownership of of certain  business operations,  and the  total ban on  foreign participation in certain areas like media.

Vice President Leni Robredo, among many others, slammed this new administration push to amend the Constitution at this time when, she said,   the nation should be focusing its attention and energies on stopping the pandemic and helping the people who have suffered so much from their loss of income and livelihood.

Actually,  this current effort to amend the Constitution  dates back to the start of the Duterte administration who wanted  a federal form of government, one of his campaign promises. In the ensuing House hearings, congressmen came  up with so many other proposals, including limitations  on protection of freedom of speech and abolition of many government offices, including  the Office of the Vice President, the Ombudsman, and the Judigcial 0and Bar Council.

There was also the  perennial self-serving  move of officials to  abolish term limits, their own and that of  the  President, who is now limited to six years without reelection. In 1997, the last year of the Ramos administration, there was a People’s Initiative for Reform, Modernization, and Action (PIRMA), which sought amendment of the  non-reelection  provision for the president. In all succeeding administrations. there were moves to amend the Constitution through various means – Constitutional Convention, Constitutional  Assembly, and People’s Initiative.

None of them made much progress due to opposition from so many quarters and for so  many reasons. Always there was the suspicion  that some officials principally just wanted to stay longer in government.

On  criticism on  such institutions as the party-list system, Senate Majority Leader  Juan Miguel Zubiri  and Sen. Panfilo Lacson said  changes  to do away  with abuses can be effected by simply amending the law.  As for those who want to remove the present restrictions on foreign investments in the country, there  are  also  many other  sectors who believe there is a real need for them.

In any case, it would be best if  a  move to  amend the Constitution could  be made and decided in the early months of an administration so there would be sufficient time and opportunity to discuss all angles of the various proposals. It would also ease suspicions that some officials  just  desperately want to stay  longer in office.