‘This year is the best time for economic Cha-cha’ — Rodriguez

Published January 19, 2021, 11:22 AM

by Charissa Luci-Atienza 

House Deputy Speaker Rufus Rodriguez said Tuesday that this year is the “best time” for Congress to amend the restrictive economic provisions of the  1987 Constitution. 

Rep. Rufus Rodriguez

The former chairperson of the House Committee on Constitutional Amendments thumbed down the calls for the  307-man House of Representatives to leave the Charter change deliberations to the next administration. 

“I welcome Senator (Franklin) Drilon’s openness to economic reform in the Constitution, but I am against his suggestion that we delay working on it by almost two years,” Cagayan de Oro’s 2nd District representative said. 

Drilon said it is better for the Lower Chamber to postpone its economic Cha-cha bid to the latter part of 2022.

“I believe that this year is the best time to approve the proposal of Speaker Lord Allan Velasco for the addition of the phrase ‘unless otherwise provided by law’ in the Charter’s restrictive economic provisions,” he said.

If the Resolution of Both Houses No. 2, principally authored by House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco, is approved by the House and the Senate and voters ratify it in a plebiscite to be conducted simultaneously with the May, 2022, elections, Congress “will already have the power in the latter part of next year to change the restrictions to attract more foreign investments.”

He expressed concern that if they will  give in to Drilon’s proposal, they “might miss the boat” and fail to  put in place the necessary economic reforms to the 1987 Constitution that will expedite the country’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Citing the projection of the country’s economists, the House leader noted that  the Philippines will only start attaining pre-pandemic growth next year or in 2023.

“So, by that time, the constitutional economic reform the Speaker and the House envision should already be in place to help speed up our recovery from this crippling pandemic. We might miss the boat if we follow Sen. Drilon’s suggestion,” Rodriguez said. 

Drilon, a supporter of economic Cha-cha, had  earlier said the present Congress should leave it to the next Congress the Cha-cha deliberations due to lack of time. 

Rodriguez said the House and Senate still have enough time  “to work on the Speaker’s simple five-word amendment proposal.”

RBH No. 2 specifically aims to revise certain economic provisions of the 34-year old  Constitution, particularly Articles XII (National Patrimony and Economy), XIV (Education, Science, Technology, Arts, Culture and Sports) and XVI (General Provisions).

Under RBH No. 2, Velasco proposed that the constitutional limits on foreign ownership of land, natural resources, schools, media, and public utilities be lifted to ensure the flow of foreign investments into the country. 

Velasco’s measure 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.

It provides that by a vote of three-fourths of all its members, the Senate and the House of Representatives voting separately, could propose amendments to Articles XII and XIV and XVI of the 1987 Constitution. 

“Then the Senate, as a Constituent Assembly, will either reject them or approve them also by 3/4 votes. The Constitution does not require a joint session,” he said.