Cagayan de Oro City 2nd District Rep. Rufus Rodriguez took a hard stance Thursday on Senate President Vicente Sotto lll’s declaration that amending the 1987 Constitution is “next to impossible” under the current 18th Congress.
Contrary to Sotto’s pronouncement, the former chairperson of the House Committee on Constitutional Amendments said, economic Cha-cha is “possible” and should be pursued by both houses of Congress to strengthen the country’s economic footing amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The Cha-cha the Senate president is talking about is wholesale revision of the Constitution. That is not what we envision. What Speaker Lord Allan Velasco and the House are proposing is limiting Cha-cha to the basic law’s economic provisions that restrict foreign investor participation in businesses in the country,” he said in a statement.
In a media interview on Tuesday night, he warned that amending the 1987 Constitution through Constituent Assembly (Con-Ass) may fire up wholesale amendments of the Charter, which may include the highly-opposed proposal seeking to lift the term limits of elected officials.
Rodriguez explained that House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco’s Resolution of Both Houses No. 2 seeks to add 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.
He explained that by adding such phrase, “Congress would have the power to alter the restrictions when the economic situation warrants.”
“We are assuring him, his Senate colleagues and the people that no political amendment proposals will be tackled. We will limit this initiative to economic reform so it can succeed this year,” the House leader said after Sotto expressed Senate’s openness to consider Velasco’s proposal, provided the proper procedure was followed and no political change was considered.
Rodriguez took note of Sotto’s position that if the Senate agrees with the economic Cha-cha, the two chambers should separately pass the Speaker’s amendment proposal as a Con-Ass, with each house obtaining three-fourths vote of all its members as required by the Constitution.
“That is precisely Speaker Velasco’s and my suggestion. The House would first approve the Speaker’s proposed amendment and then we transmit it to the Senate. They can also come up with their own proposal. We meet separately, we vote separately,” he said.
He explained that after Congress’ approval of the proposed amendments, a plebiscite will be conducted for the ratification of the proposal by the people.
Meanwhile, Sotto’s proposal that the signature or approval by the President is required for the amendments also did not sit well with Rodriguez.
“The approved amendments go directly to the electorate thru a plebiscite,” Rodriguez said.
He noted that the House leadership is pushing for the simultaneous conduct of a plebiscite with the May 2022 national elections.
Rodriguez maintained that this year is the “best time” for Congress to amend the restrictive economic provisions of the Constitution to help the country recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.