Cha-cha plenary debates eyed next week

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    THE chair of the House committee on constitutional amendments is eyeing plenary debates on the measure to amend “restrictive” economic provisions of the Constitution to begin next week.

    “We hope that by next week, this will be referred to the plenary so we could immediately start plenary debates. That’s the most important thing: for this to be discussed,” Ako Bicol party-list Rep. Alfredo Garbin told an online press conference in Filipino.

    Garbin issued the statement a day after his panel approved Resolution of Both Houses No. 2, authored by Speaker Lord Allan Jay Velasco, which seeks to relax economic constitutional provisions and subsequently allow Congress to enact laws that will free up the economy to foreign investors and provide much-needed fiscal relief to Filipinos in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

    The Garbin panel has excluded from the amendment Section 7 of Article 12 pertaining to foreign ownership of land in the Philippines, which states that “no private lands shall be transferred or conveyed except to individuals, corporations, or associations qualified to acquire or hold lands of the public domain.”

    The lawmaker, who earlier drew flak from senators for saying that the House was already convened as a constituent assembly even at the committee level, said congressmen will be exercising their constituent powers to propose amendments to the Constitution once the plenary deliberations begin.

    The panel is expected to approve its committee report on the measure which will be referred to the committee on rules which is in charge of calendaring it for plenary deliberations.

    The House leadership intends to treat proposed amendments to the provisions as ordinary pieces of legislation, meaning that these will be voted upon on second and third reading on the floor.

    However, the constitutional three-fourths vote of all House members will be applied when the voting goes on final reading, which the House leadership plans to undertake separately with senators.

    Velasco earlier said the House wants the deliberations to be finished by the end of the year so it could be presented to the public for ratification simultaneously with the 2022 national elections.

    Garbin again urged senators to keep an open mind and listen to those who are calling for constitutional amendments.

    “We hope they give it a chance because in a democratic, representative democracy, we really have to give it to the people. We can’t just shoot it down like that. They also have to look at the benefits that it will bring to the country,” he said.

    RBH No. 2 seeks to insert the phrase “unless otherwise provided by law” to specific provisions of the Constitution, namely five amendments to Article XII (National Patrimony and Economy), one amendment to Article XIV (Education, Science, and Technology), and one amendment to Article XVI (General Provisions).

    The Constitution limits foreign ownership of land and businesses to only 40 percent, and reserves the other 60 percent to Filipino citizens or corporations.