‘No outright lifting of economic restrictions even if Cha-cha passes’

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    AKO Bicol party-list Rep. Alfredo Garbin Jr., chairman of the House committee on constitutional amendments, yesterday said restrictive economic provisions in the 1987 Constitution are likely to remain untouched until the next Congress starts its session after the 2022 general elections.

    Working to calm concerns about the proposed changes to the 33-year old Charter, the lawmaker said the present Congress can only lay the groundwork for revisions to the Constitution but it is the succeeding Congress that will do the bulk of the work on amending it.

    Garbin explained that should proposals to relax restrictive economic provisions of the Constitution be approved by lawmakers of the present Congress and is subsequently ratified by the public through a plebiscite that could be held simultaneously with the 2022 national and local elections, it would be the next Congress which will enact the enabling legislations that will implement the proposed revisions.

    “The next Congress will have its leeway and flexibility to enact legislation that conform to the present economic conditions,” Garbin said. “At least hindi na tayo nakagapos… 33 years ago nakagapos pa rin tayo sa napakahigpit na restriction na ito. Tayo na lang mayroon nito compared to other countries na open (At least our hands would no longer be tied…after 33 years we can do something about these restrictions. Our country held on to these while our neighbors have opened up their economies.)”

    Among the provisions expected to be affected are those preventing foreign ownership of land as well as full management control of mass media, public utility, and educational institutions.

    Garbin insisted it is the people that holds the ultimate decision whether or not to allow changes in the Constitution.

    “Whatever we approve in the committee and in the plenary remains a proposal until it is ratified by the Filipino people in a plebiscite called for that purpose,” he pointed out.
    He reiterated that the proposed changes will only touch on the economic provisions with the view of attracting investments and creating more jobs for Filipino workers.

    Senators have chided Garbin and other lawmaker-advocates of Charter change for giving priority time to the highly-political move instead of focusing their attention on passing legislation that would address the short and long-term impacts of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.