Piecemeal amendments violate Charter: Lagman

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    The move of the House of Representatives to amend the economic provisions of the Constitution by treating it as an ordinary piece of legislation is unconstitutional, a leader of the opposition at the House said yesterday.

    “Resolution of Both Houses No. 2 proposing amendments to the economic provisions of the Constitution provides for a mongrelized process because it effectively authorizes the Congress to make amendments by legislation in violation of the limited amendatory procedure prescribed in Article XVII of the 1987 Constitution,” said Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman.

    Lagman said the two chambers of Congress will have to jointly convene a constituent assembly if lawmakers are serious about exercising their constituent powers to introduce amendments to the 34-year-old Constitution.

    The House committee on constitutional amendments chaired by Ako Bicol party-list Rep. Alfredo Garbin is set to open deliberations on RBH No. 2 and other Charter change measures seeking to amend the Charter’s economic provisions today.

    RBH No. 2, filed by Speaker Lord Allan Velasco, seeks to liberalize the “restrictive” economic provisions in the Constitution which Velasco said “prevent us from becoming fully competitive with our Asian neighbors.”

    The Speaker is proposing to amend Sections 2, 3, 7, 10 and 11 of Article XII (National Patrimony and Economy), Section 4 of Article XIV (Education, Science and Technology, Arts, Culture and Sports) and Section 11 of Article XVI (General Provisions) to add the phrase “unless otherwise provided by law.”

    Lagman however said the phrase “unless otherwise provided by law” is an “infirm or (a) pseudo proposal because the real power to amend is fully vested in the Congress as a lawmaking body instead of being exercised by a constituent assembly, constitutional convention or people’s initiative.”

    “Any proposed alienation of the nationality provisions in the Constitution on restricted foreign capital investment in sensitive industries as well as in land acquisition and ban on media ownership, among others, must be specific and complete for the consideration of a constituent assembly or constitutional convention, and the eventual ratification by the people who must be clearly informed of the parameters of the proposed amendments,” Lagman said.

    “It should not be left to Congress as a legislature to exercise blanket authority to subsequently fill in the blanks or provide the details of the amendments to the economic provisions,” the veteran lawyer-lawmaker added.

    Article XVII, Sec. 1 of the Constitution states that “any amendment to, or revision of, this Constitution may be proposed by: (1) the Congress, upon a vote of three-fourths of all its embers; or (2) a constitutional convention.”

    Section 4 of the same article states that revisions to the Constitution under Section 1 “shall be valid when ratified by a majority of the votes cast in a plebiscite which shall be held not earlier than 60 days or later than 90 days after the approval of such amendment or revision.”