House Independent Minority bloc backs Cha-cha; but limits only on economic provisions

By Sammy F. Martin

MANILA, Feb. 19 (PNA) — The House of Representatives Independent Minority Bloc throws their support to Speaker Feliciano Belmonte’s Charter Change (Cha-cha) proposal that would amend some economic provisions of the decades-old Constitution.

House Independent Minority Bloc head and Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez said he is fully supporting the proposal to amend some restrictive economic provisions of the 1987 Constitution being pushed by the House leadership.

“We feel the same that there is a need to amend some economic provisions,” said Romualdez in a weekly press briefing.

He, however, stressed that they will block any attempt to touch the lifting of term limits of elected officials.

BUHAY party-list Rep. Lito Atienza, for his part, urged his colleagues to sign a public pledge that they will not touch the political provisions of the law in the process of deliberating Constitutional amendments.

“We in the House Independent Minority Bloc are supportive of this initiative for Charter Change on economic provisions exclusively. Kailangan manunumpa kami sa bayan na hindi namin gagalawin yung political provisions katulad nung term limits, nung term extension. Kailangan meron kaming assurance, garantiya na hindi tatalakayin yan, at hindi babaguhin yan. Handa kaming magbitiw kung ito ay aming lalabagin,” Atienza said.

The veteran lawmaker said that joblessness and unemployment are two major economic problems that the country is facing today.

“Opening our economy will generate new industries and opportunities that will address this issue,” he said.

Atienza, however, said he is a bit wary why there’s an obvious effort to rush it.

“That is why we are proposing a public pledge to assure the people who are doubting the intentions of some (House) members that changes will affect only the economic provisions of the Charter. The country will benefit from these economic reforms,” he said.

The pledge states, “We, the members of the House of Representatives make this pledge to the people of the Philippines to only tackle the ‘economic provisions’ of the Constitution as we move towards Charter change. We will not touch political provisions, especially the extension of terms of incumbent officials and the lifting of term limits. We submit ourselves for expulsion from Congress should this pledge be violated.”

“Let everyone who shares our conviction join us in this pledge. The whole (House) Independent Minority Bloc led by Cong. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez will spearhead the effort,” said Atienza.

Belmonte’s House Resolution No. 1 seeks to amend Article II or the Declaration of State Principles and Policies; Article XII on National Economy and Patrimony; and Article XVI which contains sections on foreign ownership.

In his proposal, the Speaker inserted the phrase “unless otherwise provided by law” to certain portions of the Constitution to indicate that the current restrictions will remain in place until Congress acts to amend them.

He maintained that his resolution would touch only on the economic provisions aimed at attracting investments from abroad.

Belmonte said his proposal will be treated as an ordinarymeasure which will be approved separately by the House of Representatives and the Senate through three-fourths vote.

During the hearing, Edgardo Lacson, president of the Employer’s Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP), told the committee that Philippine Constitution is a dynamic document but over the course of time, it has reached the limit of its flexibility and some of its provisions.

“The new economic reality of a globalized and connected world, we need to open up our economy to attract more foreign investments, create new jobs and boost our anti-poverty program,” said Lacson in an interview with reporters. (PNA)