House to resume deliberations on Charter change proposals

Camarines Sur Rep. LRay Villafuerte

The House Committee on Constitutional Amendments will resume today congressional deliberations on pending proposals to amend the Constitution for the first time since it was ratified in February 1987.

The House Committee on Constitutional Amendments, chaired by Rep. Rufus B. Rodriguez, is set to deliberate 9 proposals amending the 1987 charter.

Author of HB 4926, or An Act Constituting a Constitutional Convention to Amend the 1987 Philippine Constitution,  Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte has welcomed the House leadership’s recent move to fast track this year the proposed Charter change.

“We welcome the decision of the House leadership to put on the fast lane, along with the remaining priority bills drawn up by the Congress and President Marcos last October, separate proposals to at last reform the 1987 Constitution,” said Villafuerte.

“It’s about time to introduce changes to the antiquated and inapt provisions of our 1987 Charter, which has long been crying for reforms.”

Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte

Villafuerte’s HB 4926 calls for the election of Con-Con delegates—at one representative per legislative district—in a balloting to be held simultaneously with the next nationwide polls, which, in this case, is the postponed barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections (BSKE) reset on October 30, 2023.

The BSKE was originally scheduled last December 5, 2022, but it was moved back to this year, based on the poll postponement law—Republic Act (RA) 11935—signed by President Marcos last October.

The next electoral exercise after the BSKE is the midterm elections for congressional and local officials on  May 12, 2025.

Villafuerte agreed with Rodriguez that the economic provisions of the Constitution need amending as soon as possible.

But Villafuerte is open, too, to a review of, and  possible changes to, the political and other major provisions of the Constitution, in the event that the would-be Con-Con delegates do consider such amendments and/or revisions.

“The clamor for Charter Change has always been relevant,” said Villafuerte in the bill. “However, calls for genuine constitutional reforms have taken a backseat because of perceived controversies and allegations of corruption in previous administrations.”

“Filipinos, meanwhile, take severe punishment from corruption, high prices, inequitable distribution of income, and a lopsided playing field when it comes to foreign investments,” he said. “Thus, while it is a given that the present Charter needs to go through the process of amendment and/or revision, this should be done with much deliberation and in a transparent and trustworthy atmosphere.”

For Villafuerte, the Constitution’s “inward-looking, overly protective” provisions on the economy are “believed responsible for handcuffing  the Philippines from becoming  an investment haven despite its pre-pandemic rise as one of Asia’s economic star.”

He said that in the realm of economic reforms,  “the Philippines has won international investment-grade ratings and acclaimed as a rising economic star in recent years, but such accolades have not attracted the impressive level of foreign direct investments [FDIs] going to, say,  Vietnam or Thailand, because of our restrictive constitutional provisions that limit foreigners to a maximum 40 percent participation in certain local businesses that are attractive to foreign investors.”

“Solid proof that the 40 percent cap on foreign ownership has been the perennial deal-breaker for prospective overseas investors are the latest official investment data pointing to declining FDIs and investment pledges,” Villafuerte said.

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