WITH the government saddled with a tight fiscal space owing to massive past spending on Covid-19 response, a senior lawmaker believes the time is ripe for greater investments from abroad to accelerate post-pandemic high growth by letting a duly-elected Constitutional Convention (Con-Con) relax foreign ownership provisions in the 1987 Charter. The latter have turned off investors despite the Philippines enjoying investment-grade ratings for over a decade, according to Camarines Sur Rep. LRay Villafuerte.
In a statement on Sunday, he said the Con-Con route is the way to constitutional amendments to, among others, lift the 40-percent ownership cap, given that the alternative proposal for Congress to do so by convening into a Constituent Assembly (Con-Ass) would never take off, with long debates expected among lawmakers on whether the Senate and the House of Representatives could vote for changes jointly or separately.
The president of the National Unity Party (NUP), Villafuerte expects strong support for the Con-Con proposal because of its timing, its focus on economic provisions in the Charter, and his proposal to prohibit would-be Con-Con delegates from running in the immediate elections following the ratification via a plebiscite of the proposed amendments.
Moreover, delegates to the would-be Con-Con are barred under his proposal from being appointed to public positions while it is in session and up to a year after the ratification of the proposed Charter changes in a plebiscite, Villafuerte said.
The House Committee on Constitutional Amendments chaired by Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez resumed last January 26 what the chairman had described as “marathon” panel hearings and public consultations on pending proposals to amend the 1987 Charter, including the Con-Con bills introduced separately by Villafuerte and Rodriguez.
In House Bill (HB) No. 4926—otherwise known as the “Constitutional Convention Act”—Villafuerte proposed that the would-be Con-Con members tasked to study amendments and revisions to the 35-year-old Charter be elected simultaneously with either the Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections (BSKE) this October 30 or the midterm balloting for legislators and local executives due in May 2025.
Villafuerte said past Charter Change initiatives took place in the second half of the terms of past governments. This, he added, accounts for the suspicions of a hidden political agenda to lift term limits or extend the terms of the then-incumbent officials from the President down to local elective executives.
To side-step speculation about self-serving or partisan interests of the would-be delegates, Villafuerte said HB 4926 bans them: (1) from being appointed to public positions while the Con-Con is in session and up to a year after the ratification of the proposed amendments or revisions, and (2) from running in the next balloting.
As Villafuerte filed HB 4926 last year, Rodriguez himself filed House Joint Resolution (HJR) No. 12 establishing a Con-Con to specifically review and amend the economic provisions of our Constitution.
HB 4926 calls for the election of Con-Con delegates—at one representative for each of the 243 legislative districts.
The bill seeks to disqualify the following persons from being candidates for Con-Con delegates: (1) All incumbent elected officials of the government, including but not limited to the President, Vice President, members of the bicameral Congress, and local government officials; and (2) Persons who have been declared by any competent authority as insane or incompetent, or have been sentenced by final judgment for subversion, insurrection, rebellion or for any offense for which they have been sentenced to a penalty of more than 18 months or for a crime involving moral turpitude—unless they have been given plenary pardon or granted amnesty.