MANILA – The coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic is not an excuse to avoid making amendments in the Constitution, Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo said Wednesday.
In his commentary show Counterpoint aired on state-run PTV-4, Panelo expressed support for the decision of the House of Representatives to resume discussions on Charter change (Cha-cha), particularly amendments on economic provisions and the party-list system.
Panelo said the prevailing pandemic should not mean that discussions on other matters should be put on hold, especially if it will benefit the country in the long run.
“Di ko rin maintindihan kung bakit ayaw niyong amyendahan ang Saligang Batas e kung meron namang kailangang baguhin ba’t di natin baguhin? At hindi excuse na may pandemiya para hindi na tayo makakilos (I don’t understand why you don’t want to amend the Constitution if there is something that needs to be amended? The pandemic is not an excuse for us not to move). We cannot be hostage to anything,” he said.
He said the lower chamber needed to be “creative” so that they could prioritize legislation to boost the government’s Covid-19 response while holding discussions on Cha-cha.
“Kailangan maging creative tayo. Hahanapin natin ng pamamaraan na matutukoy natin yung suliraning pangkasalukuyan at mapag-aaralan naman natin yung ibang paksain na puwede natin gawan ng paraan. Ang iniisip niyo agad ektensyon ng term of office (We have to be creative. We can find ways to determine present problems while studying other topics that also need attention),” he said.
Panelo said critics immediately made assumptions that administration allies are pushing for Cha-cha to extend President Rodrigo Duterte’s term beyond June 2022.
“Eh ito ngang tinutukoy niyo ayaw niya magkandidato na Presidente e. Gusto niya bumitaw sa tungkulin e tapos sasabihin niyo pa extension ng term (This person you’re accusing didn’t even want to run for President. He even wants to step down from his post and then you say he would want to extend his term)?” he said.
He said the President only wanted to amend the Constitution to change the party-list system but did not elaborate.
Earlier, Senator Vicente “Tito” Sotto III said Duterte wanted to change the party-list system to go after leftist party-list groups.
Duterte has long accused the Makabayan groups of acting as fronts for the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA).
Panelo said the President is also for making economic amendments in the Constitution, particularly provisions designed to ease up the restrictive foreign ownership provisions to boost the country’s economy.
“Kaya niya ho gustong amyendahan ‘yan kasi unang-una yung sa party-list o hindi ba. Pangalawa yung economic provision yung di pupuwede buksan ang ating ekonimiya sa mga dayuhan (The reason why he wants to amend the Constitution is because of party-list groups. Second, the economic provisions restricting foreign ownership),” he said.
Citing Albay Rep. Joey Salceda, chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, he said the country could gain an additional USD5-7 billion annually in foreign direct investments once the restrictions set by the Constitution on foreign ownership of businesses in the country are lifted.
He said these investments would also help mitigate the economic impact of the pandemic.
On Tuesday, the leadership of the House agreed to concentrate discussions on a resolution to amend certain economic provisions in the Constitution. (PNA)