File photo shows a panel at the House of Representatives discussing proposed amendments to some economic provisions in the Constitution whilst lawmakers vow to keep hands off political amendments in ‘economic cha-cha’ talks.
By Tracy Cabrera
MANILA — The influential church group Council of the Laity of the Philippines (CLP) has criticized a proposal in the Lower House that seeks to revise economic provisions in the Constitution that limit foreign ownership of land and corporations in the country.
In recent developments, lawmakers have sought to ease restrictions and allow wider foreign ownership of land and businesses even as they urged approval of a bill that seeks to change the ownership and management of mass media firms, public utilities and educational institutions.
The constitution currently limits foreign ownership of corporations to not more than 40 percent, while media ownership and management are reserved for Filipinos only.
Lawmakers who proposed the changes said almost 1,500 cities across the Philippines back changes.
“The 1,489 members of the League of Municipalities of the Philippines prepared a resolution in support of the surgical amendments including the lifting of restrictive economic provisions of the constitution,” Department of Interior and Local Government undersecretary Jonathan Malaya disclosed.
Malaya said constitutional reforms would lead to economic recovery by allowing more infusion of foreign investments and capital.
CLP members, however, said that lawmakers should have more urgent priorities to address rather than tamper with the Constitution.
“This is not an opportune time to deal with charter change. We are in the midst of a pandemic with millions of our countrymen suffering from lack of food, shelter, jobs, education and a decent comprehensive healthcare system,” they said in January 18 statement.
The pandemic and its effects on society should be the lawmakers’ primary concern. “The whole exercise . . . advocating for charter change is a sheer waste of precious time, effort and money,” the group added.
It said the sole motivation behind charter change was politics.
“With 2022 elections about a year and a half away, who will not suspect other underlying political motivations?” it pointed out.
The group also warned people to be on their guard against political moves that seem to promote the common good yet forward self-interests.
“We oppose these moves. We urge our countrymen to be vigilant, pray, discern and speak out. We call on our lawmakers to address the needs of the people now. They need your attention,” they stressed.
Lawyer and constitutional law expert Tony La Vina warned changing economic provisions could lead to political ones, including extending President Rodrigo Duterte’s term in office.
“Once you establish a constituent assembly, nobody can say that we cannot discuss anything else. I can guarantee that there will be political provisions that will be amended, and it will essentially be about the extension of terms,” La Vina concluded. (Source Union of Catholic Asian News)