Senators asked to keep an open mind on Charter amendment

Senators asked to keep an open mind on Charter amendment

MANILA – A lawmaker at the House of Representatives on Thursday urged senators to keep an open mind on the lower chamber’s push for amending the 1987 Constitution’s economic provisions to boost foreign investments in the country.

Quezon Representative David Suarez said the Senate should review House Bill (HB) 7352, or the accompanying bill to a resolution calling for a hybrid constitutional convention to propose Charter amendments, and calendar it for plenary debates instead of immediately dismissing it as not a priority.

“I am appealing to our honorable senators to consider how HB 7352 passed its third and final reading with a resounding 301 votes. This is an overwhelming vote from the members of the House of Representatives,” Suarez said. “As duly elected officials representing all districts from Mindanao, Luzon and Visayas, our counterparts in the Senate should study their position and acknowledge the need to revise the economic provisions of our Constitution.”

Resolution of Both Houses (RBH) No. 6 was approved on final reading at the House on March 6 with a 301-6 vote while HB 7352 was passed on March 14 with a 301-7 vote.

Suarez said while measures have been enacted in the past Congress relaxing restrictive provisions of the Charter, these have not been enough to encourage the entry of more foreign investments that the government needs to address the economic setbacks caused by the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) restrictions.

“We are all in agreement that most of our laws covering foreign investments are very restrictive and has kept our hands tied for decades. These restrictions prevent us from creating more jobs and getting investments from other countries,” Suarez said.

He said senators should consider the gains that the country will get if the economy is opened up further.

“Data from numerous studies are undeniable. If we want to compete and be globally relevant, we need to unburden our country,” he said. “Ito ang tamang panahon para ipakita ng mga mambabatas na sa lahat ng pagkakataon, kapakanan ng taumbayan ang pangunahin namin adhikain, hindi personal na ambisyon (This is the right time for lawmakers to show that we are always prioritizing the welfare of the people, not our personal ambitions).”

Ako Bisaya Party-list Rep. Sonny Lagon, meanwhile, said amending economic provisions of the 1987 Constitution will speed up the country’s recovery from the pandemic and will provide millions of jobs to Filipinos.

Lagon allayed concerns that the approval of the measures calling for amendments to the charter was being rushed, maintaining that the House Committee on Constitutional Amendments and members who voted in favor of RBH 6 and HB 7352 were guided by “years of intense discussion” on amending the Constitution.

“Charter change has been a core discussion ever since the term of former President Fidel Ramos. At lahat ng administrasyon since then, pinag-aralan na yan (And all the administrations since then have studied it),” he said. “Napakarami nang papers o position papers ang nagawa (There are a lot of position papers that have been written), especially on amending the rather restrictive economic provisions of our Charter.”

“Bottom line is: the country is bouncing back from the ill effects of the pandemic. Small businesses closed down, and many people lost their jobs. We need to tweak the restrictive economic provisions of the 1987 Constitution to invite more foreign investments here in the country, stimulate the economy and provide jobs to millions,” Lagon added.

Lagon also said Speaker Martin Romualdez wants to be “efficient” in the affairs of the House of Representatives, especially when it comes to lawmaking that will benefit the economy.

“All measures approved by the House of Representatives were discussed extensively, without sacrificing the free exchange of ideas and the deliberation of opposing views. None was sacrificed. The same thing can be said about RBH 6 and HB 7352,” Lagon said.

Romualdez earlier said all legislative measures, including the two on the proposed con-con, have been “deliberated extensively and exhaustively” from the committee level up to the plenary hall.

He said the passage of the two measures was done with a clear mission to amend the Charter’s restrictive provisions to attract more foreign investments and create high-paying and quality jobs. (PNA)

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