THE House committee on Constitutional amendments is already sitting as Constituent Assembly (Con-Ass).
This is according to the panel’s chairman Ako Bicol Rep. Alfredo Garbin Jr. as the committee yesterday started discussing the amendments to the 1987 Constitution focused mainly on economic provisions.
During the first hearing, at least three top economists from the University of the Philippine expressed their views on why there is a need to amend the economic provisions of the old Constitution.
When asked by the members about the mode of Charter Change, Garbin said the committee is already sitting as Con-ass “exercising our constituent power.”
He defined Con-ass as a body authorized by the Constitution to propose amendments to the charter, further saying that Con-Ass is a group of elected representatives that has the power re-write or change the country’s Constitution.
“When we deal with or propose amendments to the Constitution, we are sitting as a con-ass. Hindi tayo kailangan magbagong-anyo na kung saan iba ‘yung suot natin o magsama-sama tayo,” Garbin said.
“Everytime we deal with proposing amendments to the Constitution or revising the Constitution, we are sitting as a Con-Ass exercising our constituent power,” he added.
Vice chairman of the committee and Iloilo City Rep. Lorenz Defensor supported Garbin’s stand, adding that there is no formal act needed to open deliberations on amending the Constitution and acting as a Con-Ass.
But veteran solon Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman disagreed with the opinion of the administration lawmakers.
Lagman pointed out that a Con-Ass must be a joint meeting of members of the House of Representatives and of the Senate.
“That’s strange to me. No committee of the Senate or of the House can sit as a Con-Ass,” he said.
Three professors emeritus from the University of the Philippines School of Economics (UPSE) underscored the need to amend the restrictive economic provisions of the Constitution in order to make the Philippines more appealing to investors and help it accelerate economic recovery.
The UP School of Economics professors––Professors Emeritus Dr. Raul Fabella, Dr. Ernesto Pernia and Dr. Gerardo Sicat––invited as resource persons in the resumption of the hearing, touted the benefits of amending the Constitution’s economic provisions and said these were timely given the need to speed up the recovery of the country’s pandemic-hit economy.
According to Pernia, changing the economic provisions of the Charter is timely “because as you can see, although the economy has really been clobbered by the pandemic, the economy is recovering slowly––it is getting out of the hole little by little––and we need to accelerate that getting out of the hole.”
“We really need to push that, including allowing FDI (foreign direct investments) in the country, so this recovery will accelerate,” said the former director general of the National Economic and Development Authority, who lamented that the Philippine economy has slowly been overtaken by other ASEAN economies.
Pernia pointed out that because the country has been so closed in terms of FDI, “we really cannot be competitive with our ASEAN neighbors, much less in the global economy, if we do not open the economy; that is why easing or lifting the provisions on foreign participation in the constitution is critical.”
Sicat, the founder of the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS), echoed the sentiments of Pernia and explained that he considered the current economic provisions of the Constitution “the original sin” responsible for making it “really difficult for our country to progress in the attraction of foreign director investments.”
The first director general appointed to head the NEDA, Sicat urged legislators to read his column, which he said enumerates the benefits of amending the economic provisions of the Constitution.
Fabella, the only Filipino economist recognized as a National Scientist, told members of the committee that he agreed with his colleagues from the UPSE, as well as the view expressed in Resolution of Both Houses No. 2, “that the lifting of the constitutional limit on foreign ownership will make the Philippines more foreign investment-friendly.”
“My belief is that who can make the land flower best should own it; the land should be able to produce as much as it can.. and citizenship is not a condition for who makes flower the best,” Fabella said.