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Public support for Charter Change growing — DILG

THE Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) yesterday submitted to the House Committee on Constitutional Amendments some 555,610 signatures coupled with resolutions from local government units (LGUs) supporting the lifting of the restrictive economic provisions of the Constitution.

Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya said that the roadshows conducted by the DILG before the crisis brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic clearly shows that there is a growing public support for reforms to the 1987 Constitution.

Malaya cited in particular the lifting of restrictive economic provisions to encourage foreign capital flow and investments into the country.

“If not for COVID, we could have gathered more signatures but because the DILG turned its attention to the pandemic, we migrated our signature campaign on-line and relied on our CSO-partners starting March of 2020,” he added.

Malaya, who also serves as Executive Director of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Constitutional Reform, said that the signatures were culled from off-line and on-line signature campaigns spearheaded by the DILG, CORE (Constitutional Reform) Movement, along with various civil society groups, private groups, and individuals.

“Those (physical) signatures were gathered during our provincial roadshows which started in 2019 up to 2020 before the pandemic hit and now online signature campaign where we brought people in an online platform,” the DILG official said.

Previoous roadshows consisting of town hall meetings, youth assemblies, CORE conventions, and media fora were meant to inform the public on the merits of constitutional amendments.

Malaya also presented a resolution of support for CORE by the 1,488-member strong League of Municipalities of the Philippines, and 23 LGU resolutions from Regions VI, X, XI, and CARAGA.

In July 2020, League of Municipalities of the Philippines (LMP) National President Chavit Singson turned over to DILG Secretary Eduardo Año a resolution endorsing a proposal to institutionalize the Mandanas ruling of the Supreme Court in the Constitution and called for the lifting of restrictions on foreign investment in industries currently limited to Filipinos.

“If we had spread out development to other regions instead of concentrating everything in Metro Manila, then the pandemic would not have crippled the entire Philippine economy and so stronger economies in the regions could strengthen the LGUs’ capabilities and increase protection for our people,” Malaya pointed out.

The House of Representatives has resumed its public hearing on constitutional reforms although lawmakers were quick to stress that the discussions would only focus on the economic provisions in the Constitution.

Malaya said that making the Constitution more open to foreign investors would improve public perception of the country’s investment climate and sets the tone for other institutions.

He said that the Philippines cannot be seen as a truly open economy when its fundamental law is protectionist and inward-looking, rigid and inflexible in structure.

“It is better to remove citizenship-based restrictions now, instead of allowing them to continue, but with the caveat ‘unless otherwise provided by law’,” he said.

The DILG Spokesman further said that positive reforms in the Constitution would send a signal to the international business community that the Philippines is now open to a globally competitive economy.

He also expressed confidence that Congress would pass economic reforms in the end to pave the way for the country’s recovery from the pandemic for the long haul.