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Solon: Amendments to constitution’s economic provisions to be transparent

THE chairman of the House committee on constitutional amendments has said the public can be assured that the whole process of introducing amendments to the economic provisions of the 1987 Constitution will be transparent and will follow the legislative process.

Ako Bicol Party-list Rep. Alfredo Garbin Jr., panel chairman, said Speaker Lord Allan Velasco gave a clear and specific instruction that the constitutional amendments will focus only on the restrictive economic provisions of the 33-year-old Charter.

“Klaro po ang direktiba ng ating Speaker that we need to confine our discussion doon sa economic provisions. At the end of the day, ang taong bayan will have the power of ratification. They will be the one to ratify the amendments in a plebiscite,” Garbin said in a radio interview.

Under Resolution of Both Houses (RBH) 2 authored by Speaker Velasco, the phrase “unless otherwise provided by law” will be added to the restrictions set by the Constitution on ownership of franchises and public utilities.

“By inserting the phrase ‘unless otherwise provided by law’, mabibigyan ang Kongreso ng leeway so that we can enact a responsive legislation in order to meet the economic conditions of the time,” Garbin added.

Garbin also stressed that the pandemic has made the matter of amending the restrictive economic provisions in the Constitution urgent, as domestic markets struggled to boost the economy during the lockdown period in 2020.

“Bago pa ho magka-pandemya, ito ho’y napag-uusapan na sa committee during the Chairmanship of the Honorable Rufus Rodriguez. The amendments on the economic provisions is long overdue. Since the 13th Congress, nandiyan na ho yung panukala na buksan at ma-relax ito,” Garbin pointed out.

Garbin’s panel will start deliberations before the resumption of the 18th Congress on January 18.

The committee hopes to finish deliberations before Christmas of 2021, and to schedule the plebiscite in time for the 2022 National Elections, Garbin said.

Garbin also moved to allay concerns that Congress will touch on the political provisions in the Constitution, particularly term limits or term extension. “Wala hong ganung direktiba sa atin ang ating Speaker.”

“The people would really know kung ano ba talaga dapat pag-debatehan at pag-uusapan diyan sa Kongreso because they are the true owners of the Constitution,” Garbin explained.

He added: “In the process, we need to develop public trust and confidence. Ultimately, anuman ang aprubahan namin, ipapasa namin sa taumbayan para sila ang mag-desisyon. Kami ay mga representante lamang na nagpapanukala. Pero ang sabi ng Konstitusyon, ‘because sovereignty resides in the people’ sila ang mag-aapruba ng anumang panukala sa pag-amyenda ng Saligang Batas” Garbin added.