With an overwhelming 301 affirmative votes, the House of Representatives on Monday, March 6, 2023, approved on third and final reading Resolution of Both Houses (RBH) No. 6, calling for a Constitutional Convention to propose amendments to or revision of the 1987 Philippine Constitution.
RBH No. 6 is principally authored by Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, Majority Leader Manuel Jose Dalipe, Camarines Sur 2nd District Representative Luis Raymund Villafuerte Jr., and House Committee on Constitutional Amendments chair and Cagayan de Oro City 2nd District Rep. Rufus Rodriguez.
According to Speaker Romualdez, the House aims to limit the amendments to the constitution to the “restrictive” economic provisions of the basic law “in the hope that the changes would pave the way for the country to attract more foreign investments.”
“We need additional investments that would create more job and income opportunities for our people. We need increased capital to sustain our economic growth momentum,” Romualdez said.
The Committee on Constitutional Amendments endorsed RBH No. 6 after conducting extensive public hearings and consultations in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.
“Extensive studies show that particular economic provisions of the 1987 Constitution need to be revisited and recrafted so that the Philippines may become globally competitive and attuned with the changing times,” the resolution stated.
It notes that such reform has been identified by reputable business and economic groups as a key policy instrument that needs to be implemented, and that these organizations feel that the economic reform by way of constitutional amendments “is now long overdue.”
Camarines Sur Rep. LRay Villafuerte said there would be no dramatic increase in foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows unless the Constitution’s restrictive economic provision on limited participation of overseas investors is lifted.
“This 40% ownership cap on foreigners in our inward-looking Constitution has long been the deal-breaker for prospective investors. If you will look at it, one main source of poverty in the Philippines is our low agricultural output,” Villafuerte said on television.
“There’s a lot of idle land in the country. We need foreign capital and foreign technology to harness such idle lands. So in order to have more foreign capital flowing into the country, we should allow ownership as part of the menu for investors,” he added.
However, while RBH 6 states that the convention would be called “for the purpose of proposing amendments to the economic provisions, or revision of, the 1987 Constitution,” Committee on Constitutional Amendments chairman Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez said there is no stopping delegates from touching the political provisions.
The resolution noted that among the three modes of proposing amendments to the Charter, the calling of a constitutional convention “would be the most transparent, exhaustive, democratic and least divisive means of implementing constitutional reforms.”
The envisioned con-con would be a hybrid assembly composed of 253 delegates to be elected from all the country’s legislative districts, and at least 20% of the assembly will be made up of appointees from Congress to represent the marginalized sectors. The election and appointment of delegates will be held simultaneously with the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan polls on Oct. 30, 2023.
The House approval came less than two months after the Committee on Constitutional Amendments began public consultations on charter change at the Batasang Pambansa, and select venues in Luzon, the Visayas, and Mindanao.
An overwhelming 93% of the 316-strong lower chamber agreed to be named as co-authors of the resolution to signify their support for rewriting the Constitution’s economic provisions. Only six lawmakers — all members of minority bloc — voted against RBH No. 6, with one abstention.
Those who voted against RBH 6 were Camarines Sur Third District Rep. Gabriel Bordado Jr., Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Arlene Brosas, ACT Teachers Rep. France Castro, Basilan Rep. Mujiv Hataman, Albay First District Rep. Edcel Lagman, and Kabataan Rep. Raoul Manuel.
Northern Samar First District Rep. Paul Daza, who abstained during the voting on the RBH at the committee level, said that it was “timely to address the economic provisions” of the Constitution.
Rep. Paolo Duterte (Davao City) also issued a statement after the plenary session and said he voted against the measure due to “more pressing social and economic issues” than changing the Charter. His vote was not counted in the initial tally.
Details of the convention, such as the funding and qualifications of delegates, are in an accompanying measure, House Bill 7532, now in plenary debates.
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