‘Cha-cha’ not dead – Belmonte

Congress revives the controversial 'Fourth Mode' to amend the 1987 Constitution

OPTIMISTIC: House Speaker Sonny Belmonte is not giving up on Charter Change

MANILA, Philippines – Despite his failure to persuade President Aquino to support Charter change (Cha-cha), House Speaker Feliciano “Sonny” Belmonte Jr said he is not giving up on moves to lift constitutional limits on foreign ownership.

“There is no denying that he is (President Aquino) not fully convinced that these are the major roadblocks to investments. He thinks that Charter change in general…is diversionary…. [But] in the sense that he did not say no… bukas pa ‘yung pinto,” Belmonte said in a press conference on Tuesday, July 31.

Belmonte said he is counting on the economic cluster of the Cabinet, which President Aquino tasked to study Congress’ proposal to amend the 1987 Constitution, to persuade President Aquino on the merits of lifting the 40% limit on foreign ownership.

Congress has proposed to amend 6 items in the Constitution: land, utilization of natural resources, public utilities, education, media, and advertising. Belmonte said the first 3 items are the priority.

Failed mission

Belmonte, along with Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and House majority leader Neptali Gonzales II, went to Malacañang on Monday, July 30, to get the President to support Charter change. But President Aquino was not convinced. He reiterated to them his position against Cha-cha, saying that the economy is growing even without Charter change.

Belmonte said President Aquino has to realize that the limits on foreign ownership is a stumbling block to economic growth. “It is his position that investments are coming in. Indeed investments are coming in but they are not in the same level as it has been coming in to other countries in Asean,” he said.

Belmonte said they will stop proceedings in the House of Representatives until Malacañang decides to endorse it. Charter-change initiatives won’t progress without the President’s support, he said.

“We do need his concurrence. In the first place, it requires the three-fourth vote of both houses Congress. I don’t think we can get it on the basis of the charisma of [Cavite Rep.] Jun Abaya and [Majority Leader] Boyet Gonzales. Kailangan talaga ng full backing niya,” Belmonte said.

Fourth mode to amend Constitution?

Belmonte said he and Enrile assured the President that Cha-cha will not cover non-economic provisions.

“If other things start to get into the discussion, we will simply see to it that it will not have the vote,” said Belmonte.

Gonzales said they will not use the mode of Constitutional Assembly anymore as earlier reported. “We will not go there. There’s a danger…when you constitute yourself into a constituent assembly,” he said.

If the President agrees to support Cha-cha, Congress will treat like an ordinary law. Both houses of Congress will vote on it separately.

They are effectively reviving the “Fourth Mode” to amend the Constitution, a mode that Congress came up with in the 14th Congress when the House also wanted to amend the Constitution. – Rappler.com