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Charter change debates in Philippines: Latest updates, videos, analysis

developing

What you need to know

President Rodrigo Duterte’s allies in Congress are making one last attempt to amend the 1987 Constitution – and the coronavirus pandemic is their latest twist to justify charter change. 

Many questions linger: Why are lawmakers no longer pushing to shift to federalism? What do experts and legislators say about amending the Constitution’s economic provisions in the middle of the COVID-19 crisis? Can Congress be trusted if it convenes itself into a Constituent Assembly?

With past attempts always meeting a dead end in the Senate, will the Duterte-allied legislators finally succeed with Cha-Cha this time?

Bookmark and refresh this page for articles, photos, and videos on the latest developments in the Cha-Cha debates in the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Latest updates

Quimbo, Salceda say Cha-Cha ‘necessary 1st step’ towards economic growth

Marikina congresswoman Stella Quimbo and Albay congressman Joey Salceda said removing the restrictions on foreign investors under the 1987 Constitution is a “necessary first step” to push the Philippine economy forward.

The two legislators, both economists, delivered their respective sponsorship speeches as plenary debates for Resolution of Both House No. 2 started on Monday, February 22. 

For Quimbo, amending the restrictive economic provisions in the Constitution was just part of the “long to-do list” for the Philippines. That "list" included investing in infrastructure, reducing the cost of power, eliminating corruption, reducing red tape, and ensuring the rule of law prevails.

“But the necessary first step is to remove the restrictive economic provisions in our Constitution, or else, we risk being left further behind," Quimbo said. "RBH 2 is not a sufficient condition for inclusive growth, but it is necessary to move forward," she added. 

This was echoed by Salceda, who said he was “under no illusion that RBH 2 is a magic wand for all of our problems, but it is a necessary beginning.”

Read more here

Mara Cepeda

House kicks off plenary debates on charter change

The House of Representatives on Monday, February 22, has started its plenary deliberations on Resolution of Both Houses (RBH) No. 2 or the economic charter change (Cha-Cha) proposal.

Committee on constitutional amendments chairperson Alfredo Garbin Jr made the case for RBH 2 in his sponsorship speech, saying the "well-meaning" foreign investment restrictions in the 1987 Constitution became detrimental to Filipinos in the long run. 

"It is about time that we correct the unintended anomaly by introducing this amendment that gives Philippine legislature the freedom to amend those time-bound laws that have been enshrined in the Philippine Constitution to the detriment of the common good of Filipinos now and in the future," said Garbin.

Economists turned lawmakers Joey Salceda and Stella Quimbo also delivered their own sponsorship speeches in defense of RBH 2.

Mara Cepeda

House plenary debates on charter change to kick off on February 22

House committee on constitutional amendments chair Alfredo Garbin Jr said he would be sponsoring Resolution of Both Houses (RBH) No. 2 in the plenary to begin debates on the proposed economic charter change next Monday, February 22. 

This means the debates would be pushed back to another week, since Garbin was initially eyeing the start of the plenary debates on Monday, February 15. Garbin no longer responded when Rappler asked him why the start of the debates was moved to February 22. 

RBH 2 seeks to add the phrase "unless otherwise provided by law" to the 1987 Constitution's economic provisions with the end-goal of allowing Congress to pass bills easing restrictions on foreign ownership and management of alienable lands of public domain, natural resources, public utilities, educational institutions, mass media companies, and advertising companies in the Philippines.

Mara Cepeda

Villafuerte to Velasco: 'Out of touch' to push through with Cha-Cha plenary debates

Camarines Sur 2nd District Representative Luis Raymund "LRay" Villafuerte slammed Speaker Lord Allan Velasco and the rest of the House leadership for their plan to push through with the plenary debates on Resolution of Both Houses (RBH) No. 2 or the proposed economic charter change (Cha-Cha) resolution.

Villafuerte, an ally of Velasco's rival and ousted speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, said the Velasco-led House has "misplaced priorities" and lawmakers should instead focus on ensuring all their constituents would be vaccinated against the coronavirus. 

“Why don’t they ask local officials if they still have time to tell people about Cha-Cha while they are too busy with measures to contain the spread of COVID-19 in their communities and convincing people to get vaccinated to fight the disease? The House leadership seems out of touch with reality and should come to their senses and spend their time and energy instead on helping...people to get vaccinated instead of conducting plenary debates about the highly divisive issue of constitutional reform,” Villafuerte said in a statement on Monday, February 8.

House committee on constitutional amendments chair Alfredo Garbin Jr told Rappler he is eyeing to sponsor RBH 2 in the House plenary by next Monday, February 15. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

LOOK: House committee's report on economic Cha-Cha resolution

The House committee on constitutional amendments filed on Thursday, February 4, its report on the approval of its economic charter change resolution.

The committee-approved version of Resolution of Both Houses (RBH) No. 2 proposes to add the phrase “unless otherwise provided by law” to provisions under Articles XII, XIV, and XVI of the 1987 Constitution.

Adding the phrase would allow Congress to pass laws easing restrictions on foreign ownership or management of alienable lands of public domain, natural resources, public utilities, educational institutions, mass media, and advertising companies.

But the panel agreed to strike out from RBH 2 the proposed amendment that would have allowed foreigners to own land in the Philippines. 

Mara Cepeda

Garbin: House has 'no Plan B yet' should Senate reject Cha-Cha

House committee on constitutional amendments chair Alfredo Garbin Jr said the lower chamber has no second option – at least for now – should the Senate reject their economic charter change resolution.

Why? Because lawmakers are still hoping senators would finally agree to amend the economic provisions of the 1987 Constitution.

"Umaasa ho kami, si Speaker Lord Allan Velasco, na ito ay bibigyan ng chansa ng Senado. Wala pa kaming second option or Plan B sakaling 'di sumama ang Senado dito sapagkat kami ay naniniwala na ito ay pangangailangan…at kailangang bigyan-pansin at chansa ng Senado," Garbin said during the Ugnayan sa Batasan forum on Wednesday, February 3. 

(We, including Speaker Lord Allan Velasco, are hoping the Senate would give this a chance. We don't have a second option or a Plan B yet in case the Senate doesn't agree to this because we believe this is a need...and is something the Senate should consider.)

Mara Cepeda

Navotas Mayor Tiangco: LGUs 'don't have time to talk about or to even think about' Cha-Cha

Former Navotas City congressman turned Mayor Toby Tiangco said local chief executives are just too busy with dealing with the coronavirus pandemic to think about charter change, let alone promote it to their residents.

During the Kapihan sa Manila Bay forum on Wednesday, February 3, Tiangco said local government units are primarily concerned with quelling the number of COVID-19 cases and ensuring residents are vaccinated against the disease. 

"Honestly, kung iaasa sa amin 'yan, we don’t have time to talk about it or even think about it or to even read materials that they will send to us. I will be very honest: 'Di kaya. Sa Navotas, hindi kaya. Ako bilang mayor, 'di kayang isipin 'yan sa panahon ngayon," said Tiangco.

(Honestly, if they are going to rely on us to promote that, we don't have time to talk about it or even think about it or to even read materials that they will send to us. I will be very honest: We can't push for it. We can do that in Navotas. As mayor, I can't even afford to think about that during this time.)

Mara Cepeda

Makabayan lawmakers reject Cha-Cha

Only 3 progressive lawmakers from the Makabayan bloc voted against the House resolution that would lift the current constitutional restrictions on foreign investors.

Bayan Muna Representatives Carlos Zarate and Ferdinand Gaite, and ACT Teachers Representative France Castro were the 3 dissenters against Resolution of Both Houses (RBH) No. 2 when it hurdled the House committee on constitutional amendments on Tuesday, February 2.

Sixty-four other members of the panel voted in favor of RBH 2.

Zarate warned Filipinos would be severely hit should more foreigners be allowed to own, manage, or lease alienable lands of public domain, natural resources, public utilities, educational institutions, mass media companies, and advertising companies in the Philippines.

"Our national patrimony would be put on sale to the highest foreign bidder at the further expense of our local industry," said Zarate.

Castro also said charter change is not the answer to the country's economic woes caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

"The pandemic response should not be dependent on changing the Constitution. This 'Cha-Cha' is not for the people," she said.

Mara Cepeda

Cha-Cha resolution hurdles House panel on Constitution Day

A House committee’s approval of the economic charter change (Cha-Cha) resolution coincided with the 34th anniversary of the 1987 Constitution’s ratification.

The House committee on constitutional amendments passed Resolution of Both Houses No. 2 on Tuesday, February 2, which is also known as Constitution Day in the Philippines.

It was former president Corazon Aquino, through Proclamation No. 211 of 1988, who assigned February 2 of each year as Constitution Day to mark the new 1987 Constitution. Aquino was elected following the ouster of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

Mara Cepeda