MANILA, Philippines – With an unusually high number of votes, 301-6-1, the House of Representatives adopted on Monday, March 6, Resolution of Both Houses No. 6, which calls for a constitutional convention (Con-Con) to either amend or revise the 1987 Constitution.
The resolution calls for the election of Con-Con delegates to coincide with the Barangay and Sangguninang Kabataan Elections on October 30, 2023.
Both chambers of Congress still need to pass an accompanying bill that would be determine how the Con-Con will be operationalized. Details that need to be determined include the qualifications of delegates, the number of members, and how delegates will be chosen – whether all will be elected or whether some of them will be appointed according to their expertise.
According to the resolution, extensive studies had been conducted and determined that some economic provisions in the 1987 Constitution needed to be “revisited and recrafted” to enable the country to be globally competitive and keep up with the changing times.
“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,” Speaker Martin Romualdez said.
The convention will cost P1.5 billion, according to Cagayan de Oro Representative Rufus Rodriguez, who chairs the House constitutional amendments committee.
A waste of resources
Members of the Makabayan bloc expressed their concern over the House’s priorities, as well as the necessity of having the Con-Con in the first place.
Camarines Sur 3rd District Representative Gabriel Bordado said that amendments were not necessary to encourage economic growth in the country.
“Revitalizing the economy should be our topmost priority…. We do not need to delve into the costly and time-consuming task of amending the Constitution in order to foster economic growth. Instead, we should continue introducing new legislation and amending existing ones to address pressing economic issues, particularly if urgency is our main concern,” Bordado said.
Gabriela Representative Arlene Brosas and ACT-Teachers Representative France Castro shared this view, saying that the House’s priority should be the ongoing jeepney strike, as well as the continued increase of goods and prices.
“Sa gitna ng malawak na protesta ngayong araw kontra-jeepney phaseout, pinili ng Kapulungan na aprubahan ang Cha-Cha, sa halip na pakinggan ang kagyat na panawagan ng mga tsuper at operator,” Brosas said.
(In the middle of widespread protests today against the jeepney phaseout, the House chose to approve charter change instead of listening to the urgent calls of our drivers and operators.)
“[N]apilitan silang gawin ang last resort na ito bilang isang malakas na cry for help sa gobyerno upang tugunan nito ang mga hinaing nila ukol sa di umano’y modernization ng jeepney,” Castro said.
(They were forced to this last resort as a cry for help for the government to address their complaints on the alleged jeepney modernization.)
Kabataan Partylist Representative Raoul Manuel voted “no” to what he called an “unnecessary” resolution.
“Ito (1987 Constitution) ay output ng hopeful Filipino people na kumawala sa kamay na bakal ni Ferdinand Marcos Sr., at mula sa pandaigdigang krisis pang-ekonomiko,” he said. (The 1987 Constitution was borne out of the Filipinos’ hopes of being emancipated from the iron fist of Ferdinand Marcos Sr. and from the global economic crisis.)
Manuel said the proposed charter change would open the country’s natural resources to exploitation by foreign companies – something that the 1987 Constitution precisely wanted to guard against.
Addressing economic ‘limits’
Northern Samar 1st District Representative Paul Daza said he had originally favored the constituent assembly as the mode for charter change, but the opportunity to call a Con-Con instead to amend economic provisions “swayed” him to vote yes.
“I wanted the House, the country, the people, to be able to hear all the arguments, all the reasons, and all the dialogue on what amendments we should take up that will help this country, especially this economy,” Daza said. (EXPLAINER: Is it time for economic charter change given the country’s woes?)
He also added that any amendments that would be proposed would be voted on in a plebiscite by the people.
Minority Leader Marcelino Libanan said he voted “yes” because the issue concerns the Philippines as a whole.
“The Constitution is not only the concern of the majority, but of the minority as well,” he said, likening the Constitution to humans that must be able to “mutate” to “face the challenge of the present and face the future full of hope.”
It is uncommon for the House of Representatives under the Marcos administration to have more than 300 lawmakers voting in the affirmative on a certain bill or resolution. Even Marcos’ controversial pet bill on the proposed establishment of the Maharlika Investment Fund garnered only 279 “yes” votes. – Rappler.com
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