Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

Has President Marcos changed his tune on charter change?

Dwight de Leon

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Has President Marcos changed his tune on charter change?

COUSINS. President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and House Speaker Martin Romualdez during a roundtable meeting with heads of the Malaysian Chambers of Commerce in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in July 2023.

House website

In February, President Marcos said charter change was not a priority. When asked again months later about the topic, he said there have been some preliminary discussions.

When President Marcos was asked earlier this year whether he would support charter change focused on economic provisions, he put the suggestion to rest.

“It’s not a priority for me,” he said in February.

Months later, he has sounded less dismissive of the idea.

When Marcos was asked again on Friday, December 15, whether he would back efforts to amend the 1987 Constitution, the President did not completely shut it down, signaling that there have been some related preliminary discussions.

“We’re just beginning to study because we keep talking about economic provisions that are getting in the way with some of the potential investors that we are trying to bring to the Philippines,” he said on Friday, December 15, at the sidelines of the inauguration of the Poblacion Water Treatment Plant in Muntinlupa.

“What we are looking at here is the opportunity cost of those who would like to invest here but somehow, the laws derived from the Constitution when it comes to the economic provisions do not allow them to or make it non-viable for them. So, that’s the study to see if it requires that or if we can do it any other way,” he added.

The President, however, was cautious in his words, saying the study was more about attracting foreign investments.

“My primary interest is to try and make our country an investment-friendly place,” he added. “That’s why the study is really not about the Constitution. It’s about what do we need to do – what do we need to change so that these potential investors will in fact come to the Philippines.”

The Presidential Communications Office, in a press release, was more direct, interpreting Marcos’ statement to mean that “efforts are underway to revisit the economic provisions of 1987 Constitution and other laws.”

The topic was brought up after House Speaker Martin Romualdez – the President’s cousin – said days earlier that the chamber would revisit the charter change agenda in 2024, with a primary focus on the 1987 Constitution’s economic provisions.

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The House already passed a bill on charter change through a constitutional convention in March.

That proposal meant every legislative district would have a representative to the Con-Con, on top of sectoral representatives jointly appointed by the Senate President and House Speaker.

The election of delegates, however, was supposed to take place last October, but with the Senate ignoring the House’s proposal, the bill ultimately died in the upper chamber.

Many senators have expressed either outright opposition or strong reservations towards the House bill. Even Senator Robin Padilla – the main charter change advocate in the upper chamber – prefers a constituent assembly route instead.

A constituent assembly means Congress, upon a vote of three-fourths of its members, would propose amendments or revisions to the 1987 Constitution.

That opens another can of worms though, since the charter is silent about whether the Senate and the House should vote jointly or separately on proposed amendments.

The 24-member Senate, of course, would not want to vote jointly with the 300-member House, because the voice of the upper chamber would be deemed irrelevant.

Romualdez said that to break the impasse on how lawmakers would vote, the House is considering a people’s initiative, wherein at least 12% of the voting population – of which every legislative district is represented by at least 3% of voters – sign a petition.

Romualdez’s statements may already be ruffling some feathers in the Senate, and complicating family dynamics in the Marcos clan.

Take it from Senator Imee Marcos – the President’s sister and Romualdez’s cousin – who quipped that someone in the House wants to be prime minister because he can’t win as president.

Ang kulit naman (they’re so stubborn),” Senator Marcos said on Wednesday, December 13. Talagang sinabi na ni PBBM na hindi napapanahon.” (The President already said this is not the right time.) – Rappler.com

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Dwight de Leon

Dwight de Leon is a multimedia reporter who covers President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the Malacañang, and the Commission on Elections for Rappler.