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MANILA, Philippines – The ambitious push to amend the Constitution appears to be gaining ground as the Senate leadership, which was previously cold about it, now says it will take the lead in reviewing proposals to amend the charter’s economic provisions.
At a press conference on Monday, January 15, Senate President Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri said he met with President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and House Speaker Martin Romualdez on January 5 to raise concerns about the supposed People’s Initiative to revise the Constitution. (READ: Will you sell your soul for P100? Allegations vs charter change bid via people’s initiative)
“The President agreed with us that the proposal was too divisive, and asked the Senate to instead take the lead in reviewing the economic provisions of the Constitution. In this way, we can preserve our bicameral nature of legislation,” Zubiri said.
This is a completely different tune for Zubiri as he was, in the past, totally against Charter change (Cha-cha) even for economic provisions. (READ: Zubiri schools ‘neophyte’ Padilla over canceled Cha-Cha hearing)
“While the Constitution must be reviewed in keeping with the demands of the present and the possibilities of the future, we believe that we must first exhaust all other avenues open to us, through policy-making and legislation,” Zubiri said.
On Monday, Zubiri filed Resolution of Both Houses No. 6, “proposing amendments to certain economic provisions of the 1987 Constitution.” He co-authored this with Senators Sonny Angara and Loren Legarda.
The resolution only includes amendments in the operation of public utilities and education services.
“[The] nation’s economic policy must be reframed under the demands of this increasingly globalized age, while still protecting the general policy of Filipino-first that guides the economic provisions of the Constitution,” the resolution read.
“Our children deserve to have access to the best educational institutions, both Filipino and foreign, to ensure that they receive the best training to become globally competitive citizens in the modern world,” it added.
Zubiri said the instruction they got from Marcos was for the Senate to take the lead in reviewing the economic provisions of the Constitution which would be adopted by the House later on.
The Senate review on Cha-cha will be in the context of the Public Service Act (PSA), which was amended to allow foreign ownership in certain public services like airports, railways, expressways and telecommunications.
“The Senate commits that it will work with the House of Representatives to remove all doubts on the constitutionality of the law by ensuring that the liberalized policies contained in the PSA can be implemented and relied on by investors as an enduring policy. It is only in this respect that the Senate can agree to modify the Constitution,” Zubiri said.
Asked if Romualdez was amicable to it, Zubiri didn’t give a direct answer but said it would be best for reporters to ask the House Speaker.
“Best to ask him, I don’t want to put words in his mouth. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. But we’re happy sa kinalabasan ng meeting na ‘yan (of what transpired in the meeting).”
‘Synergy between Senate, House’
In a statement, Romualdez thanked Zubiri for the Senate’s initiative in filing a Resolution of Both Houses of Congress.
“The synergy between the Senate and the House in passing this Resolution will send a strong signal of unity and purpose. It aligns with the aspirations of the proponents of the ongoing People’s Initiative, who have tirelessly advocated for constitutional reform,” Romualdez said.
Romualdez, however, didn’t categorically say that the House would adopt the Senate version in case it hurdles the upper chamber.
Zubiri’s resolution needs 18 votes from senators. The review will be led by Angara who chairs the finance committee.
The Senate president tried to reassure those wary of Cha-cha that term limits will not be part of the amendments. But critics worry that once Congress green lights the process, it will be all too easy to go beyond economic amendments and sneak in provisions that will allow politicians to stay longer in power. – Rappler.com