charter change

[Point of Law] The elusive constitutional amendments

Francis Lim

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[Point of Law] The elusive constitutional amendments
Should we further delay changes or seize the opportunity at this time?

Following the administration of former president Corazon Aquino, attempts to amend the Constitution, colloquially known as Cha-Cha, have faced skepticism. This skepticism traces its roots back to the fear of perpetuating power, a concern deeply ingrained in the aftermath of the late president Ferdinand Marcos’ term extension after the amendments to the 1935 Constitution.

Despite efforts to focus exclusively on the economic provisions of the Constitution to allay public concerns, these endeavors proved futile. The public perceived these limited amendments as a cover for amendments aimed at prolonging the term of those in power.

Meanwhile, our country’s competitiveness in attracting foreign direct investments (FDI) has suffered. The 2023 Special ASEAN Investment Report by the World Bank and ASEAN shows a stark contrast in FDI inflows, with the Philippines lagging behind at about half compared to ASEAN newcomer Vietnam, which boasts nearly US$18 billion. Singapore, despite its small size and limited natural resources, has attracted US$141 billion in FDI, principally attributed to an enabling legal framework and an investor-friendly business environment.

Our country’s inability to attract substantial FDIs has adversely impacted millions of Filipinos who are now either unemployed or underemployed and living below the poverty line.

Potential compromise

Fast forward to two years into President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr.’s term, Cha-Cha movements have resurfaced. The signature campaign under the People’s Initiative to amend the Constitution is now facing criticism for alleged misuse of public funds and lack of an enabling law.

Senate President Miguel Zubiri’s proposal for a constituent assembly, focusing on specific economic provisions, is emerging as a potential compromise. This proposal seeks to address public apprehensions about potential political amendments. It is aligned with the approach advocated by former senator Franklin Drilon, ensuring a piecemeal amendment process – with separate votes from each of the Senate and House of Representatives. 

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The system is similar to enacting laws, which requires a three-fourths majority vote for approval of  any amendment, maintains transparency, and provides a crucial check-and-balance mechanism between the two chambers of Congress. Although untested, it can be constitutionally defended.

As the call for amendments to the Constitution emerges once again, a crucial question arises: should we further delay changes to the economic provisions of the Constitution, or should we seize the opportunity at this time?

Regardless, any changes necessitate the approval of our duly-elected representatives in Congress, acting separately through their respective chambers, and, ultimately, the approval of the Filipino people. –

The author is a senior legal counsel of the Angara Abello Concepcion Regala & Cruz Law Offices (ACCRALAW) and chairman of the Justice Reform Initiative. The views expressed in this column are exclusively his personal views.


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  1. ET

    Atty. Francis Lim’s proposal is excellent. But what is genuinely elusive is different from the correct, proper, or relevant constitutional amendments. It is the Trust of the Filipino People to their senators and lower house representatives. Unless this is effectively addressed, it will be easier to amend the 1987 Philippine Constitution.

    1. ET

      Clarification: Unless this is effectively addressed, it will not be easy to amend the 1987 Philippine Constitution. (Sorry)

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