The House of Representatives will proceed with its debates on amending the economic provisions of the 1987 Constitution even without a concurrent Resolution from the Senate, House leaders said on Thursday.
This developed despite former Chief Justice Reynato Puno’s warning to Congress against pursuing Speaker Feliciano Belmonte’s Jr.’s House Resolution 1 to remove restrictions on participation of foreigners in the country’s economy.
The restrictions include a 40-percent limit on foreign ownership of public utilities, media entities, land and exploration of natural resources and 30-percent limit for advertising firms, and other business ventures.
Puno said Belmonte’s tack can be later questioned before the Supreme Court considering that the Constitution does not provide for amending the Constitution via a separate vote of both Houses of Congress.
Belmonte, a lawyer, argued that the House can proceed because the Constitution does not prohibit the House from amending the Constitution thru a separate vote of House and the Senate—a position taken by Fr. Joaquin Bernas and former Supreme Court justice Adolf Azcuna who was a part of the drafters of the 1987 Constitution.
“I don’t agree that my House Resolution is not safe. I believe Fr. Bernas and former Supreme Court justice Azcuna who drafted the Constitution,” Belmonte said in a text message.
Deputy Speaker Giorgidi Aggabao of Isabela and Rep. Romero Quimbo of Marikina backed up Belmonte.
“The Constitution does not explicitly allow that mode of amending the Constitution, but it is equally true that the Constitution does not disallow such modality [that we vote separately]. Clearly then, Congress in the exercise of its constituent functions, is free to adopt whatever mode it deems best to discharge efficiently its mandate. The framers of the 1987 Constitution had tacitly allowed a bicameral mode to propose amendments to the Constitution,” Aggabao pointed out in a separate text message.
“I don’t agree that it is not safe because the Constitution categorically states that Congress must act jointly and separately. It is clear they the constitution does not require a joint session,” Quimbo added.