The House of Representatives hopes to make history this week when lawmakers vote on a measure that seeks to amend the Constitution.
The amendments will allow Congress to lift the 40 percent restriction on foreign ownership of public utilities and land.
House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales 2nd expressed confidence that they can get the needed numbers to pass the measure. Congress will start its two-month break on Thursday. The Charter change bill — Resolution of Both Houses No. 1 — was authored by Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Jr.
“The last session day on Wednesday will be marked by adjournment sine die…so there will be a ceremony… a lot of members will be attending. It would be easy to get the numbers and we can undergo nominal voting. We will vote on Cha-cha. At least 220 could attend there,” Gonzales told reporters.
Since it is a Constitutional amendment, Belmonte’s proposal will need at least 217 votes to be passed.
There are 291 members of the House of Representatives.
“It’s just a matter of time [before we approve it]. This Cha-cha does not have an ill-motivated provision. Even on the assumption that the House and the Senate approve it on third reading, we won’t automatically allow the foreigners to own public utilities and land. The 40 percent restriction will continue, unless Congress will pass a law that will change the restriction,” Gonzales pointed out.
He downplayed the warning of former Chief Justice Reynato Puno that Congress is courting a Constitutional violation in amending the Constitution under the regular legislative mill.
Puno had said Congress should not treat the measure just like an ordinary bill because it seeks to change the Constitution. He said the Charter can be amended through Constitutional Convention or Constituent Assembly.
“If we are courting a Constitutional issue, then his proposed ConCon (Constitutional Convention) won’t be able to court anyone for support,” Gonzales stressed.
“ConCon won’t fly because you will open the Charter to everything, including political amendments (term limits) which we have been avoiding for the longest time,” he added.
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) however called on Congress not to rush the approval of the Cha-cha bill.
“Before we rush into amending the Constitution, we, your bishops, urge all responsible to conduct serious studies in economics, sociology, the law and in related disciplines including the Catholic social teachings,” CBCP president and Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas said in a pastoral letter on Monday.
Villegas explained that the proposed amendments to economic provisions bear directly on issues of social justice, which the Church has always considered an area of her competence and solicitude.
He said that proponents of Charter change have reasoned out that foreign investment and the infusion of foreign capital into the country have been held at bay by stringent provisions of the Constitution.
But Villegas said the purpose of framers of the Constitution in enshrining the economic restrictions was fully in accord with the precepts of social justice of preserving the wealth and resources of the country for the Filipino people.
WITH WILLIAM DEPASUPIL