Ruling party rushing Charter amendments

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Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares has been urging lawmakers to “transcend their political affiliations” and think not only of this generation but also the future generations who, he said, will be condemned to greater poverty once this economic chacha succeeds.

By MARYA SALAMAT
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – A day before Congress goes on a break, it met earlier than usual on Wednesday June 10 in an effort to pass the Resolution of Both Houses No. 1 (RBH 1), or charter change (chacha), amid gathering protests from various quarters.

The House needs the votes of three-fourths of its 290 members, or 217 to 218, to approve what they call as the economic cha-cha resolution on third and final reading. The resolution is authored by House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. and other legislators affiliated with President Aquino, but according to Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon, it is also being pushed by Senate President Franklin Drilon.

The Kabataan lawmaker traced the renewed push for chacha to “mounting pressure from powerful foreign lobby groups,” and he surmised that there must be huge payoffs involved. The same idea was hinted by broadcaster Ted Failon in an early morning interview on June 10 with Colmenares.

In the middle of the interview, Failon raised his concern over the apparent haste to approve the amendments to the economic provisions. He recalled an experience from his days as a lawmaker, when he stumbled upon the matter of payola or payoff in exchange for approving what was being deliberated.

In response, Colmenares has been urging lawmakers to “transcend their political affiliations” and think not only of this generation but also the future generations who, he said, will be condemned to greater poverty once this economic chacha succeeds.

Colmenares appealed to his fellow lawmakers’ sense of patriotism.

In a nutshell, the proposed amendments to the provisions of the 1987 Constitution are meant to remove the provisions protecting national patrimony.

Insertions and deletions

Proponents of economic cha cha often claim that all they are inserting into the 1987 constitution was the seemingly innocent phrase “unless otherwise provided by law.”

Based on a copy of the cha cha resolution as approved by the House of Representatives on second reading, the phrase “unless otherwise provided by law” is to be inserted on the following parts of the Philippine Constitution:

– on Paragraph 1 Section 2 of Article 12, on National Economy & Patrimony, pertaining to 60 percent Filipino ownership of corporations or associations doing business in the Philippines;

– on Paragraph 1 Section 3 of the same Article 12, pertaining to private corporations or associations leasing agricultural lands in public domain;

– on Section 7 of Article 12, pertaining to transfer of private lands to individuals, corporations or associations;

– on Paragraph 1 Section 10 of Article 12, pertaining to reserving certain areas of businesses to Filipino individuals, or to corporations and associations at least 60-percent owned by Filipinos;

– on Section 11 of Article 12, pertaining to awarding of franchise or authorization to operate public utilities which used to be just for Filipino individuals, or corporations and associations at least 60 percent Filipino owned;

– also on Section 11 of Article 12, pertaining to the participation of foreign investors in the governing body of public utility enterprises (which used to be limited to a maximum of 40–percent share in capital), and in holding executive and managing positions (which used to be strictly stipulated for Filipinos);

– on Paragraph 1 number 2 Section 4, Education, Science and Technology, Arts, Culture and Sports, two times insertion of “unless otherwise provided by law,” pertaining to ownership, control and administration of educational institutions. (It used to be stipulated just for Filipino citizens or corporations and associations 60-percent owned by Filipinos); and

– on Paragraph 1 and 2 number (1) Section 11 of Article 16, General Provisions, pertaining to ownership and management of mass media, and participation in advertising industry (it used to be stipulated just for Filipino citizens and corporations or associations at least 70-percent Filipino owned).

Colmenares said the proposed amendments to the Constitution will further open up the economy to foreigners which will only worsen poverty in the country.

The poorest lawmaker, Anakpawis Party-list Rep Fernando Hicap, said the charter change (chacha) on the economic provisions of the constitution would trigger legislation of anti-Filipino policies and favorable to foreigners.

For fisherfolk group Pamalakaya, the proposed amendment of the constitution is “a complete sell out.” The group started a protest caravan from Southern Luzon since June 9, proceeding to the gates of the House of Representatives in Quezon City and joining there the peasant groups camping out in protest against chacha.

Salvador France, Pamalakaya national vice-chairperson for Luzon, warned that this latest chacha will kill the country’s sovereignty and patrimony. He estimated that after the legislators got away with inserting the phrases “unless otherwise provided by law,” it would then be followed by approval of up to 100 percent foreign ownership of lands and other significant utilities which the current 1987 Constitution expressly prohibits.

With the insertions are deletions, too, in the chacha being approved by members of the House.

“It is not true that they only proposed the insertion of a phrase in the Constitution. They actually and stealthily deleted pro-Filipino provisions,” Colmenares said.

Among others, he said, the majority in the House of Representatives deleted the provision under Article 14, Section 4 requiring Congress “to increase Filipino equity participation in all educational institutions”, thus ensuring foreign control of education.

Colmenares said these lawmakers also deleted, in essence, the mandatory Constitutional requirement in Section 4 paragraph (2) which states that “control and administration of educational institutions shall be vested in Filipinos.”

With the insertions, the majority members of the House also took out the power of Congress to require “higher percentage” of Filipino ownership in Philippine businesses or corporations as mandated in Article 12 Section 10, Colmenares said.

He added that the members of the House are also giving away Philippine public utilities to foreigners as they have practically deleted the mandatory constitutional requirement under Section 11, Article 12 that “all executive and managing officers“ of public utilities and franchises must be held by Filipino citizens.

“The majority promised they will not delete any provision but only insert a phrase. These were not mere insertions but also deletions,” concluded Rep. Colmenares. ()

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