Senator Robinhood Padilla on Saturday thanked Speaker Martin Romualdez and members of the House of Representatives for considering discussing a constituent assembly to amend the Constitution.
Meanwhile, Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte said over the weekend that with Speaker Romualdez himself was open to considering any Senate proposal on how to amend the Constitution, adding that there was more reason for the Charter Change proponents in both the Senate and the House to meet during their six-week congressional break.
“The statement of House Speaker Rep. Martin Romualdez is a clear sign for me to ensure that I do everything to complete the Committee Report of the Senate Committee on Constitutional Amendments and Revision of Codes and have it signed by our beloved senators,” Padilla said in a statement.
Romualdez earlier said lawmakers were open to discussions with the Senate on their preferred mode of amending the 1987 Charter if that will break an impasse and lead to an agreement between the two chambers of Congress.
“We are open to considering any proposal of the Senate and will submit such a proposal to members of the House,” Romualdez said.
“This was what I relayed to (Leyte) Rep. Richard Gomez when he informed me that senators are amenable to economic amendments but through a constituent assembly (Con-Ass),” he said.
Romualdez commended Gomez and Padilla for trying to forge an agreement between the House and the Senate on this issue.
Padilla recently filed a resolution seeking to review provisions in the Charter that served as stumbling blocks to “economic growth.”
“While sovereign Filipino people promulgated the Constitution in order to build a just and humane society, it is unfortunate that after 35 years from its effectivity, we have yet to attain a ‘just and humane society,” his resolution stated.
Padilla explained that the country’s economic growth has been “largely centralized” in Metro Manila and its neighboring regions such as Central Luzon and Southern Tagalog, which accounted for 57 percent of Gross Domestic Product – compared to 43 percent in the other 14 regions – from 2019 to 2021.
On the other hand, he said it is time to study federalism to undertake policy-making and legislative functions “reflective of the concerns of our various geographical regions.”
He added that a federal government would decentralize the concentration of immense government powers from a unitary system, and will provide a long-term response to political and economic inequality, inequitable access to the delivery of goods and services, and undue distribution of government resources.
He also said a shift to a parliamentary system may provide political stability that would prevent an unconstitutional or divisive way of removing a head of government such as a coup or “mob rule.”
Padilla likewise pointed out it is time to take a closer look at economic provisions in the Constitution – particularly its restrictions on foreign equity in natural resources, public utilities, build-operate-transfer projects, and equity in mass media, among others.
“As it is hereby resolved to direct the Committee on Constitutional Amendments and Revision of Codes (the Committee) to review and study the 1987 Constitution for possible revision on the provisions particular to the form, structure, and power of government, economy and patrimony, and for other purposes,” Padilla said.
Villafuerte, a Con-Con proponent, said the meeting during the break was intended to find “common ground” on how to pursue long-needed constitutional reform this year.
“Speaker Martin’s openness to any Senate proposal on how to pursue constitutional reform, despite the supermajority support in the House for a Con-Con (Constitutional Convention) to pursue the makeover, augurs well for an early meeting between Charter Change proponents in both chambers to try finding a common ground on how to do it before the year is over,” Villafuerte said.
“Hence, the timeliness of holding the week-ago’s called-off meeting on Charter Change between Sen. Robin (Padilla) and a House delegation led by Rep. Rufus (Rodriguez) during our legislative break,” said Villafuerte, the president of the National Unity Party (NUP) and one of the lead authors of House Bill (HB) No. 7325 calling for constitutional reform via the Con-Con route.
Villafuerte issued this weekend statement after Romualdez said last Friday, “We are open to consider any proposal of the Senate and will submit such a proposal to members of the House.”
“If the Senate wants a different mode, that is their discretion,” said the Speaker. “The House leadership, however, is willing to open discussions with the Senate on their preferred mode of amending the Constitution if that will lead to an agreement between the two chambers.”
Romualdez’s position jibes with the stance of Villafuerte, who already said earlier it was immaterial at this stage on whether senators favor Con-Con or the Constituent Assembly (Con-Ass) option, as what was actually important now was for both the Senate and the House to “keep the ball rolling” on tweaking our fundamental law’s anachronistic economic provisions, in the hope that the formal process of amending the Charter could finally start within the year.
For Villafuerte, “Holding the called-off meeting on RBH 6 (Resolution of Both Houses No. 6) and HB 7325 even during our break will drive home the message on the urgency of constitutional reform, given that we cannot hope to replicate the inrush of FDIs (foreign direct investments) to our more vibrant neighbors for so long as we remain stuck with the antiquated economic provisions of our Constitution on restricted foreign participation in Philippine businesses that that have put off investors.”
He said “the House members could freely attend such a Senate hearing, if there will be one, especially now that the House leadership had authorized the heads of the various House committees to hold meetings during our congressional break, if and when needed.”
Both chambers adjourned last March 23 and are set to return to legislative work on May 8.