MULTISECTORAL LOBBY FOR CHA-CHA PRESSED / THE CONSTITUTION OF THE PHL

[PHOTO - Juan Ponce Enrile, 26th President of the Senate of the Philippines]

MANILA, JANUARY 13, 2011 (STAR) By Paolo Romero - Lawmakers are pushing for the creation of a broad multisectoral alliance to boost the campaign to amend the 1987 Constitution.

Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone, chairman of the House committee on public information, said he would discuss the matter with Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, former Chief Justice Reynato Puno and members of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), who are all reportedly in favor of Charter change, especially now that the Aquino administration is still enjoying the trust of most Filipinos.

“It would be better if we all join forces, and I’m trying to get in touch with the Senate President, Justice Puno, the Catholic bishops and all those who believe in the urgency of fundamental constitutional reforms,” Evardone said in a telephone interview.

House Deputy Speaker and Zamboanga City Rep. Ma. Isabelle Climaco said debates and discussions on Charter change (Cha-cha) “are part of the legislative process.”

“We will also await the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC) outputs,” Climaco said.

She said congressional debates on Charter change would have to be referred first to the House committee on constitutional amendments.

“Let them handle the discussions in the committee. Outputs are essential,” she said.

Camiguin Rep. Pedro Romualdo, who used to chair the committee on constitutional amendments, expressed hope that Charter change would be given a chance this time.

Ang Kasangga party-list Rep. Teodorico Haresco, vice chairman of the House committee on small business and entrepreneurship development, said amending the economic provisions would also boost the administration’s economic initiatives, particularly the public-private partnership (PPP) program.

He said the PPP program would not take off unless investment limitations in the Constitution are addressed.

“If we talk about foreign ownership of land, easily $50 billion would come in the first few years after the amendments are made, in my rough estimates,” Haresco said.

“Whenever foreign investors look at the Philippines, all they see most of the time, among others, is the litany of restrictions, outdated laws, obstacles and inconsistent policies,” he said.

He said the restrictive economic provisions, principally limitations on foreign ownership of business and land, are some of the “biggest hindrances to FDI (foreign direct investments).”

He said that while most of global investments have shifted to the Asia-Pacific region, the Philippines appeared left out. “We are on the outskirts. And after the Philippines, is the Pacific Ocean. We must give investors some assurances,” he pointed out. “If this wave of investments shifts to another direction, like Europe, where would we be?”

Haresco pointed out that China, which zealously guards its sovereignty, grants investors a 99-year lease on land, which is tantamount to total ownership.

He dismissed fears of loss of sovereignty if the country relaxes its ownership rules.

“The Europeans cannot bring these properties back home,” he said.

Not in a hurry

Malacañang, for its part, said it sees no urgency in amending the Charter even if now seems to be the perfect time.

“Regarding perfect timing, you have to couple that with the need. Timing is not enough. We also need to discuss if it’s necessary or if it’s really urgent,” deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said.

“No. We already said that it is not a priority,” she said when asked if the Palace doesn’t feel pressured by calls from lawmakers and from former chief justice Reynato Puno to amend the Charter.

Puno has just been appointed to the Board of Regents of state-run University of the Philippines.

“The President has always been consistent in saying that nobody has been able to present an argument to prove that there really is urgency in changing the Constitution, and that again, not doing so would place the country at risk,” Valte said.

She also rebuffed Puno’s statement that the country’s system of government is “on a stretcher.”

“I believe that the former chief justice said that democracy is on a stretcher. We’d like to respond by saying that democracy is already in the recovery room as of May 2010,” Valte said.

“The President has already acknowledged, even before, that the Constitution is an imperfect document and there are indeed things that we have to consider changing. But again, it’s not the only thing we have to consider,” she said.

“Having acceded that it is an imperfect document, the consideration must not stop there,” Valte maintained.

Even before he became president in June 2010, Aquino had already voiced his openness to Charter change, but only through the constitutional convention mode as espoused by his party, the Liberal Party.

Character change

For Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III, what the country needs is character change and not Charter change.

Sotto said the Senate has yet to decide if the proposal to change the Charter would be tackled upon the resumption of session on Monday.

Senate President Enrile is strongly for amending the economic provisions of the Charter.

“There are many things in the Constitution that we have to fix so that our society can become strong, harmonious and united. Most of the problems in our Constitution have impeded the country’s progress,” he said in Filipino in a radio interview.

Enrile said he is particularly concerned about changing the provision on the percentage of foreign investments in local projects.

“How can we have a meaningful investment policy if we are giving protection only to the rich? Only they are allowed to have 60 percent share in mining, agriculture, aquaculture, and transportation. Everything is 60 percent,” Enrile said.

Sen. Francis Escudero, an ally of President Aquino, said Charter change should be initiated within the first two years of the Aquino administration. – With Delon Porcalla, Christina Mendez

EARLIER NEWS FROM GMANEWS TV (JULY 2010 news report)

Noynoy unfazed by Arroyo proposal to change Charter 07/02/2010 | 05:11 PM JOHANNA CAMILLE L. SISANTE, GMANews.TV | More Share7 Who's afraid of former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's Charter change bill?

Certainly not President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III.

In an ambush interview, Aquino did not express alarm over the measure filed by Mrs. Arroyo, now Pampanga representative, which is seeking to amend the 1987 Constitution through a constitutional convention.

Aquino pointed out that he himself promised during the campaign that he will form a commission to determine the necessity of amending the 1987 Constitution, which was drafted and approved through a plebiscite during the administration of his mother, the late former President Corazon Aquino.

"Ako inannounce ko naman, suriin natin kung may pangangailangan na palitan natin [ang] Saligang Batas dahil di biro ang palitan ang Saligang Batas. Merong negative consequences guaranteed in the short term. Kailangan patunayan mo that the gains are better than the risks," Aquino said after the change of command ceremonies in Camp Aguinaldo.

(I announced before that we need to analyze whether we need to change the Constitution, because changing the Charter is no joke.)

"Di ba meron tayong itatatag na commission, susuriin [kung] kailangan ba. Kung kailangan ng taong bayan, aba'y sinusuportahan ang pagbabagong to," he said.

(We will establish a commission that will examine whether this is necessary. If the public needs it, we will support the change.)

However, Aquino said the formation of the commission is currently not among his priorities, as he is still working on establishing the Truth Commission and working on the Philippines’ fiscal situation.

Truth Commission

The Truth Commission is an independent body to be created by Aquino to investigate corruption controversies, particularly those during the Arroyo administration.

It will be headed by former Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr., although the parameters of the commission's powers have yet to be finalized and formalized.

"Inuuna ko po yung Truth Commission, sana bigyan tayo ng onting oras dahil andami talagang kailangang gawin, sabay-sabay at yung first priority has to be I think reviewing the fiscal situation of the country," Aquino said.

(I'm prioritizing the Truth Commission, I hope we'll be given a little more time because there's so many that needs to be done.)

Arroyo's allies in the 14th Congress attempted to amend the 1987 Constitution through various legislation — giving rise to speculations that she wants to change the Charter to enable herself to remain in power — but these measures did not prosper. — RJAB Jr./RSJ, GMANews.TV

[As we all know today, Aquino's Truth Commission was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court] from ABS-CBN:

SC rules Truth Commission unconstitutional abs-cbnNEWS.com Posted at 12/07/2010 11:33 AM | Updated as of 12/07/2010 2:23 PM

MANILA, Philippines (1st UPDATE) - In another blow to President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III’s administration, the Supreme Court has declared unconstitutional the much trumpeted Truth Commission.

Voting 10-5, the Supreme Court ruling effectively bars the prosecution of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and other officials and parties involved in alleged scandals under the previous administration.

THE CONSTITUTION OF THE PHILIPPINES

The Constitution of the Philippines (Saligang Batas ng Pilipinas in Filipino) is the supreme law of the Philippines.

Freedom Constitution, 1987

The 1987 Freedom Constitution is the one currently in effect and was created following the ascendancy of Corazon Aquino to presidency in 1986. She formed a commission to frame a new constitution to replace the 1973 Constitution formed during the reign of her predecessor Ferdinand Marcos.

The commission finished the draft charter within four months and a majority of voters approved it in a referendum in February 1987.

The Preamble reads:

"We, the sovereign Filipino people, imploring the aid of Almighty God, in order to build a just and humane society and established a government that shall embody our ideals and aspirations, promote the common good, conserve and develop our patrimony and secure to ourselves and our posterity the blessings of independence and democracy under the rule of law and a regime of truth, justice, freedom, love, equality, and peace, do ordain and promulgate this Constitution."

Previous Constitutions

Constitución Política de Malolos, 1899

Following the declaration of independence from Spain, by the Revolutionary Government, a congress was held in Malolos, Bulacan in 1899 to draw up a constitution. It was the first republican constitution in Asia. The document states that the people has exclusive sovereignty. It states basic civil rights, separated the church and state, and called for the creation of an Assembly of Representatives which would act as the legislative body. It also calls for a Presidential form of government with the president elected for a term of four years by a majority of the Assembly.

The Preamble reads:

"Nosotros los Representantes del Pueblo Filipino, convocados legítimamente para establecer la justicia, proveer a la defensa común, promover el bien general y asegurar los beneficios de la libertad, implorando el auxilió del Soberano Legislador del Universo para alcanzar estos fines, hemos votado, decretado y sancionado la siguiente:"

Constitution of the Philippine Commonwealth, 1935

Constitution of the Second (Japanese puppet) Republic, 1943

Constitution of the Third Republic, 1946

Kilusang Bagong Lipunan Constitution, 1971


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