House panel discreetly OKs Cha-Cha resolution

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 12)— A resolution seeking to establish a fixed term for lawmakers and local elected officials was approved by the House committee on constitutional amendments on Wednesday.

The still-unnumbered resolution of both houses— which seeks to amend the 1987 Constitution— was approved in a closed-door executive session, Cagayan De Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez confirmed Thursday.

Rodriguez said that he wants plenary debates to start on the measure next week so the chamber can pass it by January next year. The lawmaker also insisted that there is no need for a constitutional assembly or constittuional convention.

The resolution proposes a five-year term for all members of the Senate and the House of Representatives, as well as for local officials (except barangay or village officials). They can serve for up to three consecutive terms.

If passed, the proposed measure will extend the terms of members of the House of Representatives and local executives— who are currently entitled to a three-year term under the Constitution.

However, it will cut down senators’ terms from six years to five years.

The resolution also wants to increase the number of senators from 24 to 27 – three each from the following regions: National Capital Region, Northern Luzon, Southern Luzon, Bicol, Eastern Visayas, Western Visayas, Northern Mindanao, Southern Mindanao, and the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region.

President-Vice President tandem

The resolution also proposes for the Presidential and Vice Presidential bets to be voted in tandem.

“The President and the Vice President shall be elected as a team. A vote for the presidential candidate shall be counted as a vote for his or her vice presidential candidate,” the resolution read.

It also seeks to amend the economic provisions of the Constitution, particularly on restrictions on foreign investments and ownership. It added the phrase "unless otherwise provided by law" to a number of the provisions.

President Rodrigo Duterte earlier this year admitted that passing federalism— one of his main campaign promises in the 2016 elections— would remain shot as many Filipinos still do not support the proposed shift.

The lower chamber passed a federal charter on third and final reading in the 17th Congress, but no counterpart measure was filed in the Senate.

RELATED: Duterte leaves out charter change, federalism in SONA 2019

Foreign ownership

The resolution also aims to relax restrictions on foreign businesses ownership which will allow them to own more than 40% of businesses and land in the country.

"The Congress shall, upon recommendation of the economic and planning agency, when the national interest dictates, reserve to citizens of the Philippines or to corporations or associations at least sixty per centum of whose capital is owned by such citizens," read the resolution.

Aside from businesses, the resolution also limits the ownership of mass media to Filipino citizens.

"The ownership and management of mass media shall be limited to citizens of the Philippines, or to corporations, cooperatives or associations, wholly-owned and managed by such citizens, unless otherwise provided by law."

Illegal amendment

For his part, Bayan Muna Party-list Rep. Carlos Zarate said that increasing the terms of local officials can be considered an illegal way of amending the Constitution.

"Lalabas nito, this is Cha-Cha by legislation and hindi naman ito nakalagay, nakasaad sa ating kasalkukuyang Saligang Batas," said Zarate.

[Translation: It will turn out that this is Cha-Cha by legislation and this is not written in our current Constitution.]

CNN Philippines' Xianne Arcangel, Eimor Santos, Alyssa Rola, and Vince Ferreras contributed to this report.