‘Lihis sa sikmura’: Padilla’s charter change push slammed

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 9) – Senator Robin Padilla’s proposal to amend economic provisions in the Constitution through a constituent assembly faces pushback from his colleagues, both in the majority and the minority.

Under Padilla’s proposed Resolution of Both Houses No. 3, Congress shall convene as a con-ass and amend the charter by a vote of three-fourths of the members of the Senate and the House of Representatives, voting separately.

Padilla wants to further open the economy to foreign nationals in terms of exploration, development and utilization of natural resources; ownership of private lands; grant of congressional franchises; ownership and operation of public utilities; ownership of educational institutions; and ownership and management of mass media and advertising.

In separate statements on Thursday, Senators Grace Poe and Nancy Binay said recently passed laws such as the Public Service Act, Retail Trade Liberalization Act, and Foreign Investment Act, already addressed some restrictive economic provisions without need for charter change.

“Unless the proponents are pushing for another agenda,” Poe said.

In a chance interview, Poe also said: “Kung may ibang dahilan, katulad niyan, term extension—baka 'yun ang dahilan—siguro kailangan pagdebatehan 'yan dahil mas importante ba ang haba ng termino ng naninilbihan sa gobyerno o galing ng kanyang pagserbisyo sa gobyerno?”

[Translation: If there are other reasons, like term extension -- that might be the reason -- then that should be debated. Is the length of the term more important that the competence of public servants?]

Poe also stressed how taxing the process would be.

“Sa ayaw at gusto naming mga mambabatas lahat ng lakas namin at oras ay matututok na lang diyan sa constitutional change. Ano na ang mangyayari sa iba nating dapat pagtuunan ng pansin, katulad ng trabaho, katulad ng mataas na presyo ng bilihin, katulad ng imprastraktura,” she said.

[Translation: Whether we like it or not, our entire efforts will be focused on constitutional change. What will happen to other pressing concerns such as jobs, rising prices, and infrastructure?]

Binay, for her part, said the government should also focus on agriculture, health, and other issues of the marginalized sectors.

“Kung priorities lang naman po ang pag-uusapan, ang usapin ng Charter Change eh medyo lihis sa kumakalam na sikmura—'di po kasama ang con-ass sa ulam ng bawat pamilyang Pilipino,” she added.

[Translation: If we're talking about priorities, charter change would not feed the hungry -- we cannot put con-ass on the table of every Filipino family.

In an interview with reporters on Friday, Binay said based on “informal talks” with colleagues, the Senate is "not that receptive" to amending the Constitution, considering that the country is facing other more pressing concerns.

Binay added that once the con-ass convenes, discussions may not be limited to economic provisions alone but could touch on more controversial ones.

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III said although charter change is needed “to improve our system of government,” it should take a backseat.

“We should first address the basic daily living problems like: where to get food to feed the family, the continued increase in prices (inflation), where to get a job, corruption, the high cost of living and even of dying, and many, many more basic problems,” he said.

“Also, why prioritize the changing of the economic provisions in the constitution when what needs to be changed are the political provisions?” he added.