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Bicameral constituent assembly for Charter change opposed
In The Press Posted on October 9th, 2011.
MANILA, Philippines -- Even before it is passed, the proposal to constitute the bicameral constituent assembly that would amend the economic provisions of the 1987 Constitution is facing legal questions from several party-list lawmakers.
Party-list Representatives Teddy Casino of Bayan Muna, Emmi de Jesus and Luz Ilagan of Gabriela, and Rafael Mariano of Anakpawis said they will raise their objections before the Supreme Court once Congress passes the amendments.
The committee on constitutional amendments is scheduled to resume hearings on proposals to change the charter on Tuesday.
Casino said the bicameral constituent assembly proposed by some Congress leaders and in which the amendments would be done using the legislative procedure was nowhere in the Constitution.
Casino also accused the administration Liberal Party of "bringing the country back to its colonial past" by the proposal of some of its leaders to open up the economy to full foreign ownership.
The party-list lawmaker urged the President to rein in his allies in Congress so that charter change moves will not prosper.
"I think LP is playing the role just like it did during the colonial period of total sellout of the country's economy and patrimony," he said.
Casino noted a "concerted effort" by the United States government, the American Chamber of Commerce and the LP to amend the Constitution as evidenced by the pronouncements and policy directions of the mentioned institutions.
“Just last August US Ambassador to the Philippines Harry K. Thomas Jr. said that the US is pressing for charter change to allow foreign companies to build majority stakes in companies that are currently barred by the 1987 Philippine Constitution and for the Philippines to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), an Asia-Pacific trade organization,” he said.
He added that the old Bell Trade Act, particularly Article VII, is essentially what charter change proponents want but in an expanded scale to include other nationalities: "1. The disposition, exploitation, development, and utilization of all agricultural, timber, and mineral lands of the public domain, waters, minerals, coal, petroleum, and other mineral oils, all forces, and sources of potential energy, and other natural resources of the Philippines, and the operation of public utilities, shall if open to any person, be open to citizens of the United States and to all forms of business enterprise owned or controlled, directly or indirectly, by United States citizens, except that (for the period prior to the amendment of the Constitution of the Philippines referred to in Paragraph 2 of this Article), the Philippines shall not be required to comply with such part of the foregoing provisions of this sentence as are in conflict with such Constitution.
"2. The Government of the Philippines will promptly take such steps as are necessary to secure the amendment of the Constitution of the Philippines so as to permit the taking effect as laws of the Philippines of such part of the provisions of Paragraph 1 of this Article as is in conflict with such Constitution before such an amendment."
De Jesus said it was clear who the real winners would be when the economic provisions of the Constitution are amended.
Mariano expressed doubts that charter change proponents will stick to their word to limit the amendments to the economic provisions. Fellow Gabriela congresswoman Luz Ilagan said that “political reasons will come and could not be set apart from the economic amendments once the charter is opened up for scrutiny."