It’s about time.
Thus said officials of the Department of the Interior and Local Government as they thanked Congress for its decision to resume deliberations on proposals to amend the restrictive economic provisions in the 1987 Constitution and to convene both Houses of Congress as a constituent assembly.
“The resumption of Congressional deliberations on Constitutional Reform (CORE) is both timely and wise,” Interior and Local Government Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya said on Thursday.
“Congress has passed Bayanihan I and Bayanihan II and even extended its validity for 1 more year. It also passed the 2021 GAA which allocated funds for vaccine procurement and a more robust Covid response. Congress has done its job to battle the pandemic. It’s now time for Congress to work on long-term reform which is CORE,” he said.
Malaya, also executive director of the Inter-Agency Task Force on CORE, said the DILG would continue to be at the forefront of COVID response but would not abandon its duty to work for local government and constitutional reform.
“We are honored to work closely with Speaker Lord Allan Velasco and House Committee on Constitutional Amendments Chairman Alfredo Garbin and provide them with studies and data to make informed decisions,” he stressed.
“We also welcome the filing by Senators Francis Tolentino and Bato del la Rosa of a Senate Resolution calling for a Constituent Assembly. We hope that the Senate will also call for hearings soon so that we can make our case in that chamber,” he added.
Malaya likewise said the DILG would work to empower local government units and make local economies vibrant through CORE.
On Tuesday, the House of Representatives’ Committee on Constitutional Amendments chaired by Garbin announced the resumption of public hearings on Resolution of Both Houses No. 2 (RBH 2) authored by Speaker Lord Allan Velasco.
RBH No. 2 seeks to add the phrase "unless otherwise provided by law" in the Constitutional provision that reserves certain areas of investments to citizens of the Philippines or to corporations at least 60% of whose capital are owned by Filipinos.
This same phrase is also added in the provisions which limit ownership of educational institutions and mass media to Filipinos.
The measure also introduces the same phrase to the provision allowing the State to undertake exploration, development and utilization activities on the country's natural resources.
Under RBH No. 2, both Houses of Congress shall convene as a constituent assembly to propose amendments to the Constitution. This requires a vote of three-fourths of all the members of Congress, each house voting separately.
Senators Francis Tolentino and Ronald “Bato” de la Rosa have also filed a resolution for the convening of the constituent assembly.
Garbin’s committee will be joined by Rep. Michael Aglipay, chairman of the House Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability. The public hearing will start next week.
Malaya said the 33-year-old Constitution must be responsive to the needs of the country and help alleviate the plight of its people.
“We need to bring genuine reforms and developments, particularly in poor communities in the countryside. The restrictive provisions of the Constitution have prevented us from doing so. Thus it’s about time that we begin honest to goodness discussions about what the people are entitled to,” Malaya said.
“People empowerment will only become a myth if we do not respond to the needs of our time and address loopholes in the Constitution. Providing social, economic, and political equality is the very essence of democracy,” he added.