The Inter-Agency Task Force on Constitutional Reform (CORE) headed by the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) is calling on the Senate to begin its own public hearings on amending key provisions in the current Constitution.
“We hope that the Senate will heed the President’s call for amendments to the Constitution during his term by calling for public hearings. We think it is incumbent for them to at least hear the various sectors calling for such surgical amendments such as lifting the restrictive economic provisions to increase foreign direct investment, increase in the Internal Revenue Allotment for LGUs, creation of Regional Development Authorities, and political and electoral reforms,” said Prof. Ramon Casiple of Task Force CORE.
He said that the Task Force is advocating for a package of reforms that are not very controversial and there is general consensus that these are urgently needed by the country.
"Different national government agencies, Local Government Units with the support of the public are already pushing for these CORE reforms but the Committee on Constitutional Amendments from the Senate has not even convened. Although we recognize that Senator Pangilinan already filed a Senate Bill, no proper action yet has been done to actually bring it to the floor. We are urging them to prioritize and begin discussions at the very least," Casiple said.
Sen. Pangilinan has filed Senate Bill 462 on increasing the just share of local governments in national taxes and fees.
Finance Expert and Task Force Member Gary Olivar further emphasized the need to push for economic reforms in the Constitution where OFWs can benefit from an increase of Foreign Direct Investments to the country.
"As I made the rounds of the various provinces during the Balangayan CORE roadshows, we always remind the public that the idea of economic reforms is to mainly bring back the presence of some 12 million overseas Filipinos working on foreign investors in the Philippines. This would be difficult right now because of the protectionist tone of the current Constitution which imposes citizenship restrictions either 51-49, 60-40 or 100% no foreign equity in various sectors of the economy. That's why we are eager to call out our Senators to discuss this priority agenda of the President," Olivar said.
DILG Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya said that they are prepared to discuss and defend their proposals before the Senate. “The proposed amendments respond to the clamor of the provinces for more resources and authority to allow them to catch up with the economy of the richest regions in Luzon led by Metro Manila. These are the equality provisions for the benefit of the rural areas so that they may partake of the economic development of the country,” he said.
Malaya said that the DILG has brought these proposals to some 60 provinces across the country through the Balangayan roadshows and it has received widespread support. The DILG has so far secured the support of 256 local chief executives and hundreds more local officials for these reforms. They were also able to gather some 22,469 signatures so far from various citizens, barangay officials, SK members, non-government organizations, among others, who pledged their continuous support to push for ‘equality provisions’ in the charter.
“The pledge of support from the various mayors, governors, and barangay captains, as well as the signatures gathered in the roadshows, will be submitted to both the Senate and the House of Representatives in January next year. By then we should have more and more signatures,” said Malaya.
He said that after conducting public consultations in 60 provinces and 21 more provinces by January of next year, the DILG is confident that there is a general consensus in favor of introducing amendments to the constitution and holding a plebiscite before the term of the President ends.
“As soon as we are called by the Senate, we will submit to them the pledges of support we got, we will submit to them the signatures we have gathered, and we will submit to them the packages of reforms which we earlier submitted to the House," he said.
Task Force CORE was established by the President under MC 52 and is chaired by DILG Secretary Eduardo Año with Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra as Vice-Chair. It is composed of some 15 government agencies.