By BENJIE OLIVEROS
What do the public know about the current initiative in Congress to amend the 1987 Constitution?
First, the Duterte administration is proposing a shift to a Federal form of government. And second, there have been disagreements between the Lower House and the Senate on how to amend the 1987 Constitution. Currently, there appears to be a ceasefire as the Senate and House of Representatives agreed to set aside the manner of amending the Constitution in the meantime, and focus on the proposed amendments.
Well, the shift to a Federal form of government is a matter for serious discussions, especially in the light of the continuing reign of political dynasties in local politics.
The manner of amending the Constitution is likewise important considering the quality, or lack of it, of legislators the country has, especially in the House of Representatives. The members of the House of Representatives do not vote on the basis of serious discernment on what is good for the country and for their respective constituents. They vote on the basis of crass self-interest.
And look at what kind of Speaker and House leadership the country has. House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez has twice threatened the members of the Lower House that he would withhold their budgets if they would not go along with the position of the Duterte administration: first, for a Federal form of government and recently, if they would side with the Senate’s view that both Houses of Congress, when constituted as a Constituent Assembly to amend the Constitution, should vote separately.
Congress has practically set aside the option of a Constitutional Convention where a mix of representatives of the different regions and of experts from different fields could have made more rational decisions rather than our dis-honorable Congressmen.
While these two issues – form of government and manner of amendments – are important, these do not tell the whole story.
There are a lot more issues resulting from the proposed amendments that should be discussed to the public. An example is the proposal of Speaker Alvarez to constrict civil liberties by adding the phrase “responsible exercise of” to the provision guaranteeing the freedom of expression, belief, of the press, among others.
Another issue that should be discussed publicly and thoroughly is the proposal to remove all restrictions to foreign investments, such as the 60 percent Filipino and 40 percent foreign equity rule; the provisions disallowing foreign equity in essential services, media, education, and exploration and use of the country’s natural resources.
The matter of term extension should also be discussed. If not, surely our dis-honorable Congressmen would rather stay in power forever.