Con-con bill gets 301 votesin House 3rd & final reading


WITH supermajority votes of 301, the House of Representatives on Tuesday endorsed for Senate approval the proposed Constitutional Convention Act, the accompanying bill of the Resolution of Both Houses 6 calling for a constitutional convention (Con-con).

During the third and final reading approval of House Bill 7352, only seven lawmakers voted against its passage.

Speaker Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez, Majority Leader Manuel Jose Dalipe, and House Committee on Constitutional Amendments Chairman Rufus Rodriguez led 301 of the 314 House members in authoring and voting for the bill.

Among the salient features of the bill is the seven-month term of office of the convention, starting from December 1, 2023, up to June 30, 2024.

Romualdez repeatedly assured the public that the House constitutional reform initiative only aims to rewrite the “restrictive” economic provisions of the Constitution to enable the country to attract more foreign investments.

“We need more foreign capital to create additional job and income opportunities for our people. Increased investments will sustain our economic growth,” he said.

Relaxing the Charter’s economic provisions would enhance the investment and economic space in the country, he added.

Under HB 7352, Charter amendments to be endorsed by the proposed Con-con shall be submitted to the people for ratification in a plebiscite to be held not earlier than 60 days nor later than 90 days after the submission of the convention report to the President and Congress.

The envisioned con-con shall be composed of elected delegates, one from each legislative district, to be voted on October 30, 2023.

The Con-con shall also have sectoral representatives, comprising 20 percent of the total number of delegates, to be appointed jointly by the Senate President and the House Speaker.

The appointed sectoral representatives shall include three retired members of the judiciary, three from the academe, three from the legal profession, two economists, and two each from the business sector, labor, urban poor, farmers and fisherfolk, indigenous cultural communities, women, youth, veterans, cooperatives, senior citizens and persons with disability, and such other sectors as the Senate president and House Speaker may determine.

The bill provides that convention delegates “must be of recognized probity, independence, nationalism, and patriotism,” and “with recognized knowledge and competence in the Constitution, and a deep understanding of the State and the principles which underlie its existence, organization, and activities, as well as of government and governance.”

A delegate must be at least 25 years of age on the day of his election or appointment, must be a college degree holder, a registered voter in his district, and a resident of such district at least one year before the election.

Those convicted by final judgment of a crime involving moral turpitude are not qualified to be elected/appointed to the convention.

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) shall issue implementing rules and regulations for the election of con-con members. The Senate President and House Speaker shall appoint the appointive members within 15 days before the start of the convention.

Officers and members of all political parties or coalitions shall be prohibited from nominating, fielding, endorsing, supporting, or campaigning for any candidate for con-con delegate.

No aspirant shall represent or allow himself/herself to be represented as a candidate of a political party/coalition. Any person holding public office, including members of the armed forces, shall be considered resigned upon the filing of his certificate of candidacy for con-con delegate.

Any person elected or appointed to the convention shall not be eligible to run in the first local or national elections after the ratification of the proposed amendments, or appointed to any government position while the convention is in session and within one year after its adjournment.

The Senate Secretary and House Secretary-General shall initially convene and preside over the Con-con at 10 in the morning at the Philippine International Convention Center on Dec. 1, 2023, until it has elected its president and presiding officer.

A con-con delegate shall enjoy the same parliamentary immunity accorded to a member of Congress.

The Senate, the House, and other government agencies shall make available personnel, facilities, equipment, or office space needed by the convention without hampering public service.

The con-con shall submit its report to the President, Congress, and Comelec within 30 days after the completion of the proposed amendments, or on June 30, 2024.

Funding for the convention shall initially be charged against any available appropriations in the 2023 national budget and subsequently included in next year’s budget proposal.

Premature, futile

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman described the approval of HB 7352 as premature and futile.

“No less than the Chairman of the sponsoring Committee on Constitutional Amendments admitted in plenary session that Resolution of Both Houses No. 6 is not yet complete, effective and implementable pending its approval by the Senate,” he said.

“Verily, the approval of the Constitutional Convention Act, which is entitled An Act Implementing Resolution of Both Houses No. 6 of the Congress of the Philippines calling for a Constitutional Convention, is patently precipitate and premature as there is nothing yet to be implemented,” Lagman added.

According to Lagman, consideration and approval of HB 7352 is an exercise in inordinate futility because no less than the Senate President disclosed that the Senate cannot muster the extraordinary requisite vote to join the House in calling for Charter change via a constitutional convention.

“The eventuality of a deadlock or an impasse could have been avoided had there been a joint session between the House and the Senate in considering Resolution of Both Houses No. 6. Had the House called for a joint session with the Senate, which is the proper mode when the Congress exercises its constituent power under Art. XVII of the Constitution, and the Senate demurred or did not agree, then it would have been clear from the very start that the Senate would not now venture into charter change,” he said.

Also, Lagman said no less than the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas reported that direct foreign investments to the Philippines shrank by 23 percent in 2022 because of “extended global slowdown and high inflation, which adversely affected investor decisions.” Therefore, he said, the decrease in foreign direct investments was not due to the nationalistic provisions in the Constitution—the argument used by the proponents of Cha-cha.

“With negative economic indicators plaguing the economy, coupled with a dubious human rights record, no amount of liberalization of the constitutional economic provisions would induce or attract more foreign investors,” Lagman said.

“On the other hand, when we open wide the economy up to 100 percent to foreign investment, the lords of foreign capital may not only supplement Filipino capital but supplant it altogether in gross violation of the constitutional mandate that the State shall develop a self-reliant and independent economy effectively controlled by Filipinos,” added Lagman.

The Makabayan bloc registered its strong objection to House Bill 7352, “as it operationalizes the route to rewriting any aspect of the 1987 Constitution even if it will hardly provide solutions to the urgent needs of Filipino women and the people.”

Image credits: House of Representatives/Facebook