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Charter change not a priority for Marcos but lawmakers to continue discussions

PRESIDENT FERDINAND R. MARCOS JR. delivered his first State of the Nation Address during the joint session of the 19th Congress at the Batasan complex in Quezon City, July 25, 2022. — PHILIPPINE STAR/KRIZ JOHN ROSALES

PRESIDENT Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. cast aside the urgency of changing the 1987 Constitution, saying it is not a priority of his administration as some lawmakers push for amendments to supposedly allow more foreign investments.  

“We can achieve what we want, but within the present constitutional [framework,] the way the Constitution is written,” the president told reporters on his return flight on Sunday night from Japan to the Philippines, based on a transcript.  

“There are so many other things we need to do first, that we can still do.”  

Mr. Marcos said it is possible to attract foreign investments without changing the current Constitution, noting recently passed laws that already ease foreign participation in certain industries.   

Christian S. Monsod, one of the framers of the 1987 Constitution, earlier told a House hearing on constitutional reforms that “real change cannot happen until we strike at the roots and not the branches of the problem.”  

CONSULTATIONSLawmakers in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, however, intend to carry on with public discussions and Congressional hearings on charter change.   

“We respect the opinion of President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. on constitutional amendment measures. We will of course consider it. But as an independent branch of government, the House of Representatives and Congress will proceed with its public dialogues on this issue,” Cagayan De Oro Rep. Rufus B. Rodriguez said in a statement on Monday.   

During a public consultation on constitutional reform in Iloilo on Monday, Eduardo Alcasaren, president of the Palacatian Irrigators’ Association, said moves to bring in more foreign capital should not put locals, such as farmers, at a disadvantage.  

“We should be innovative,” he said.   

Iloilo Rep. Ferjenel G. Biron said amending the Constitution is not “a one size fits all solution to the economic predicament of this country,” citing the need to improve the business climate in the Philippines. 

The constitutional amendments committee kicked off its public consultations in Cagayan De Oro last Friday, and Mr. Rodriguez said discussions are also set in Pampanga and Bulacan.   

In the upper chamber, Senator Robin C. Padilla insists that changing the Constitution, particularly its economic provisions, is needed for the country to attract more foreign investments.   

“It is sad because if we do not make the needed changes to the Charter’s economic provisions, ordinary Filipinos will not feel the benefits of progress for our Motherland, or of improvements in their lot in life,” Mr. Padilla, chair of the constitutional change committee, said in a statement on Monday.

“The foreign direct investments that we badly need cannot come true without the proper provisions from our Constitution,” he added, “and most of the pledges by foreign investors from our leaders’ foreign trips will not materialize.” 

Mr. Padilla earlier filed a resolution seeking to amend the Constitution through a constituent assembly.

However, other senators found the proposal unnecessary as it duplicated recently enacted legislation meant to open the Philippine market to foreign investors, referring to the Public Service Act, Retail Trade Liberalization Act and Foreign Investments Act.

Mr. Padilla said he will carry on with the hearings.  

“Whether or not my fellow senators support my advocacy, it is important that the people know why our growth as a nation has been held back — and what must be done to address this,” he said. — John Victor D. Ordoñez, Beatriz Marie D. Cruz, and Alyssa Nicole O. Tan 

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