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Monday, April 22, 2024

House convenes Monday to discuss RBH 7 on Charter change

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The House of Representatives will start its deliberations Monday on Resolution of Both Houses (RBH) No. 7, which proposes amendments to the 1987 Philippine Constitution’s restrictive economic provisions.

Pampanga Rep. Aurelio Gonzales, Jr., one of the authors of RBH 7 said the Lower House would convert itself into a committee of the whole to expedite discussions. Some resource persons, including noted economists, were invited to join the initial debates starting at 1 p.m.

“The conversion of the House into a committee of the whole, which is like a plenary session, aims to involve every one of our colleagues in discussions with our resource persons. This will facilitate proceedings leading to an eventual approval or rejection of the proposed amendments,” he said.

Congress would conduct three hearings a week and try to obtain a vote on the proposals before the Holy Week recess next month, Gonzales said. This is also the original timeline set for the Senate by Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri for their adoption of RBH No. 6.

RBH No. 7 is almost an exact reproduction of RBH No. 6, introduced by Zubiri and Senators Loren Legarda and Juan Edgardo Angara. They are both entitled “A Resolution of Both Houses of Congress proposing amendments to certain economic provisions of the 1987 Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines, particularly on Articles 12, 14 and 16.”

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The proposed House and Senate changes were on the grant of legislative franchises to and ownership of public utilities in Article 12, and ownership of basic educational facilities in Article 14, and advertising firms in Article 16.

The suggested principal amendments were the insertion of the phrase, “unless otherwise provided by law,” which would empower Congress to lift or relax present economic restrictions in the nation’s basic law, and the addition of the qualifier “basic” in Article 14.

RBH No. 7 and RBH No. 6 also restate the provision of the Constitution that Congress may propose amendments “upon a vote of three-fourths of all its members.” Gonzales said they dropped the words “each House voting separately” in RBH No. 7 “because those four words are not in the Constitution.”

“We in the House chose to be true to our Constitution by quoting exactly what it says, no more, no less. If they say joint voting is unconstitutional, separate voting is also against the Charter because it is not there. Let the experts interpret this provision,” Gonzales said.

The House’s expedited discussions mark a significant development in the ongoing debate surrounding Charter change in the Philippines. The outcome of these deliberations will be closely observed by stakeholders, as it could potentially pave the way for changes to the nation’s fundamental law.

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