Proposals to insert the phrase “unless otherwise provided by law” in the restrictive economic provisions of the Constitution would empower Congress to assess and evaluate prevailing economic factors before determining the wisdom of opening certain sectors of the economy.
Ako-Bicol Rep. Alfredo Garbin Jr., the chairman of the House of Representatives’ Committee on Constitutional Amendments, made the statement on Thursday as the chamber continues its deliberations on the proposed Charter Change being pushed by Speaker Lord Allan Velasco.
“At present, the way the Constitution’s economic provisions are phrased, there is no leeway in matters such as foreign equity restrictions,” Garbin said.
“Right now, there can be no debate on this as the restrictions are mandated by the law of the land; it is a dead end, so to speak,” he explained.
“With RBH 2 (Resolution of Both Houses 2), we will insert a door, but we will not automatically open it for foreign investors; we will simply allow them to knock––and it is up to us in Congress to let them in if we believe this is to our benefit,” said Garbin during Wednesday’s plenary deliberations on Charter Change.
Garbin thanked his House colleagues for raising issues about the wisdom of easing the economic provisions of the 1987 Charter, particularly the pros and cons of liberalizing the economy.
“We welcome the points raised by our esteemed colleagues from the Makabayan Bloc and my kababayan Manong Edcel [Lagman] regarding FDI (foreign direct investments) and economic liberalization. It is good for the country to hear their viewpoints as well as those propounded by our resident economists, Manong Joey (Salceda) and Rep. Stella Quimbo,” said the solon.
“But these exchanges illustrate our point: these are issues that Congress would be allowed to debate and would be allowed to study if we are given the power to pass proposed legislation that would open our economy,” he added.
Garbin earlier pointed out in the plenary deliberations on RBH 2 that the “beauty” of the proposed amendments is that “Congress may reduce, remove or even restore the economic restriction as may be called by the prevailing circumstances.”
The Constitution’s current restrictions preclude discussions of this nature. But under the proposed amendments in RBH 2, Garbin explained that details regarding opening the economy “would still be subject to constitutional procedure for legislation, which requires consultations, extensive deliberations and voting and the subsequent action of Congress.”
This, said the lawyer, “would have the imprimatur of the people because this will be undertaken by their representatives. So that’s the safety. That’s the safeguard, which is the beauty of legislation.”