The Philippines: Sotto: Only economic Cha-cha has chance in Senate

  • Charter change is likely to succeed at the Senate only if economic provisions are changed, but the chamber can address President Duterte’s concerns over the country’s party-list system through amendments to the law, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said on 13 Jan 21.
  • Sotto proposed another way to address Duterte’s desire to rid Congress of what he believes were communist rebels while finally strengthening outdated economic provisions of the Constitution without it being politically divisive and having a good chance of succeeding.
  • He said he would file a bill on 18 Jan 21 to propose amendments to Republic Act 7941 or the Party-List Act to lay out the qualifications of party-list groups that may participate in the elections and exclude those seeking to overthrow the government.
  • “We could probably come up with a one-liner amendment to the Constitution through a constituent assembly or a joint resolution, and time (the passage) to the plebiscite for the people to agree in the 2022 elections,” Sotto said during the Kapihan sa Manila Bay media forum on 13 Jan 21.
  • The one-liner amendment that Sotto was referring to is “unless otherwise provided by law,” which is to be added to economic provisions that limit foreign ownership of certain sectors to only 40%.
  • The Senate president said the amendment does not actually remove the limitation, but only allows Congress to do so when it sees fit through the enactment of an enabling law.
  • An attractive option in Charter change, according to Sotto, is to do it through the usual legislative route or like passing a bill – something that was nearly achieved during the 16th Congress, with the same simple one-line amendment, if not for a last-minute prohibition from then president Benigno Aquino III to the House of Representatives.
  • Convening a constituent assembly, the senator warned, could open up the Constitution to wholesale revision.
  • Sotto and Sen. Panfilo Lacson also chided the House committee on constitutional amendments for claiming that the constituent assembly was already convened, saying its chairman must review the law and rules.
  • Speaker Lord Allan Velasco and key leaders of the House of Representatives have assured their counterparts at the Senate that they would not be ignored, declaring that lower chamber will vote separately from the senate.

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