Piece-meal consti amendment to open floodgates for politically-motivated revisions
The seven-member Makabayan bloc in the House of Representatives will go “all out” to block all efforts for charter change (cha-cha) – whether economic or political in nature – especially in light of the president’s expressed desire to lift constitutional term limits and clip the Judiciary’s power, Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon said Wednesday.
“Whether it be economic or political in nature, we will do whatever we can to block all cha-cha attempts,” the youth solon said, following reports that the Lower House is set to tackle House Joint Resolution (HJR) No. 1 filed by Speaker Feliciano Belmonte during the plenary session on August 26.
“Since the beginning of the 16th Congress, the Makabayan bloc has consistently opposed renewed efforts to amend the Constitution. We need to do whatever we can to stop the passage of HJR 1, especially as opening the Constitution to amendments will open the floodgates to self-serving revisions such as the lifting of term limits,” Ridon said.
Last year, Ridon and his colleagues in Makabayan have opposed HJR 1, saying that the economic amendments would “destroy the standards and limits set by the Constitution” and would also spell disaster for the Philippine economy.
“HJR 1 poses a double-edged threat: one, it will open new loopholes in the 1987 Constitution that would allow the haphazard revision of economic provisions. Second, the catch-all amendment pushed by the House Speaker will inevitably lead to the bastardization of constitutional standards and limits,” Ridon said.
More recently, the Makabayan bloc and several other members of Congress also opposed the president’s expressed desire to amend the Constitution to pave the way for the lifting of term limits and the clipping of judicial power.
“Constitutional amendment is a matter that will greatly divide the House. Most members of the Minority, and even some members of the Majority, are not keen on opening the 1987 Constitution to piece-meal amendments. I believe that charter change can still be stopped,” Ridon said.
Ridon, a lawyer, said that even before deliberations on HJR 1 begins, he and his colleagues will question the constitutionality of the cha-cha through piece-meal legislation.
The lawmaker believes that the amendments sought by House Speaker Belmonte are “vague and overbroad” and would open loopholes that would render Article XVII (Amendments or Revisions) of the 1987 Constitution useless.
“I actually think the amendments are courting unconstitutionality for being overbroad and its potential to demolish the standards and limits set by the Constitution,” Ridon said.
While the Philippine Constitution allows only three ways for charter change – via constituent assembly, constitutional convention, or people’s initiative – the amendments pushed by Belmonte would open a new way in amending the Constitution: piece-meal legislation.
“By inserting the phrase ‘unless otherwise specified by law’ in clauses that set certain limits on foreign ownership of several industries, HJR 1 essentially destroys the standards and limitations set by the 1987 Constitution. If passed, HJR 1 would subject the Constitution to the whims and caprices of the ruling party in Congress,” Ridon explained.
By empowering Congress to revise standards and limits on economic provisions of the Constitution, powerful foreign and domestic lobby groups would also gain the upper hand.
“Passing HJR 1 would favor corrupt politicians who would file any bill at the right price. Belmonte’s amendments essentially subjects the Constitution to the influence of foreign and domestic lobby groups,” Ridon added.
Cha-cha to open floodgates for bastardization of Constitution
“Not only is the current cha-cha attempt courting unconstitutionality, it will also open the floodgates for politically-motivated amendments,” Ridon said.
“Once the deliberations of HJR 1 begins, there is no stopping Malacanang stalwarts to insert provisions amending political matters such as term limits.
“What’s more troubling is if HJR 1 passes, it will set a precedent for the piece-meal amendment of the Constitution. Any lawmaker with vested interest or direct orders from the president could simply file a joint resolution to reduce the Judiciary’s power, for example, or even remove essential portions of the Constitution, like provisions on political dynasties. Opening the floodgates to cha-cha through piece-meal legislation will result to the bastardization of the Constitution,” Ridon explained.
“We cannot let this grand scheme hatched by the president come into fruition. We need to go all out to stop cha-cha. I enjoin my colleagues, both from the Majority and Minority, who believe in the importance of preserving the integrity of the Constitution to cross party lines and collectively halt this disastrous move,” Ridon appealed.