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Philippines

Philippine charter tweak bid meets with disgust

Church group says lawmakers should be dealing with pandemic, not serving their own and Duterte's interests

Philippine charter tweak bid meets with disgust

The Council of the Laity of the Philippines is opposing plans by lawmakers to amend economic provisions in the constitution. (Photo: Jire Carreon)

An influential church group has criticized a bill that seeks to revise economic provisions in the Philippine constitution that limit foreign ownership of land and corporations.

Lawmakers want to ease restrictions and allow wider foreign ownership of land and businesses.

The bill also seeks to change the ownership and management of mass media firms, public utilities and educational institutions.

The constitution currently limits foreign ownership of corporations to not more than 40 percent, while media ownership and management are reserved for Filipinos only.

Lawmakers who proposed the changes said almost 1,500 cities across the Philippines back changes.

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“The 1,489 members of the League of Municipalities of the Philippines prepared a resolution in support of the surgical amendments including the lifting of restrictive economic provisions of the constitution,” Department of Interior and Local Government undersecretary Jonathan Malaya told reporters.

Malaya said constitutional reforms would lead to economic recovery by allowing more infusion of foreign investments and capital.

The Council of the Laity of the Philippines, however, said lawmakers should have more urgent priorities to address.

“This is not an opportune time to deal with charter change. We are in the midst of a pandemic with millions of our countrymen suffering from lack of food, shelter, jobs, education and a decent comprehensive healthcare system,” it said in a Jan. 18 statement.

The pandemic and its effects on society should be the lawmakers’ primary concern. “The whole exercise … advocating for charter change is a sheer waste of precious time, effort and money,” the group said.

It said the sole motivation behind charter change was politics. “With the 2022 elections about a year and a half away, who will not suspect other underlying political motivations?” it said.

The group also warned people to be on their guard against political moves that seem to promote the common good yet forward self-interests.

“We oppose these moves. We urge our countrymen to be vigilant, pray, discern and speak out. We call on our lawmakers to address the needs of the people now. They need your attention,” the statement said.

Lawyer and constitutional law expert Tony La Vina warned changing economic provisions could lead to political ones, including extending President Rodrigo Duterte’s term in office.

“Once you establish a constituent assembly, nobody can say that we cannot discuss anything else. I can guarantee that there will be political provisions that will be amended, and it will essentially be about the extension of terms,” La Vina told reporters.

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