Guv supports constitutional ‘revision,’ not amendments

DG file

By Rjay Zuriaga Castor

Amid the ongoing signature drive to amend the 1987 Constitution, Iloilo Governor Arthur Defensor Jr. said he supports only the “revision” of the fundamental law of the country and not its amendment.

“I think we need a revision. Many will disagree with me but I think that we need to change the government to make it faster. We have to make it work faster for us,” Defensor said in a press conference on Thursday, February 1.

According to the Supreme Court in the case of Lambino vs. Commission on Elections, “Revision broadly implies a change that alters a basic principle in the constitution, like altering the principle of separation of powers or the system of checks-and-balances.

It also defined that there is revision if the change alters the substantial entirety of the constitution, as when the change affects substantial provisions of the Constitution.

In the same court ruling, “amendment broadly refers to a change that adds, reduces, or deletes without altering the basic principle involved,” which can only be achieved through a people’s Initiative since a constitutional revision needs a deliberative body.

According to Article 17 of the Constitution, any amendment or revision of the charter may be done through a constitutional convention, assembly, or a people’s initiative.

“If it was me, I want a constitutional convention,” Defensor added.

In a constitutional convention, people elect delegates to propose amendments and revisions to the Constitution.

Despite his stand for a revision through a constitutional convention, Defensor has also supported the call to amend specific economic provisions of the 1987 Constitution.

“It’s about time we allow foreigners to own lands. Maybe, yes, to a certain extent. There are areas that we limit and that we need to open up also because the whole world is like that,” he emphasized.

As for the Constitution’s restrictive economic provisions, some lawmakers and senators are pointing out Article XII, Section 10, which requires a 60-40 ownership ratio in favor of Filipinos for the development of natural resources; Article XVI, Section 11, which restricts mass media ownership solely to Filipino citizens; and Article XII, Section 11, which places a limit on foreign ownership of land.

The governor recalled that when he was still in the House of Representatives, he and his colleagues in the lower house had pushed for the same, citing the restrictive provisions of the 37-year-old Constitution to the country’s economy.

“Basically, it was the lifting of limitations in the ownership of certain industries like education and telcos. Back then, we were very conservative in opening up the economy,” he said.

An ongoing attempt to support amendments to the “economic provisions” of the Constitution is underway through a people’s initiative, with signatures being collected in some parts of the country, including Iloilo.

Latest report from Comelec-6 showed that Iloilo province has collected 141,983 signatures on the signature campaign spearheaded by the People’s Initiative for Reform Modernization and Action (Pirma).

Pirma, in the signature campaign, asks residents if they are in favor of amending Article 17, Section 1 of the 1987 Constitution by allowing all members of Congress to jointly vote on proposed constitutional amendments in a constituent assembly.

The specified article is silent on whether members of the Senate and the House of Representatives should vote jointly or separately in amending the Constitution.

Under the Constitution, amendments can be directly proposed by the people “through initiative upon a petition of at least 12% of the total number of registered voters, of which every legislative district must be represented by at least 3% of the registered voters therein, a mode called people’s initiative.”

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