Belmonte vs PNoy? Speaker vows Cha-cha by yearend

Posted at 02/14/14 8:59 AM

MANILA - House Speaker Sonny Belmonte on Thursday expressed confidence he will succeed where his predecessors have failed: getting the 1987 Constitution amended.

Belmonte, after meeting with the joint Foreign Chambers of Commerce and Philippine business groups at the Batasan Pambansa Thursday, said he sees the approval of Charter change within the year.

This, however, runs counter to President Aquino's own position that he won't support moves in Congress to change the Constitution's economic provisions.

Charter change, according to Belmonte, was at the top of the agenda of the meeting, with businessmen backing proposals to amend the economic provisions of the charter.

Belmonte earlier filed a resolution seeking to empower Congress to amend the economic provisions of the constitution by simply adding the phrase “unless otherwise provided by law” to the economic provisions of the Constitution.

“Yes, it will have to pass through the committee, later this month. I expect it will hit the plenary by the latter part of March. I’m very confident it will pass with required 3/4 votes in the chamber,” he said.

Belmonte maintained that the country needs to amend the Constitution to achieve inclusive growth and address rising unemployment.

“We have very good growth for past several years… inclusive growth continues to elude us to a certain extent. In that context that’s the idea of leaving a key measure that will allow Congress thru a law to examine the ideas and become more competitive vis-à-vis our neighbors,” he noted.

For his part, Aquino has said Charter change proponents need to show the benefits of amending the Constitution.

He again cited China as an example of how economic progress is not necessarily correlated with land ownership. He pointed out that China managed to keep its economy robust even if it does not allow foreigners to own land.

"Sana mapakita ang dahilan kung bakit kailangan nating palitan. Dahil nga ito ang Saligang Batas, pinaka-pundasyon, pinaka-bedrock ng ating mga batas. Mababago, short term magkakaroon ng disruption. Sulit ba 'yung disruption na 'yan doon sa anticipated benefits?" Aquino told reporters.

Belmonte emphasized that the government needs to attract investments that create jobs, saying investors are just taking advantage of the favorable markets.

“We have money coming in and out. That’s just taking advantage of the markets here. When we are talking about foreign direct investments, we want investments in factories, industries. When you do that, you cannot just come and go; you have to stick around and see we’re making money,” he said.

Belmonte believes the Senate, whose leaders have decided to let the House take the lead in amending the charter, is receptive to the idea.

In the past, moves by Speakers Jose de Venecia and Prospero Nograles to amend the Constitution were blocked due to concerns that the amendments would be used to extend the terms of their presidents -- Fidel Ramos and Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.