Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Dissenting opinion of Rep. Beltran on Cha cha commitee report

No to Foreign Ownership of Mass Media!

Protect the National Patrimony!
Defend Civil Liberties and Democratic Rights!

Dissenting Opinion of Anakpawis Rep. Crispin B. Beltran
On Committee Report No. 1065, re House Concurrent Resolution No. 26
16 November 2005

On August 2, 2005, Social Weather Station released the result of their survey on charter change: “seven in ten of adult Filipinos believe that there are no constitutional provisions which need to be changed at the moment.”

This representation of Anakpawis partylist shares the view of majority of Filipinos there are no constitutional provisions which need to be changed at the present time. This representation registers his opposition to Committee Report (CR) No. 1065 on House Concurrent Resolution (HCR) No. 26, “Concurrent Resolution calling Congress to convene jointly to propose amendments to, or revision of, the 1987 Constitution.” I am of the firm opinion that Charter Change is not the solution to the crises currently faced by the Filipino people, nor it will be a solution to the “continuing political instability and serious economic difficulties through the last eighteen (18) years.”

This representation’s opposition to CR 1065 is due to the following reasons:

1. CR 1065 is an amended CR 413. In the 9th committee meeting of the Committee on Constitutional Amendments (August 16, 2005), Committee Report No. 413 was reviewed, and upon motion of Rep. Mauricio Domogan, approved amendment to the committee report by changing the phrase “constitute themselves as a Constituent Assembly” to “ convene jointly.”

Amending a Committee Report is a clear violation of Section 38 (Committee Reports and Orders) paragraph 3 of the Rules of the House of Representatives (13th Congress), which states:

“Once a committee report is approved, the report and the corresponding measure it covers shall no longer be subject to any change, amendment or alteration, except correction (s) of typographical errors."

2. The revision of an already approved Committee report for the purpose of pushing constitutional amendments despite Senate’s disapproval is a clear violation of the Constitution, which provides for Congress as a bicameral legislature, voting separately, for the purposes of checks and balances.

Senate and the House of Representatives are co-equal bodies in a bicameral system, each house of Congress should vote separately, for one Congressman vote is not equal to one Senator vote.

CR 413 was revised in response to the Senate’s negative stance to Constitutional Amendment. In the revised resolution, Congress will convene jointly with the assumption of “voting jointly,” that is, 195 signatures may be enough to push for constitutional change.

3. There is no genuine public clamor to revise or change the Constitution at the present time. The recent survey of the Social Weather Station (August 2, 2005), shows that “seven in ten of adult Filipinos believe that there are no constitutional provisions which need to be changed at the moment.” The percentage notably increased from 59% in September 1992 to 70% in August of this year.

4. Changing the highest law of the land needs genuine public consultations and information dissemination. Consultations are supposed to be democratic. The Committee, however, did not invite anti-charter change resource persons in the committee deliberations. Moreover, the committee also approved to conduct massive information campaign on the pros and cons of the two modes of proposing amendments to the Constitution: Constituent Assembly and Constitutional Convention. Unfortunately, not one was realized—a clear violation of Section 26 paragraph 2 of the Rules of the House of Representatives:

“…committees shall establish appropriate systems and procedures to ensure that constituencies, sectors and groups whose interests are affected by any pending measure are given sufficient opportunities to be heard, pursue dialogues and consultation with affected sectors and constituencies, conduct researches and engage the services and assistance of experts and professionals from the public and private sectors as may be needed in the performance of their functions”

If the government afforded to sign a multi-million contract with US lobby firm Venable LLP, why can’t it afford to conduct massive information campaign to the Filipino people?

5. The shift from a presidential-unitary to a unicameral-federal system will mean nothing as long as the same elite families, parties and power brokers rule.

6. The “review of basic economic provisions to maximize the benefits and welfare of the people” means opening grounds for tighter monopoly control over the economy by foreign multinational corporations and even worse poverty for our people.

We fear the total removal of what remains of the nationalist provisions in the Constitution that protect local industries and jobs, and advance the cause of building a self-reliant, independent and strong national economy.

In essence, HCR 26 proposes a 60% Filipino, 40% foreign ownership of mass media from a 100% Filipino ownership in the present Constitution. We could expect even worse amendments should HCR 26 be approved.

7. The Arroyo administration supported the US war on Iraq and continues to allow joint military “trainings” in the country, which the Filipino people have long opposed since the Estrada administration. Tracing the history of U.S. intervention in the military affairs of the country reveals that opening the Constitution to amendments will likely dismantle the provisions on national sovereignty and Bill of Rights that protect civil liberties and democratic rights of the people.

We cannot allow Congress to break the House rules and the highest law of the land just to push for Constitutional amendments subservient to the interests of traditional politicians, big business groups and foreign capitalists. The people needs the enactment of laws that would truly improve, and not worsen their lives.

Last year, President Arroyo declared that the country is under fiscal crisis and that there is a need to generate additional revenues through the imposition of Sin Taxes, Tax Amnesty, Tax Incentives, Value Added Tax (VAT) rate increase, VAT exemption lifting and other revenue generating measures, all of which are additional burden to the majority of the Filipino people who are already in deep crisis due the relentless increases in prices of basic commodities and utilities (16x increase in oil prices for this year alone, increase in water and electricity rates). The government however, does not implement or impose any price control on basic utilities such as water, electricity and oil industries despite their skyrocketing prices the people can longer afford.

In direct contradiction to what it should be doing, the government pushes for privatization of all other basic industries to the detriment of the people. The government even passed laws contrary to the Constitution, to wit: Electric Power Industry Reform Act, Oil Deregulation Law of 1998, Mining Act of 1995, Foreign Investments Act of 1991, and Investors Lease Act of 1995 among others, which violate of Article 12 (National Economy and Patrimony) of the Constitution.

Aside from economic crisis, the country is also facing political crisis. The rift between the Senate and the House of Representatives undeniably affects the quality of laws passed, and exposes the rotten system of elite-governance in the country. This year the president faced an impeachment complaint, but despite junking of the complaint in Congress, a continuing public clamor for her removal from Malacañang continues in the streets, in academic institutions, in the business sector, among others.

What the country needs now are laws that will improve the economic conditions of the suffering masses. The six-year old call of the workers for a legislated wage increase is not yet approved in Congress. The government’s budget allocations for basic social services such as health, education, housing and agriculture remain low despite the increasing rate of illiteracy, homelessness, landlessness and people who cannot afford the high cost of medication and health services.


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