PASAY CITY – If neophyte Philippine Senator Robinhood Ferdinand “Robin” Padilla has his way, the 1987 Philippine Constitution should be amended soon to keep it at length with the requirements of the times, especially its economic provisions.
Amend the Constitution, in fact, was his battle cry during the last election campaign and up until today after he topped the May 9 senatorial elections surprising political pundits and made his way as chairman of the Senate committee on constitutional amendments and revision of codes, despite not being a lawyer.
Padilla had insisted from the start of the Senate sessions that he spearhead the panel which in the past was headed by lawyers, the Constitution being the fundamental law of the land the ramifications of which and other others lawyers fully understand.
Now, Padilla, an actor by profession, has started the process to do the Charter change through public hearings by his panel where experts and those interested are invited to air their views on constitutional reforms.
In the House of Representatives, several members led by Reps. Rufus Rodriguez (Cagayan de Oro City), Aurelio Gonzales (Pampanga), Gus Tambunting (Paranaque City), and former Speaker Lord Allan Velasco (Marinduque) have filed resolutions proposing amendments to economic provisions of the Constitution. Other measures called for convening both the Senate and the House of Representatives as a Constituent Assembly to amend the Constitution.
Among those first appeared at the opening hearing were Constitutional Law expert Christian Monsod, former Chief Justice Reynato Puno represented by Conrado Generoso and Center for Excellence in Local Governance Executive Director Jonathan Malaya.
Monsod, a member of the Constitutional Commission that crafted the 1987 Charter and a former Commission on Elections chairman, opposed the plan to amend again the Constitution, pointing out that a constant, thoroughgoing effort to change the way people look at governance is what is needed, starting with transformation at the barangay level, so that the poor can learn to make their grassroots leaders accountable. This process can then go up to the municipal, city, provincial levels, he said.
Conrado Ding Generoso, spokesperson of the Duterte-era Constitutional Commission that drafted a blueprint for federalism, said if Monsod’s tack is followed, then change would be overtaken by “the second coming of Jesus Christ.” Generoso made a presentation on “Bayanihan Federalism” on behalf of ex-Chief Justice Puno, who had chaired the Con-Com.
Center for Excellence in Local Governance Executive Director Jonathan Malaya also weighed in on the proposals.
Opening the Senate panel hearings, Padilla stressed the need for a change of the 35-year-old Constitution to adjust to the needs of the times but clarified that he is not blaming any previous administrations for the country’s situation.
Padilla affirmed its aim is to attract investors, reminding this starts the process of enhancing the 1987 Constitution to “improve the basic law of the land.”
Padilla affirmed “there is only one truth that cannot be denied—that we Filipinos must respond to the call to improve and enhance our Constitution if needed.”
Padilla said the Philippine Constitution changed several times from the Malolos Convention, 1935 Constitution, 1973 Constitution, and the 1987 Constitution, adding all of this happened to adapt to the changes of times.
“Nasa 2022 na tayo. Kailangan lamang siguro sa panahon ngayon ay mag-adjust tayo kung ano ang nangyayari, una sa paligid natin at kung ano ang nangyayari sa mundo. Dapat nandoon na po tayo. Hindi po tayo dapat sarado (We are in 2022. We have to adjust to the times and our surroundings. We cannot afford to remain close-minded),” he said.
He added that even the United States of America has undergone amendments though sparingly from the 1776 Constitution.
Padilla said Filipinos must remain open-minded “because the world is changing. Everyone is now using the internet and anyone can run a business using computers.”
“Kailan man po wala kaming sinabi na kasalanan ng isang pangulong dumaan kung ano man po ang nangyayari na kahirapan sa Pilipinas. Wala po kaming sinasabing ganoon. Ang malinaw po naming pinaparating po sa inyo na sa mga dumaan na panahon, natural lamang po na nagbabago ang Constitution,” he said.
He noted the points raised by the resource person, law professor Anthony Amunategui Abad, that the Constitution adjusts to the needs of the times.
He reiterated that his committee will be fair and balanced in its hearings and that everyone will have a voice.
“Ang lahat ay welcome sa ating hearing pro or anti lahat po ay may boses (Everyone is welcome to attend to our hearing, pro or anti, all must air their voices),” Padilla said.
Abad lauded the senator for his courage in holding such hearings, adding the next generation of Filipinos stands to benefit from them.
“For the record, I’d like you to know I think this is an act of courage on your part, it is both patriotic and heroic. So far from what I’ve seen in the long history (of our) legislature, what you’re doing now is historic. And sana kung magkatotoo nga (If the changes will take place), you will have the thanks of many unborn Filipinos). Bale next generation ang makikinabang sa pag-amend natin sa Constitution (The next generation of Filipinos will benefit from all this),” Abad said.
He said if the economic provisions of the Constitution are amended, it will attract more investors that will generate jobs.
At the hearing, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian pressed for the liberalization of four sectors of the Philippine economy, stressing they “remain to be protected under the 1987 Constitution.”
Gatchalian said he filed a bill aiming to liberalize the public utilities, educational institutions, mass media, and advertising sectors.
The senator confirmed, however, he left out one economic sector, real estate property, citing the adverse consequences should Congress allow the 100 percent foreign ownership of land.