House adjourns session without charter change vote
MANILA, Philippines – The House of Representatives ended its second regular session on Wednesday, June 10, without voting on the resolution seeking to amend the economic provisions of the Constitution.
"We decided we didn't like to take a risk," Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr told reporters after the session. "There were not enough numbers."
Belmonte told reporters Wednesday afternoon he was optimistic that what he called his economic charter change proposal would be put to a third-reading vote as scheduled.
The resolution needs the approval of 217 or three-fourths of the 289-member chamber to pass. A total of 267 House members were present when the quorum was called at 9:37 pm Wednesday.
House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II earlier said the measure would be put to a vote if at least 250 members are present.
After the calling of the roll, Belmonte took over the proceedings. However, instead of calling for a nominal vote on the resolution, he moved to adjourn the second second regular session.
No vote on the controversial proposal was held Wednesday night. The House officially adjourned session at 10:30 pm.
Asked if there was any outside pressure to cancel the vote, Belmonte said: "I can say very frankly that were no phone calls from the President."
The Speaker said he will still push for the passage of the resolution as a "political statement," but he is aware that the proposal may not have enough support in the Senate. There would also be little time to conduct a plebiscite.
"What I wanted to do was to show it can be done," he said.
A pet project of Belmonte, the economic charter change proposal seeks to add the phrase "as may be provided by law" to at least 7 provisions of the Constitution.
Belmonte stressed Wednesday that the measure would not automatically lift foreign ownership limits. Instead, the amendments would allow Congress to pass enabling laws lifting bans on foreign ownership of land, businesses, schools and the media.
In his speech before session was adjourned, Belmonte said this is the farthest that any proposed amendment to the Constitution has progressed in Congress.
Senate President Franklin Drilon has expressed support for the House resolution.
He earlier said amending the Constitution in this manner allows both chambers of Congress to vote separately, compared to a Constitutional Assembly where the Senate may be overwhelmed by greater numbers in the House.
The Makabayan bloc in the House, meanwhile, issued strong objections to the proposal and branded the move as anti-Filipino.
Senior Deputy Minority Leader and Bayan Muna Representative Neri Colmenares said the resolution deletes "pro-Filipino provisions" in the Constitution.
For instance, the proposal seeks to delete the phrase "to increase Filipino equity participation in all educational institutions" from Article XIV, Section 4, Colmenares said.
On Wednesday morning, anti-charter change groups staged a rally in front of the Batasan complex to call for a halt to the vote.
Protesters managed to block the north and south gates of the complex, barring the way for congressmen and visitors. Another gate was opened later on.
The House leadership also hoped to complete the interpellation on the proposed Bangsamoro basic law on Wednesday by starting the session at 10 am. However, only about 7 out of 25 remaining lawmakers who signed up for the debates have so far been able to ask questions.
The interpellation by Magdalo Representative Gary Alejano lasted for more than 3 hours, while Zamboanga Representative Celso Lobregat's lasted for more than 4 hours. Lobregat had been asking questions for 4 consecutive days.
Lawmakers will report back for work in the last week of July for President Benigno Aquino III's last State of the Nation Address. – Rappler.com