Contact Details

Rm. N-411, House of Representatives, Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines
+63 2 931 5497, +63 2 931 5001 local 7370

By: Rep. Edcel C. Lagman

Mr. Speaker, I vote “No” to Resolution of Both Houses No. 6 calling for a Constitutional Convention to amend or revise the 1987 Constitution for the following reasons:

  1. The House of Representatives conducts an unconstitutional route to charter change in holding sessions singly in considering the Joint Resolution without meeting with the Senate in joint session.

    The constituent power of the Congress under Article XVII of the Constitution is exercised in three different modes, namely:

    1. “The Congress, upon a vote of three-fourths of all its Members” may propose “any amendment to, or revision of, this Constitution”. (Sec. 1 [1] of Art. XVII)

    2. “The Congress may, by a vote of two-thirds of all its Members, call a constitutional convention”. (Sec. 3 of Art. XVII)

    3. “The Congress may … by a majority vote of all its Members, submit to the electorate the question of calling such a convention”.

    When the Congress exercises any of the three modes of its constituent power, it must meet in joint session because:

    1. The Congress consists of two Chambers, the House of Representatives and the Senate. Verily, when the Constitution provides for “the Congress”, it indubitably refers to the two Houses.

    2. When the Congress exercises non-legislative functions, it invariably meets in joint session like when it:

      1. declares the existence of a state of war (Sec. 23 [1] [a] of Art. VI);

      2. confirms the President’s nomination of the Vice President in the event of a vacancy in that office during the term of the Vice President (Sec. 9 of Art. VII);

      3. decides whether to revoke the President’s proclamation of martial law or suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus (Sec. 18 of Art. VII);

      4. canvasses the vote for President and Vice President and, in case of a tie, to break the tie (Sec. 4 of Art. VII); and

      5. decides a dispute between the President, who has once declared himself unable to discharge the duties of his office but later claims to be fit to resume, and a majority of his cabinet, holds otherwise (Sec. 11 of Art. VII).

    3. Precedents show that when the Congress called for a Constitutional Convention in 1947 and 1971 it met in joint session because of the bicameral structure of the Congress. It is of no moment that the 1935 Constitution called for a joint session because even without such provision, the essence of a bicameral legislature demands the holding of a joint session when the Congress exercises any of its constituent powers.

  2. Cha-cha is out of step now. The Congress and the President must exert all efforts and allocate the necessary resources to addressing the present economic woes of the country particularly on gripping poverty, escalating inflation, lack of food security, and the adverse effects of a possible recession.

    The following negative indicators militate against charter change now:

     DEBT STOCK:  P13.42 Trillion in 2022 (as of 3 Feb 2023)
     DEBT SERVICE:  P1.6-Trillion for debt payments in 2023
     FISCAL DEFICIT:  6.9% of GDP for 2022
     INFLATION RATE:  9.3% in February 2023
     BALANCE OF TRADE:  -$4.6-B trade as of December 2022
     DEBT TO GDP RATIO:  60.9% (4th Quarter of 2022)
     HUMAN DEVELOPMENT INDEX:  116th out of 191 countries as of 12 Sept. 2022
     POVERTY RATE/LEVEL:  30% of total Philippine population or 34M
    SELF RATED POVERTY: 51% of Filipino households rated themselves as poor  12.9 million families x 6pax or 77.4M
    Population of Philippines in 2023 113,393,246
  3. The Con-Con’s agenda is open-ended. No less than the Chairman of the sponsoring committee repeatedly admitted that the Congress has no power to restrict or control the agenda of the constitutional convention. Once the Con-Con convenes, it will have an existence and an authority of its own.

    Consequently, even if the Joint Resolution enjoins the Con-Con to limit its amendments to the economic provisions of the Constitution, this has no legal binding effect.

    Verily, the Constitutional Convention can amend the political provisions of the Constitution, including extension of term limits or changing term limits, which could be the furtive agenda for calling for cha-cha.

  4. Liberalization of the economic provisions is not the sole magnet to foreign direct investments (FDIs) like in the experience of Taiwan and South Korea when they achieved newly industrialized country (NIC) status without much inflow of foreign investments.

    According to the Organization on Economic Development and Cooperation (OECD), the following factors attract more foreign investments: (a) ease of doing business; (b) elimination or significant reduction of official corruption; (c) predictability of government policies; (d) adequate and enabling infrastructure; (e) faster and reliable internet speed; and (f) cheaper cost of power.

  5. Con-con is an expensive enterprise which we should not venture into now. Although it is true that we should not count pesos and centavos in considering charter change, the fact is the country is presently deficient in revenues and resources. It would be profligate to allocate billions of pesos for contingent benefits accruing from charter change when our people need to survive now!

  6. Charter change is not the panacea to all our woes.

    Cha-cha is not a magic wand to solve all of our pressing socio-economic ills.

    The Constitution is not the problem, it is part of the solution. We will have to fully implement the socio-economic mandates of the Constitution on the National Economy and Patrimony (Art. XII), Social Justice and Human Rights (Art. XIII), and Education, Science and Technology, Arts, Culture, and Sports (Art. XIV).

  7. Prejudicial legal and constitutional questions must first be resolved by the Supreme Court with respect to the voting on the joint session of the Congress in exercising its constituent powers – should it be joint or separate voting? Aside from the whether the House and the Senate should meet in joint session, the voting is a paramount prejudicial question which should be decided beforehand by the High Court.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.