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VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Zubiri shifts gears on prioritizing Cha-cha in Senate

Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri said on Jan. 15 that the Senate will work with the House of Representatives in amending the 1987 Constitution to “ensure” that the “liberalized policies contained in the Public Services Act can be implemented and relied on by investors as an enduring policy.”

Juan Miguel Zubiri 2024-01-15 Flip-flop

In December 2023, Zubiri said amending the Constitution was not necessary, asserting that the government just have to implement the 2022 amendments to the 1936 Public Services Act, which removed the 40% restrictions on foreign ownership of businesses in key investment areas.

After saying last December that amending the economic provisions of the 1987 Constitution is not necessary, Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri filed a resolution on Jan. 15, proposing exactly that.

Zubiri made the move after he, Senate President Pro Tempore Loren Legarda and House Speaker Martin Romualdez met with President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Jan. 11.

Zubiri said the president considered as “too divisive” the ongoing people’s initiative campaign for charter change pushed by his allies in the House of Representatives, and had asked the Senate to “take the lead” in reviewing the economic provisions of the Constitution.

STATEMENT

In a Jan. 15 press conference, Zubiri said he is aware of the legal challenges faced by Republic Act (RA) No. 11659 in the Supreme Court and the need to include its provisions in the Constitution as an “enduring policy”:

“It is only in this respect [that] the Senate can agree to modify the Constitution. […] We wish to assure the people that in reviewing the economic provisions of the Constitution, we will be circumspect.”

 

Source: Senate of the Philippines, Press Briefing with Senate President Juan Miguel “Migz” F. Zubiri, Jan. 15, 2024, watch from 30:35 to 30:58

The lawmaker said on Jan. 18 that he would resign if political amendments are touched.

“I guarantee that it is only amendments to the economic provisions (that will be reviewed) so that the country will benefit. The revisions won’t be for the good of select people, especially not for politicians,” Zubiri assured in a mix of English and Filipino.

FACT

Zubiri said last month that a review of the Constitution was not needed, after DZBB reporters asked if the Senate agreed with Marcos’ view for the conduct of a study to determine if amending the economic provisions is necessary.

VERA FILES FACT CHECK - THE FACTS: Zubiri said in December that an amendment to the Constitution was not necessary to attract foreign investors in view of the enactment in 2022 of the amended Public Services Act that opened select public utilities to 100% foreign ownership.

The Senate president explained that it was not a priority of the Senate, adding:

Sa tingin ko, hindi naman po kailangan ng amendment at this particular point in time. Let us just implement the amended Public Services Act […] Ang problema kasi, sa totoo lang, alam mo naman ‘yung pulso ng mga senador. Ang pulso ng mga senador ay ‘wag muna, hindi muna talakayin ang Charter change.

(In my view, we don’t need to have amendments at this particular point in time. Let’s just implement the amended Public Services Act. The problem is, in reality, you know the pulse of the senators. The pulse of the senators is not yet, let’s not discuss charter change yet.)

 

Source: DZBB Official Facebook Page, Dobol B Bantay Balita sa Kongreso | Nimfa Ravelo at Isa Avendaño-Umali | December 17, 2023, Dec. 17, 2023, watch from 50:34 to 50:52 and 53:45 to 54:12

BACKSTORY

Zubiri’s Resolution of Both Houses No. 6, co-authored by Legarda and Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara, proposes the following amendments:

    • No franchise, certificate, or any other form of authorization to operate public utilities shall be granted, except to Filipino citizens, corporations, and associations, with at least 60% of its capital under Filipino ownership, unless otherwise provided by law;
    • The participation of foreign investors in the governing body of any public utility enterprise shall be limited to their proportionate share in its capital, and corporations’ and associations’ executive and managing officers shall all be Filipino citizens, unless otherwise provided by law;
  • Basic educational institutions, other than those established by religious groups and mission boards, shall be owned and controlled by Filipino citizens, corporations or associations, unless otherwise provided by law;
  • Only Filipino citizens, corporations, or associations with at least 70% capital under Filipino ownership shall be allowed to engage in the advertising industry, unless otherwise provided by law. Likewise, the participation of foreign investors in the governing body of entities in the advertising industry shall be limited to their proportionate share in its capital, and the executive and managing officers of such corporations or associations shall all be Filipino citizens, unless otherwise provided by law.

The proposed amendments allow Congress to pass enabling measures that would open the restricted industries to foreign ownership.

RA 11659, signed by former president Rodrigo Duterte in March 2022, removed the 40% restriction on foreign ownership of businesses in key investment areas. However, a petition is pending in the Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of the law, which amended the 1936 Public Service Act, known as Commonwealth Act 146.

 

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Sources

Senate of the Philippines, Resolution of Both Houses No. 6, Jan. 15, 2024

Official Gazette of the Philippines, Republic Act No. 11659, March 21, 2022

DZBB Official Facebook Page, Dobol B Bantay Balita sa Kongreso | Nimfa Ravelo at Isa Avendaño-Umali | December 17, 2023, Dec. 17, 2023

GMA News Online, Zubiri to resign as Senate President if amendments other than economic tinkered in Cha-cha, Jan. 18, 2024

ABS-CBN News, Group behind pro-Cha-cha ad speaks up: ‘We just want public discussion’, Jan. 10, 2024

News5, TV ad na nagsusulong sa cha-cha, binayaran ng PIRMA, Jan. 10, 2024

Inquirer.net, Pirma is back: Charter change drive on air, on ground, Jan. 11, 2024

 

(Guided by the code of principles of the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter, VERA Files tracks the false claims, flip-flops, misleading statements of public officials and figures, and debunks them with factual evidence. Find out more about this initiative and our methodology.)