AMENDING the Philippine Constitution should not be the top priority of Congress at this point, economists and legal luminaries said on Thursday, citing the need to focus more on measures that will address poverty and development as well as changing the political landscape dominated by dynasties.

At a House committee meeting on Thursday tackling proposed charter changes and a call for a constitutional convention, Solita Collas-Monsod, professor emeritus of the University of the Philippines School of Economics, said, “Amending the Constitution is neither necessary nor a sufficient condition to attract FDI (foreign direct investments) and may entail burdensome costs.”

Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Jay Q. Velasco and Parañaque Rep. Gus S. Tambunting filed a Resolution of Both Houses seeking to amend economic provisions of the Constitution to allow foreign capital investments in restricted sectors.

Ms. Monsod said the legislature should instead focus on addressing weaknesses in “infrastructure, governance, corruption, (and) ease of doing business,” among others.

Under the previous administration, former President Rodrigo R. Duterte signed laws easing foreign ownership restrictions in several key sectors such as retail, telecommunications and domestic shipping.

“Despite vastly growing foreign investment inflows, we have not seen the national economic progress that has been promised,” Jose Enrique A. Africa, executive director of IBON Foundation, said.

Mr. Africa said since the period of trade liberalization in the 1980s, the manufacturing and agricultural sectors have had the smallest share in the country’s output and employment in post-war history.

Aries A. Arugay, chair of the UP Political Science department, said that “Constitutional change is not the ‘silver bullet’ or the holy elixir to cure our country’s problems.”

He added that should the legislature “decide to constitute itself as a Constituent Assembly, Congress has to ensure that it will complete the process without taking time and resources away from other legislative priorities.”

In the same hearing, Christian S. Monsod, one of the framers of the 1987 Constitution told the panel that “real change cannot happen until we strike at the roots and not the branches of the problem.”

“The problems of poverty, corruption, social justice did not come from the Constitution,” said Neri J. Colmenares, chair of National Union of People’s Laywers.

“If we resolve corruption, poverty, security of tenure, genuine agrarian reform…we will be a developed country, we won’t even need to ‘ChaCha’ (charter change),” Mr. Colmenares said in Filipino.

Vicente V. Mendoza, former associate justice of the Supreme Court, raised cost and propriety concerns of a constitutional convention.

“Is it proper for the Congress to vote additional powers to itself as a Congress?” he asked.

Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte Jr., Leyte Rep. Richard I. Gomez, and Manila Rep. Bienvenido M. Abante, Jr. filed House bills calling for a constitutional convention, to be composed of delegates from each legislative district. The election of these delegates will be done during the barangay elections.

In his bill, Mr. Abante said a constitutional convention would ensure “that national interest will prevail over vested interests of incumbent officials,” as members will be directly elected by people and should not have any under government office.

Constitutional amendments committee chair Rep. Rufus B. Rodriguez filed House Joint Resolution 12, also calling for a convention “composed of elected delegates from all regions of the country.”

Mr. Monsod, however, said, “Political dynasties now control Congress, and electing the delegates by district will only result in a mirror image of the composition of the Congress with the same control of outcomes by the dynasties.”

He said what the country needs more urgently are laws against political dynasties and amending the party-list law. — Beatriz Marie D. Cruz