By Kenneth Christiane L. Basilio

THE HOUSE of Representatives leadership reaffirmed its support for Charter change (“Cha-cha”) despite a Pulse Asia Research, Inc. poll last month showing 74% of Filipinos are against it regardless of timing.

Foreign ownership restrictions in power utilities, education and advertising must be lifted to attract foreign direct investments (FDI), Deputy Speaker and Quezon Rep. David C. Suarez said in a statement on Sunday.

“Amendments to the Constitution can create a conducive environment for investment and innovation, driving economic growth and prosperity,” he said. “Ultimately, the intention behind economic ‘Cha-cha’ is to empower Filipinos and strengthen our economy.”

Seven of 10 Filipinos are against a proposal to change the 1987 Constitution, according to the results of Pulse Asia’s poll this month.

In a statement last week, the pollster said 74% of Filipinos did not see the need for Charter change regardless of timing.

This opinion is echoed by small to big majorities in the various areas and classes, it added.

It said 8% of Filipinos thought the Charter should be amended now, while another 8% were open to it under the next government.

Pulse Asia said 6% of Filipinos opposed constitutional amendments now but support it at some other time under the present government, while 4% were undecided.

Opposition to Charter change increased by 43% from last year.

“While we acknowledge the survey results, we cannot ignore the pressing issues that require legislative action,” Majority Leader and Zamboanga City Rep. Manuel Jose M. Dalipe said in the same statement.

The House push for constitutional amendments despite public opposition is rooted in the need to introduce policies that they will likely benefit from, Hansley A. Juliano, a lecturer at the Ateneo de Manila University’s Department of Political Science, said in a Facebook Messenger chat.

“For the longest time, our politicians have been taught that neoliberal and free trade policies are the only thing that works,” he told BusinessWorld. “It’s difficult to accept something in good faith from a politician who is likely to benefit from what he’s legislating.”

Senior Deputy Speaker and Pampanga Rep. Aurelio D. Gonzales, Jr. in the same statement said the Constitution must be amended to “reflect the realities of today.”

The 1987 Constitution is “still viable today,” said Michael Henry Ll. Yusingco, a senior research fellow at the Ateneo’s Policy Center.

“The Constitution as a whole still reflects our values and principles,” he said via Messenger chat. “Why are the economic provisions no longer suitable today? None of the lawmakers claiming the Constitution is outdated has answered these questions.”