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Constitutional Commissioners Hold Back Decision to Resign

August 25, 1986

MANILA, Philippines (AP) _ Six members of the commission writing a new constitution, who had said they would quit Monday, postponed a decision until President Corazon Aquino returns from a trip abroad.

They said they wanted to consult with other groups before acting and one said they also were ″open to dialogue″ with Mrs. Aquino, who was due home Wednesday from visits to Indonesia and Singapore.

Former National Assembly member Cecilia Munoz Palma, chairman of the 48- member Constitutional Commission, has said the resignations might be exploited by hostile groups to undermine Mrs. Aquino’s 6-month-old government.

Mrs. Palma did not elaborate but supporters of former President Ferdinand E. Marcos, who fled the country Feb. 26, have been active recently.

The six are movie director Lino Brocka, farm leader Jaime Tadeo, civic leader Minda Luz Quesada, university dean Wilfrido Villacorta, anthropologist Ponciano Bennagen and lawyer Jose Suarez.

They threatened to resign in protest of a commission decision to reject a proposal that would limit foreign shares in domestic businesses to 34 percent.

A commission majority voted over the weekend to retain the current allowable ratio of 40 percent foreign ownership and 60 percent Filipino.

During a heated debate, former Labor Minister Blas Ople hurled an ashtray at Villacorta, who had called other members ″champions of multinational corporations.″

He and the five others belong to a small nationalist bloc on the largely conservative commission, which Mrs. Aquino appointed.

It is drafting a charter to replace both the temporary one with which she governs and the 1973 constitution Marcos promulgated under martial law.

Mrs. Aquino has kept out of the commission’s work, but has urged it to finish by next month so the document can be submitted to a plebiscite and local and national elections can be held early next year.

She disbanded the National Assembly, which was controlled by Marcos’ New Society Movement party. The assembly had declared Marcos the winner of the Feb. 7 presidential election, which was widely denounced as fraudulent here and abroad.

Bennagen accused the commission of hurrying votes on some provisions even when the language was unclear.

In a statement Monday, the six said they were consulting ″various groups (for) their views, which we value highly″ before making a final decision whether to resign.

The commission has yet to decide on several major proposals, including one that would ban foreign military bases after 1991, when U.S. leases on military facilities expire.

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