House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano on Friday hinted at supporting “economic federalism” should proposed Charter change moves not prosper as the country continues to fight the COVID-19 crisis.
“If the COVID-19 pandemic completely derails efforts to amend the Constitution, Congress can still take the country closer to a federal system through changes in the Local Government Code to give local government units a bigger share in the national budget,” Cayetano said in a statement.
“The problem with Cha-cha (Charter change) is really the timing. I cannot see us calling for a plebiscite. We’re telling the people to stay home, don’t congregate, so how do we make them go to the polling precincts when we know that people naturally form crowds during elections in our country?” he said.
Cayetano said federalism, one of the proposed Charter changes, could still become “as close to reality as possible” with some amendments to the Local Government Code of 1991 or Republic Act 7160.
“We can actually revise the Internal Revenue Allotment Code and many other portions of the Local Government Code to bring us closer to economic federalism,” he said.
“So what we will do is we will multi-task. We will continue discussing Cha-cha in the committee level, not in plenary, and then we will push for the approval of these pieces of legislation,” the Speaker added.
Cayetano said the enactment of these legislative proposals would answer the clamor of local government units (LGUs) for changes in the Constitution.
The country’s league of town mayors earlier passed a resolution calling for constitutional amendments that would enshrine the so-called Mandanas ruling of the Supreme Court in the Charter.
The ruling gives LGUs more internal revenue allotments or share of national taxes by expanding the definition of “internal revenues” to include not only collections of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) but other national imposts as well, like customs duties.
It is named after Batangas Gov. Hermilando Mandanas, who filed the petition challenging the definition made by the national government.
The mayors’ league is also proposing the lifting of restrictions on foreign investments.
Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, who chairs the House Committee on Constitutional Amendments, has said he would convene his panel soon to tackle the mayors’ proposals.
Cayetano reiterated that amending the Constitution is not a priority of the House, which he said is focused on measures to save lives and livelihoods amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
However, the Speaker said he would not stop the Rodriguez committee from tackling Cha-cha proposals.
“So if we can solve COVID-19 by next month and we’re up on our feet next January, February, then we can talk about Cha-cha,” he said.