MALACAÑANG has urged President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s economic managers who question the proposed shift to federalism to present their alternatives.
On Thursday, a member of the Consultative Committee (ConCom) to Review the 1987 Constitution suggested that Duterte fire Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III and Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia if he still favors federalism, a leading theme of his presidential campaign in 2016.
“The President will have to task them,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry L. Roque, Jr. said in a press briefing when asked if the economic managers will be sought for an alternative proposal.
“So, it is incumbent upon the alter egos to find ways and means now to make that happen. What they were objecting to is because they have unanswered questions on the existing proposals made by the Consultative Committee, so let’s find answers.
But if there will be no answers, it is incumbent upon all the alter egos of the President to make what he wants to happen a reality,” Roque said.
Testifying at the Senate on Wednesday, Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III and Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia became candid in expressing their concerns about the possible cost of a shift toward federalism.
Roque said there are “differences of opinion” on federalism among the President’s Cabinet members. “My point of view is that there doesn’t have to be a deficit because there shouldn’t be additional budget required for federalism. It’s a matter of working within a given budget and transferring funds from one pocket to another.
We’re talking about devolving services to regional governments, and we’re talking about creating new bureaucracies under the regional governments; but we’re also talking about reducing the current national bureaucracy. So my view is, it does not have to result in a bloated budget which may result in a bigger deficit, which will result in high interest rates….” he said.
He also said, “Well, let’s just say that Secretary Dominguez, as you know, was one of Duterte’s closest supporters during the campaign. He knows that the President ran on a platform, among others, based on a charter change towards federalism. He supports federalism. Let’s fine-tune the means and ways of moving from a unicameral to a federal form of government.”
He noted as well that the Palace “respects” the views of the Mssrs. Pernia and Dominguez, but added he would “like to see if there are alternatives, because federalism remains a priority of the President and we need to address obviously even the financial aspects of the constitutional change towards federalism.”