Cha-cha means more taxes, economics expert tells Senate

July 17, 2018

MANILA — The creation of a federal government is estimated to cost P55 billion and will mean more taxes from Filipino citizens, Dr. Rosario Manasan of the Philippine Institute of Development Studies told the Senate Committee on Constitutional Amendments and Revision of Codes Tuesday afternoon.

“It will have to come from the pockets of taxpayers,” Manasan said.

In her presentation, Manasan said the amount would go to the salaries of regional governors and vice governors, additional senators per region, additional members of the judiciary, and their staff, as well as operating expense of their offices.

The Consultative Committee submitted to the Senate the draft federal constitution last Thursday, July 12. The Senate called for the 10th public hearing on Charter change five days later on Tuesday, July 17.

In his opening statement, Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, who chairs the committee, said that the Senate wants to put Charter change and federalism through a democratic process so that Filipinos may be able to make an informed opinion of the issue.

“Lilinawin din natin na bilang Chairman ng Komite: naniniwala tayo na sa ating bansa, bilang isang demokrasya, lahat ng punto de bista sa usapin ng Charter change, kontra man o pabor, ay dapat marinig sa isang bukas at pampublikong pagdinig tulad nito upang mas malalim pang maunawaan ng ating mga kababayan ang mga isyu,” Pangilinan said.

In the same hearing, University of the Philippine Political Science Prof. Gene Lacza Pilapil described the draft constitution as “twin horrors” and a “reverse power-grab.” He said the proposed Charter change of the presidential body Consultative Committee would effectively remove Vice President Leni Robredo from office.

“These are twin horrors in constitutional engineering and are classic cases of brute political factors overriding any institutional design logic,” Pilapil said, noting that Vice President Robredo’s term will be cut short by request of President Rodrigo Duterte if this constitution pushes through.

“This could only be described as a reverse power grab, or a sort of impeachment-via-new-constitution,” Pilapil said.

Former Chief Justice Hilario Davide shared Pilapil’s views, noting that the draft constitution allows President Duterte to become a dictator.

“Article XXII on Transitory Provisions was completely revised to principally remove the vigorously criticized provisions that would allow the incumbent President to prolong himself in power and thus be a dictator by running for President in the May 2022 elections,” Davide said.

At the same time, Davide said that if the removal of “imperial Manila” by decentralizing resources is the goal of changing the Constitution, then the Supreme Court has made this moot with a recent decision.

“The Court ruled that the 40% IRA for the LGUs shall be based in all ‘national taxes,’ not only on ‘internal revenue taxes.’ That mortal blow is, again, like the mortal blow Senator Pacquiao delivered to Lucas Matthysse,” Davide said.

“The LGUs can now collect their shares in all the national taxes from the 1992, upon the effectivity of the Local Government Code. According to Secretary Carlos Dominguez, Secretary of Department of Finance as reported in yesterday’s issue of the Philippine Star (Business Section Page B-1), under this decision the amount owed by the national government to the LGUs effective 1992 would reach to P1.5 trillion,” Davide added.

Dr. Ronald Mendoza, Dean of the Ateneo School of Government, for his part, read the statement of over 250 academics saying no to changing the Constitution through a constituent assembly.

Pangilinan’s Senate committee has held nine other hearings on Charter change, four of which in the cities of Cagayan de Oro, Cebu, Cotabato, and Baguio.

In this hearing, the other senators who attended were Sonny Angara, Bam Aquino, and Win Gatchalian.