Charter change not a priority – Sotto
While mayors may have a point in seeking their “just share” of national taxes, Charter change (Cha-cha) is not among the priorities of the Senate when it resumes session, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said on Saturday.
“Although local government officials have very valid points, constitutional changes or amendments are very contentious issues,” Sotto said of the League of Municipalities of the Philippines’ (LMP) call to amend the Constitution to increase local governments’ internal revenue allotment and lift restrictions on foreign investments in unspecified industries.
The Senate leader foresees lengthy debates on these issues but the chamber has yet to approve several more immediate measures to revive an economy in recession and create new jobs for seven million Filipinos made jobless by the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
When Congress convenes for its second regular session on July 27, Sotto said senators planned to approve Senate Bill No. 1564, or the second Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, which will replace the original Bayanihan law that expired in June.
The Senate will also prioritize bills already in the period of interpellation, he said, such as the Corporate Income Tax and Incentives Rationalization Act, the proposed Expanded Solo Parents Act and the coco levy fund bill.
The Senate’s other priorities include the bill rationalizing incentives to investors and bringing down corporate income taxes, the bill providing more benefits to solo parents, the measure for the coco levy fund and the bill for the return of the Reserved Officers Training Corps.
“There are other priorities, but these are the ones that are on top of the list,” he added.
Deputy House Minority Leader and Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate, for his part, said the administration’s renewed bid to amend the 1987 Constitution showed the administration’s “misplaced priorities.”
“The obsession with Charter change shows another misplaced priority of the Duterte administration even if it has yet to fully address the COVID-19 pandemic in our country. The move for Cha-cha especially now is a waste of time, effort and the much-needed funds that should be rechanneled to fighting COVID 19,” he said.
To amend the Constitution at this time is “utterly preposterous and should be junked,” according to Zarate.
“Now they are saying that Cha-cha can give more budget to municipalities by allowing foreign ownership of businesses and a higher share in all taxes,” he said.
The Duterte administration has openly advocated a constitutional overhaul that would shift to a federal system and the Department of the Interior and Local Government even formed the Inter-Agency Task Force on Federalism and Constitutional Reform in October.
Interior Secretary Eduardo Año on Saturday pushed for the call to amend the Constitution purportedly to “institutionalize” a Supreme Court ruling on internal revenue allotments and lift foreign ownership restrictions. —WITH A REPORT FROM NESTOR CORRALES