By Chito Chavez
The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) has strongly pushed for the revision of the Constitution to support the President’s drive to thrash the society’s ills.
In relaunching its new campaign, the DILG noted the government’s goal is to address corruption, unemployment, regional income inequality and other similar sufferings affecting the citizenry.
DILG Undersecretary and spokesman Jonathan Malaya said the DILG submitted to the House Committee on Constitutional Amendments last week a set of proposed amendments to the charter to include “equality provisions” in order to address the widening gap between rich and poor regions of the country.
He said that the Inter-Agency Task Force on Federalism and Constitutional Reform chaired by DILG Secretary Eduardo M. Año has approved the “equality provisions” for submission to the House of Representatives and the Senate in its third Regular Plenary Meeting held early this month.
“The IATF which was established by the President under MC 52 has approved in the meantime a set of ‘equality provisions’ which are surgical amendments to the charter. The draft federal constitution is still under deliberation by the IATF so while there is yet no consensus on the federal constitution, the IATF is proposing these amendments to Congress as requested by Chairman Rufus Rodriguez,” Malaya said.
He explained that the DILG is still pushing for federalism but it needs to find common ground with the other member-agencies before the IATF can submit its recommendations to the President and ultimately to Congress.
Malaya said that they will be launching this month a new national advocacy campaign for “equality provision” amendments under the banner of CORE (Constitutional Reform).
Among the CORE amendments that IATF is proposing is to enshrine in the Charter the Mandanas decision of the Supreme Court where the high court ruled that the source of the Internal Revenue Allotment of LGUs should be all national taxes not only those collected by the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), thereby, increasing the funds to be given to all regions of the country.
Apart from internal revenue taxes, the SC ruled that the IRA of LGUs should include tariff and duties collected by the Bureau of Customs, 50 percent of value-added tax, 30 percent of national taxes collected in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, 60 percent of national taxes collected from the exploitation and development of national wealth, 85 percent of excise tax from tobacco products and a portion of franchise tax under Republic Acts 6631 and 6632 (Horse Racing Laws), among others.
“In addition to ensuring that the larger IRA should be cast in stone in the Constitution, the IATF is also proposing a new formula in the distribution of the IRA to LGUs. This new formula includes the needs of the LGU, level of own-revenue collection, and organizational capacity of the LGU,” he said.
The IATF is also proposing to transform the Regional Development Council (RDC) which is a purely recommendatory body into a Regional Development Authority (RDA) with powers and funds to implement projects and programs in the regional level.
“Once the RDA is established, the said body may implement programs and projects in the regional level without the need of approval from Manila,” he explained.
During the House hearing, the IATF also threw its support behind proposals to lift the restrictive economic provisions of the 1987 Constitution and open up the economy to foreign investments in order to spur economic activity and create more employment opportunities in the country.
“We support the lifting of the economic restrictions in the Constitution and allow Congress instead to regulate these industries because this will provide more economic opportunities in the regions where many of our poor countrymen live,” Malaya said.
He said the DILG’s new CORE campaign was in support of the President’s declaration that Congress should still work on amending key provisions that will enshrine economic and political reforms that address legal and political roadblocks to removing endemic corruption in government and the huge gap in the economies of the regions.
“We believe that Congress recognizes the dire need for these reforms in our Constitution so that we can realize the economic and political equality that many Filipinos desire,” the DILG official stressed.
Malaya said the government will continue the campaign for constitutional reforms as a key component of the President’s economic and political reform agenda in response to the changing needs of the people and to further strengthen the Philippine economy and national security.
“We should always remember that it [Constitution] should be a living constitution that adjusts to the times,” he said.
He said the DILG will barnstorm the country starting this month to explain and gain public support for the proposed CORE amendments. (Chito A. Chavez)