The pursuit of constitutional reforms is not a priority of the Duterte administration as the country deals with the coronavirus pandemic, Malacañang said Monday.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the government is focused on efforts to contain the spread of the new coronavirus disease, and not on moves to introduce changes to the Constitution.
“Linggo-linggo nakikipag-usap naman ang Pangulo sa ating taumbayan at hindi po lumulutang ang Charter change bilang isang prayoridad (The President talks to the people every week and Charter change was never brought up as a priority),” Roque said during a Palace press briefing.
“Nakatutok ngayon ang President ang buong national government sa pamamagitan ng IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force for the Emerging Infectious Diseases) dito po sa problema ng COVID-19 so hindi priyoridad ang Charter change (The President and the entire national government through the IATF are focused on the problem of COVID-19. Charter change is not a priority),” he added.
Roque said they hope the League of Municipalities of the Philippines (LMP) would “understand” the government’s position on the matter. He admitted that he personally sympathizes with the mayors in seeking greater internal revenue allotment to improve public service.
The LMP led by its president Narvacan, Ilocos Sur Mayor Luis Singson recently issued a resolution expressing support for the proposed amendments to the Constitution.
The group has called for institutionalization of the “Mandanas Ruling” of the Supreme Court in the Constitution in a bid to get its fair share of taxes collected by the national government and help spur progress in the regions. It also backed the proposed lifting of constitutional restrictions on foreign investment in industries currently limited to Filipinos.
Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año has reportedly welcomed the LMP’s support for the proposed constitutional reforms to promote regional development. He said the municipal mayors have recognized the “greater need for regional development, particularly in terms of health infrastructure, facilities, and equipment, especially now that we are in the middle of a health crisis.”
In 2018, the President created a task force to raise awareness about the proposed federalism and constitutional reforms.
The President has long advocated for a shift to a federal form of government to decentralize power from Manila and spur development in the countryside but last year conceded that federalism might pass beyond his time.