MALACAÑANG yesterday said it views the misgivings of some economic managers about the federal system of government as proposed by the Consultative Committee (Con-com) as part of the “continuing discourse” on the issue.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque issued the statement after Fr. Ranhilio Aquino, a member of the Con-com, on Thursday urged President Rodrigo Duterte to fire Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III and Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia if he was serious in pushing a new system of government.
Aquino, dean of the San Beda Graduate School of Law, expressed concern that Dominguez and Pernia could only be paving the way for a subsequent presidential announcement that he, Duterte, had been advised by his economic managers that federalism was not good for the economy.
Roque said they welcomed Aquino’s concerns and acknowledged “his passion and hard work in contributing to the drafting of the federal charter.”
“The President, as we all know, has long been an advocate of federalism and his policy has always been one of inclusive participation of various groups and sectors,” the Palace official said.
“We view the differences of opinion on federalism as part of the continuing discourse, even among members of the President’s official family, which the Chief Executive encourages to thresh out possible contentious issues.”
Roque’s statement was silent on the call of Aquino for the President to fire Dominguez and Pernia.
Dominguez, meanwhile, said he respects Aquino’s call “but we believe that such attitude would not enrich the level of discourse on the proposed constitution.”
Last month, Pernia said in an interview on One News Channel it was unlikely that the regions would be ready for federalism and warned the momentum of infrastructure improvement in the regions would be disrupted.
He added that financing a federal setup could raise the fiscal deficit to six percent of the country’s gross domestic product, nearly double the target deficit cap of 3.2 percent for 2019 by the inter-agency Development Budget Coordination Committee.
At a Senate hearing, Dominguez indicated that it was not clear in the proposed federal constitution which entity would pay for the national debt and spend for the military, for the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Central Bank.
Aquino, however, said freedom of expression did not apply to Cabinet officials “in respect to policy.”
Roque has said that Duterte was pushing through with the proposed shift to a federal government despite the misgivings raised by his economic managers.