Federalism a 'priority,' Palace says after economic managers criticize draft charter

Dharel Placido, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 09 2018 04:43 PM

President Rodrigo Duterte confers with Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez during a Cabinet meeting in Malacañang. Simeon Celi Jr, Presidential Photo/File

MANILA - Malacañang on Thursday urged President Rodrigo Duterte’s economic managers to come up with "alternatives" should their questions on a draft federal charter are left unanswered.

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez on Wednesday told senators he "absolutely" would not approve of federalism as presented in the draft charter by the Palace-backed Consultative Committee.

The Palace respects the views of Cabinet members but they should come up with "alternatives" to consultative committee's draft "because federalism remains a priority" of President Rodrigo Duterte, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said.

"The President, as the principal of all alter egos, has said that he is pushing for federalism. So it is incumbent upon his alter egos to find ways and means to make that happen," Roque told reporters.

"They were objecting because they have unanswered questions to the proposal made by the consultative committee. Let’s find answers. But if there will be no answers, it is incumbent upon the alter egos of the President to make what the President wants to happen a reality."

Dominguez, who was attending the Senate hearing on the 2019 national budget, said the draft constitution on federalism did not address important issues about the economy. 

"I had a long discussion with them and quite frankly, I was more confused than when I started. So, it’s good that it’s being discussed,” he said.

At a separate forum on Wednesday, Budget Sec. Benjamin Diokno said the draft charter "has so many issues," including national debt payment.

Roque, however, said debt servicing should not be an issue since "it’s a matter of working within a given budget and transferring funds from one pocket to another."

Last month, Socioeconomic Planning Sec. Ernesto Pernia was quoted in cable news channel One News warning of the possible damage the shift to federalism could inflict on the country’s fiscal position.

He cautioned about the effects of a shift to federalism on the regions that are not prepared for the transition.