Drilon counters Alvarez: Con-Ass dead without Senate

Mara Cepeda
Drilon counters Alvarez: Con-Ass dead without Senate
'Walang patutunguhan iyan kundi sementeryo,' says Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon

MANILA, Philippines – Countering Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon stressed that the House of Representatives cannot convene itself into a Constituent Assembly (Con-Ass) without senators.

Walang patutunguhan iyan kundi sementeryo (It has nowhere to go but the cemetery),” Drilon told dwIZ on Saturday, January 20.  

Alvarez earlier insisted that a Con-Ass can be formed among the district representatives only. This was after senators “unanimously” decided to reject the proposal to vote jointly in a Con-Ass. 

Drilon on Saturday stressed that the Con-Ass proposal will not reach the Senate because the Constitution says it must be acted upon by the two houses.

In the first place, he explained, if simple bills need the approval of both the House and the Senate, then the same treatment should be applied in overhauling the charter.

Kapag pinapalitan ang pangalan ng kalsada o pangalan ng high shool ay kailangan sumang-ayon ng Senado, lalo na siguro sa pag-amyenda sa Saligang Batas ay kailangan naman na sumang-ayon ang Senado sa pamamagitan ng separate voting,” Drilon said. 

(If changing the name of a road or high school requires the agreement of the Senate, then it is all the more needed when amending the Constitution through separate voting.)

Charter change has been a hot topic in the past weeks as congressional allies of President Rodrigo Duterte are focusing their efforts to pave the way for federalism in the Philippines. 

Bills proposing that incumbent lawmakers turn themselves into a Con-Ass, the body that will draft amendments to the Constitution, have been filed in both houses of Congress. 

But legislators are divided whether the House and Senate should vote jointly or separately.  

The lower chamber had already approved a resolution calling for the 17th Congress to convene in a Con-Ass, senators are still deliberating if amendments or revisions to the Constitution is needed in the first place.

IRA change over charter change?

Duterte had long been pushing for the country to switch to federalism through charter change, saying it would decentralize power and wealth away from “imperial Manila” and empower the rest of the regions. (READ: Will federalism address PH woes? Pros and cons of making the shift)

But Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto argued the budget of every town can be raised even without charter change. He said “ordinary legislation” can do the work.  

He said the government stands to lose P121.5 billion this year because of the “longstanding faulty interpretation of the rule on how the Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) shall be computed.”

The Local Government Code of 1991 mandates local government units should get a 40% share in the national governments internal revenue collection.

According to Recto, this 40% share is only taken from the Bureau of Internal Revenue’s (BIR) collections but does not include excise tax and value-added tax (VAT) collections from the Bureau of Customs (BOC).  

“This is wrong because VAT and excise taxes are classified as internal revenue, and the BOC is a mere collecting agent of the BIR, so in computing the share of LGUs in determining their IRA, BOC’s VAT and excise tax collections must be factored in,” he said.  

He explained the issue over the budgets of LGUs can be solved if Congress moves to raise the IRA shares collection rate from 40% to 50%. 

He estimated if 50% is taken from the collections of the BIR and the BOC this year, the IRA “would have been P804.9 billion, or P282.2 billion bigger than the present P522.7 billion.”

Iyang ganyang panukala na marami sa Senado at sa House, puwede pabilisin ang pag-apruba. Kaysa nagtatalo-talo tayo sa charter change, magkaisa muna tayo sa IRA change. Sa isyung ‘yan, walang debate,” said Recto.  

(There are many bills like that in the Senate and the House, and we can fast track to approve them. Instead of us debating over charter change, let’s united for IRA change first. In that issue, there would be no debates.) – Rappler.com

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.