ConCom member: President should fire Finance, Economic Planning chiefs if he really wants federalism

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President Rodrigo Duterte should fire two of his economic managers if he is truly for federalism, a Consultative Committee (Con-Com) member said on Thursday.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 9) — President Rodrigo Duterte should fire two of his economic managers if he is truly for federalism, a Consultative Committee (Con-Com) member said on Thursday.

Comments against charter change from Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez and Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia did not sit well with Fr. Ranhilio Aquino, who took to social media with his complaint.

"If [the President] favors federalism let him sack Dominguez and Pernia or command them to keep their traps shut," Aquino wrote in a Facebook post. "Freedom of expression does not apply to Cabinet officials in respect to policy."

 

During a Senate hearing on Wednesday regarding the budget for a transition to federalism, Dominguez admitted he was also confused and would not recommend charter change.

Pernia was also previously reported to have said federalism could "wreak havoc" on the country's fiscal situation. On July 18, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque was quick to say Malacañang had spoken to Pernia and the shift would have no adverse impact on the economy.

For Aquino, these remarks seemed to belittle the Con-Com's work and the administration's stance on charter change.

"The way things are going, Dominguez and Pernia may merely be paving the way for a subsequent Presidential announcement that 'I have been advised by my economists that federalism is as bad for our national health as smoking is to a person,'" Aquino wrote.

"If the President is now cool to federalism let him give the order to abandon the federalist ship. Then all of us fools who wrote the draft and defended it with all our might will know that we have been taken for a ride -- for a very expensive ride -- but we shall at least have the chance to abandon ship before it is scuttled!" he added.

The shift to federalism, a system that gives more autonomy to local government units, was a campaign promise of Duterte. However, its critics argue that it could be unsustainable for poor regions, empowering for political dynasties, and a way for some politicians to extend their stay in power.

Surveys show Filipinos are still against federalism, or at least they are unaware of what charter change entails. The remarks from Dominguez and Pernia also come amid rising prices of goods, and a disappointing second quarter economic growth.