MALACAÑANG on Friday, August 10, rejected a call to fire Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III and Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia for raising concerns about the proposal to shift to federalism.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque Jr., in a statement, defended the two Cabinet officials, saying their misgivings about the proposed federal form of government are merely "part of the continuing discourse."
He gave assurance that President Rodrigo Duterte, as an advocate of federalism for a long time, would make sure that his Cabinet would support his plan to establish a federal setup.
"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.
"[But] 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," he added.
Roque issued the statement in response to a social media post by Fr. Ranhilio Aquino, a member of the Consultative Committee (Con-Com) tasked to draft a federal constitution.
Aquino had urged the President to sack Dominguez and Pernia.
"We welcome the concerns of Fr. Ranhilio Aquino as a member of the Consultative Committee and acknowledge his passion and hard work in contributing to the drafting of the federal charter," Roque said.
Aquino, in a Facebook post on Thursday, August 9, called on Duterte to fire Dominguez and Pernia after the two Cabinet members raised concern over the potential fiscal risks under a federal system.
"[I]f he (Duterte) favors federalism, let him sack Dominguez and Pernia or command them to keep their traps shut," Aquino said.
"Let's stop fooling ourselves. If Dominguez, in their official capacities, speak loudly against federalism, then the question should be asked in all earnestness whether the President is for it or not," he added.
Under the Con-Com's draft federal constitution, not less than 50 percent of all national taxes will be given to the 18 federated regions.
On Wednesday, August 8, Pernia said the proposed federal government would be costly for the government, while Dominguez emphasized that the country's current investment grade credit rating status will "go to hell." (SunStar Philippines)