No hearings this year on constitutional amendments: Rodriguez

No hearings this year on constitutional amendments: Rodriguez

MANILA – There will be no discussions on the proposed amendments to the 1987 Constitution this year amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic, chairman of the House Committee on Constitutional Amendments said on Thursday.

Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez said the hearings on the proposed constitutional amendments will be held next year to give the House enough time for the passage of measures relating to the government’s Covid-19 response efforts and the proposed PHP4.506-trillion national budget for 2021.

“The Committee on Constitutional Amendments, following the Speaker’s suggestion, will meet in January or February next year,” Rodriguez said. “We have to concentrate on the measures against Covid-19 and the 2021 proposed budget.”

In July, Rodriguez said he would call for a virtual committee meeting after Congress opens its second regular session to discuss the proposed constitutional reforms of over 1,400 mayors from the League of Municipalities of the Philippines.

The proposed amendments include the institutionalization of the so-called Mandanas ruling of the Supreme Court on internal revenue allotments (IRA) of local government units (LGUs) and the lifting of restrictions on foreign investment in businesses currently limited to Filipinos.

Rodriguez has instead filed a measure to reflect the recent Mandanas ruling on IRA by amending Republic Act No. 7160, otherwise known as the Local Government Code.

The measure seeks to increase the share of provinces, cities, towns, and barangays from taxes collected by the national government.

“At this time of a prolonged Covid-19 pandemic, more than any time in history, our LGUs need more funds to take care of the health and economic needs of their constituents. The resources of the LGUs are fast drying up because of this pandemic”, he said.

In the Mandanas ruling, he said the Supreme Court declared the phrase “internal revenue” in the code as “unconstitutional and ordered it deleted from the law along with other references to the same.”

“It basically ruled that all references to ‘internal revenue’ in connection with the computation of IRA are unconstitutional. The ruling therefore widened the base amounts for computing IRA,” he said.

He added that the Department of Finance (DOF) had limited the share of LGUs from national taxes to levies collected by the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR).

“With the high court’s ruling and the eventual enactment of Bill 7430, LGUs throughout the country will have more money for development purposes,” Rodriguez stressed.

Under the bill, national taxes to be used as base for computing IRA shall include but not be limited to the following:

–National internal revenue taxes enumerated in Section 21 of the National Internal Revenue Code collected by the BIR and the Bureau of Customs;

–Tariff and customs duties collected by the Bureau of Customs;

–Fifty percent of value added taxes in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Muslim Region in Mindanao and 30 percent of all other national taxes collected in such region;

–Sixty percent of all national taxes raised from the exploitation and development of the national wealth;

–Eighty-five percent of excise taxes from locally manufactured Virginia-type cigarettes and other tobacco products; and

–Five percent of the 25-franchise tax on horse races. (PNA)

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