Press Release
January 27, 2021

Pia on Charter Change proposals: First step to economic reform is to pass CREATE
Highlights of Senator Pia S. Cayetano's manifestation at the hearing of the Senate Committee on Constitutional Amendments

Economic reforms and delays in CREATE

Senator Pia S. Cayetano (SPSC): I totally agree with Sen. Grace Poe's statement about the work that has been done [by the Senate] on economic provisions.

The lady has spearheaded AMLA, and on FIST, we have moved that forward. And as she pointed out, it is this representation that spearheaded CREATE. And so I echo in a way what I am hearing from her that when we passed CREATE - and this was the latter part of November, November 26, to be exact - the House had already passed their version of CITIRA.

And that whole time, they had, through my counterpart in the House, the Chairperson, Congressman Joey Salceda, manifested that they would be adopting the Senate version because they know that we have had numerous and very lengthy debates, and included all sectors in the preparation of the finalization of this bill. So it's been two months, dear colleagues.

I've said this on the floor. But now that we have our esteemed resource persons here, I feel like this should be part of the record that it's taken two months. Two months [have passed] and the House has not been able to... they decided not to adopt the Senate version. And I actually received informally a 57-page matrix of the changes they want in CREATE. I can just imagine what these economic provisions are going to be about. I mean, seriously? A 57-page matrix on the changes in CREATE? That, I think, all my colleagues will be able to stand by the fact na hinimay naman natin nang todo-todo yun [CREATE Bill].

So that is the reality that [we face] as pointed out by Sen. Grace. And I wanted to put that on the table so that we are aware of this reality.

One last point I want to raise. Yesterday, they said that they would be amenable to reducing it to 3 items, because the Senate has pretty much taken a stand na sobra na yan... This is what's gonna go on. So I just wanted to share that, Mr. Chair. And thank you, Senator Grace.

On the passage of CREATE bill

SPSC: I just wanted to emphasize that I first heard, and we were actually still on Christmas break, [that the House] was going to proceed with the hearings on the proposed revisions of the economic provisions [in the Constitution]. Honestly, the first thought that entered my mind, and of course the basis for that is to uplift the lives of the Filipinos [by making] business easier to transact in the Philippines, invite foreign investors, etc.

But I need to put on record that the first step there would have been CREATE. If that is the objective, the first thing that could have been done was to pass CREATE. We have all the support, not just from the finance team, the economic team of the government, but also from the foreign chambers, that they now support the version of CREATE. So that would have been the first step.

So, it's not for me to judge what the objectives of the House [were], but if that was the objective, to improve the economic conditions [for our people], then this is what would have happened. And it could have happened right away.

Because for the information of those just tuning in, corporate income tax could have dropped immediately from 30 to 25 percent, and for SMEs earning less than P5 million, 20 percent. How much better does it get than that? And for foreign investors, we've broadened [and] we've clarified the incentives that are available to them.

I think most of our colleagues are quite happy with the more liberal and generous incentives that we've provided, which are competitive with our Asian neighbors. So that really would have been the easy step. So I cannot help but wonder, if that is the objective, then why could this [CREATE] first not be taken [up]?

On voting separately

SPSC: Having said that, anyone who wants to react, Mr. Chair, can react. I am just tossing it all out there.

Going back to the statements of our esteemed resource persons, I noted earlier that Justice Mendoza did specifically state that for the record, what was contemplated by the Commissioners at that time was a unicameral system. And so, when this was changed in the end, very simply put - and these are my words, not his - some amendments to certain provisions were not made.

Mr. Chair, all of us as legislators can understand that. The TRAIN law, the CREATE law, andaming housekeeping niyan. It's one provision that affects so many others. So, did I hear it clearly... Very simply put, it was overlooked, to clarify... that it should have been voting separately when we shifted, when the draft shifted from a unicam back to a bicam scenario? Is that what you said... And in all likelihood, certain provisions were not amended? But I don't want to put words in your mouth, so I wanna hear it from you.

(Note: Justice Mendoza replied it would be prudent to discuss the major issues jointly; he said there are 5 provisions in the Constitution, which require Congress to meet jointly and separately vote; he said it is not an error but merely an oversight.)

SPSC: I was just saying thank you to my former professor. I continue to learn a lot from his wisdom... I have very fond memories of being in his class and I am so happy to see him here today.

That's actually what I wanted to point out. I think any of us who has defended a complex bill, and sometimes, it's not even that complex, and yet [audio cut] belatedly our staff will remind us that, "Sir/Ma'am kailangan palitan ninyo ito para consistent doon sa mga una." That happens to me so often. That's why a bill like CREATE, we needed so much time to do the housekeeping, because there were so many interrelated provisions on basically, the National Internal Revenue Code.

So my point is similar to what Justice Mendoza was making, that there was an oversight here, but we can be guided by what was the intention, and what was it that we [audio cut] in the drafting of the Constitution as a whole.

My personal takeaway is that I don't have any strong feelings about sitting jointly or separately. But I was listening carefully to Justice Mendoza about... going through the debates together. I have no issue [with] that. In fact, we end up repealing the [audio cut].

My colleagues and I all know that when we have an important bill, separate hearings move on almost simultaneously. Sometimes, our resource persons will say they are not available today because they are in the House. So I personally have no major issue with that. To me, it's really a matter of efficiency. But on the voting separately, of course, we are two separate houses. Then I feel strongly that that should have always been the interpretation.

And I think Sen. Kiko and I had our [audio cut] on this issue also. And I wanted to end by saying that perhaps, the CommSec can take a look at... I am not sure, it could have been Sen. Miriam [Defensor-Santiago], can you recall? I think she had hearings on this also. But I am sure the CommSec has records also of various resource persons who attended.

That's all. Thank you very much.

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