Vilma Santos: Grant local government more share in national revenue

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 23) — Batangas representative Vilma Santos-Recto keeps an open mind on federalism, but says she prefers to strengthen local governments through increasing budgets for the compensation and benefits of their employees.

Santos is championing House Bill 2613, or the Equal Income Sharing Act of 2016, which allows local government units (LGUs) to have a 50 percent share from national internal revenue taxes. The share is "based on the collection of the third fiscal year preceding the current fiscal year," as provided by the Local Government Code of 1991.

At present, 40 percent of the internal revenue allotment (IRA) goes to local government operations — but Santos maintains this is not enough, particularly for districts that are hard-up.

"Sana magawa man lang 50 [percent]. Kung magagawa nga 'yung 60, why not? Papaano yung mga fifth class municipalities or provinces? 'Pag wala na yung IRA, wala na silang magawa. Walang pera," Santos, 63, told CNN Philippines' The Source on Tuesday.

(Translation: I hope we can make it 50 [percent]. If we can up it to 60, why not? What about fifth class municipalities or provinces? If there is no IRA, they can't do anything. They won't have money.)

House Bill 2613 provides that the 10 percent increase may be used for "the payment of compensation, allowances, emoluments, and other privileges such as social security benefits of barangay officials and volunteer workers."

When asked her thoughts on the federal system pushed by President Rodrigo Duterte's administration, Santos responded that she was hoping instead for a strengthening of the Local Government Code, also known as Republic Act 7160.

"Kung meron man siguro dapat tulungan or i-mend para ikalalakas pa at mas makatulong sa mga [local government units]... ang i-amend natin at ayusin, yung local government code," she added.

(Translation: If there is something we must do to help and strengthen LGUs... we should amend and fix the Local Government Code.)

The actress and politician clarified that she was not against federalism, and she was "willing to listen [to the] debate" on the issue.

Santos is also pushing for House Bill 2614, which amends a provision for revenue allocation in the Local Government Code. No definition of the national internal revenue taxes was provided under the 1991 law.

In her proposal, she defines the national internal revenue taxes to which the LGU are entitled to include "income tax, estate and donor's taxes, value-added tax, other percentage taxes, excise taxes, documentary stamp taxes, and such other taxes collected by the Bureau of Internal Revenue; and value-added tax and excise taxes on imported goods collected by the Bureau of Customs."

In the explanatory note of H.B. 2614, Santos said that the 40 percent allotment only included collections from the Bureau of Internal Revenue. But she said collections from the Bureau of Customs qualified as "national internal revenue taxes." Including these revenues will "give the LGUs their just share."

She added that she hoped her colleagues in Congress would support the bill, given that most also have experience in local government.

Santos has been in show business since she was nine. She then entered public service, running for mayor of Lipa in Batangas in 1998 and governor of Batangas in 2007, before her term as a congresswoman began last year.