Marcos’ priority bills could face difficulties, even with a ‘supermajority’ in Congress

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PRESIDENT Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. delivered his first State of the Nation Address during the Joint Session of the 19th Congress at the House of Representatives, Batasan Complex, Quezon City, July 25. — PHILIPPINE STAR/KRIZ JOHN ROZALES

By Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza, Journalist

Speaker Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. may have the support of the “supermajority” in Congress, but that does not guarantee lawmakers will immediately pass his priority economic bills, analysts said.

Mr. Marcos, in his State of the Nation Address (SONA) last month, identified 19 priority measures, including a national government right-sizing program, a digital transactions tax and amendments to the Data Protection Act. reform of the electric power industry (EPIRA) and construction-operation. – Transfer Act (BOT).

“Supermajorities may be overwhelming, but they may not mean instant legislation. What is essential is public support for the president,” said Robert John R. Go, professor of political science at the University of the Philippines (UP), in a Messenger chat. “A popular president can guide Congress to pass priority measures.”

A “supermajority” elected Leyte Representative Martin G. Romualdez, a cousin of Mr. Marcos, as Speaker of the House of Representatives. He is the president of Lakas-CMD, but received the support of the Nacionalista Party, the Nationalist Popular Coalition, the PDP-Laban, the National Unity Party and Hugpong ng Pagbabago for his candidacy for the presidency.

In the Senate, only Senators Aquilino Martin “Koko” Pimentel III and Ana Theresia “Risa” Hontiveros-Baraquel are considered to be in the minority, while Senators Alan Peter S. Cayetano and Pilar Juliana “Pia” S. Cayetano declared themselves independents.

“The small number of minority lawmakers is going to make things easier for Marcos,” said Leonardo A. Lanzona, who teaches economics at Ateneo de Manila University, though he noted that “the so-called ‘supermajority’ is more fragmented” than during the previous administration.

But even though the majority of senators sided with Mr. Marcos, UP’s Mr. Go noted that economic bills generally face stricter scrutiny from the Senate.

“The Senate supermajority will not automatically translate into quick approval. Expect more debate there than in the other chamber,” he said.

Renato E. Reside, Jr., an associate professor at the UP School of Economics, said lawmakers and their constituents have widely varying interests, which would likely complicate deliberations on economic measures.

“Developing legislation is about assessing the tradeffis trying to figure out the bill everyone can live with,” he said in a Messenger chat.

In his SONA, Marcos called on lawmakers to pass a bill that would impose a value-added tax (VAT) on digital service providers, which he said would generate around 11.7 billion pesos in revenue. in 2023.

UP’s Mr Go said tax bills typically face difficulties in Congress because they impose an “additional financial burden” on citizens.

Maria Ela L. Atienza, who also teaches political science at UP, said economic bills that involve imposing new taxes are usually presented as “beneficial” to win popular support.

“Economic bills affect taxpayers. Thus, any measure must be conditioned to be considered beneficial. Economic difficulties and corruption and bribery issues affect the fate of these bills,” she said in a Viber message.

Mr Marcos’ priority bills also include the last two remaining tax reform packages from the Duterte administration – the Real Estate Valuation and Valuation Reform Act and the Income Tax Act. liabilities and financial intermediaries.

The tax reform packages were approved by the House of Representatives during the 18e Congress, but failed to fetter the Senate.

CHALLENGES
Meanwhile, the government has limited Ifscal space, the ongoing pandemic, the rise inflation, high unemployment and a possible economic slowdown could force Mr. Marcos to change his economic legislative program.

“Economic circumstances around the world have become much more difficult than in 2016,” UP’s Mr. Reside said, referring to the challenges faced by Rodrigo R. Duterte when he assumed the presidency.

“In the case of President Marcos, there are more interests to take into account and less money to spend, which makes him more difficult to get its economic bills passed,” said Mr. Lanzona of Ateneo.

He said that the National Land Use Bill, Government Financial Institutions UniIfed Initiatives to Distressed Enterprises for Economic Recovery (GUIDE) Act and amendments to the BOT Act would likely face challenges in Congress since “some members of the coalition have interests in real estate, Ifnance, and construction which may be in confltic with these laws.

Mr Lazona said there could also be a lack of support among lawmakers for the proposed EPIRA law amendment.

Terry L. Ridon, a former lawmaker, expressed doubts that priority bills “affecting entrenched business interests” would pass Congress.

“It is not surprising that until today the Land Use Bill has never been enacted, as commercial interests with close political ties have always rejected the limitation of land use land,” he said via Messenger. “The same is true of the EPIRA amendments, as energy companies with political allies in Congress will certainly ensure that the government’s regulatory powers are further limited.”

Marcos is also pushing for amendments to EPIRA, which have led to the privatization of the country’s energy industry.

Go, meanwhile, hopes Malacañang will coordinate better with Congress through the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council to avoid presidential vetoes.

“More vetoed bills mean wasted legislative time,” he said.

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