Action for Economic Reforms Statement on DOF Undersecretary Cielo Magno’s Resignation

On September 6, 2023, Department of Finance (DOF) Undersecretary Cielo Magno was forced to resign from her post over a supposed disagreement over the administration’s policy.

Undersecretary Magno is most professional and competent. During her stint as DOF Undersecretary, she worked for good policies, including: the reform of the military and uniformed personnel (MUP) pension regime which, according to DOF Secretary Ben Diokno, will prevent a “fiscal collapse”; reforming the mining fiscal regime not only to generate additional revenues but to clear the uncertainty that deters investments; health taxes to fund President Marcos’ food stamp program and other social protection measures; the re-entry of the Philippines into the globally prestigious Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI); and the improvement in the fiscal incentive rationalization system by adopting firm but non-dogmatic rules on the Value Added Tax (VAT).

All this translates into better economic performance and investor confidence. Thus, Undersecretary Magno’s reform effort, in line with the President’s statements and Finance Secretary’s directives, are in the best interest of the country and of the Marcos administration. 

To be sure, policy disagreements are unavoidable, and that is acceptable. Disagreements and debates, in fact, strengthen policy making and institution building. The most appropriate and robust policies arise from a process that subjects proposals and measures to deep scrutiny. Constructive criticism should be encouraged.

We believe that President Marcos Jr. welcomes such debates. In fact, he must be credited for having a diverse Cabinet, accommodating men and women associated with different political colors. After all, his campaign promise that resonated with the electorate was unity.

Thus, the accusation that Undersecretary Magno “clearly does not support the administration and its programs for nation building” and “was clearly set on maligning [the administration] to begin with” is baseless and unfair. 

Undersecretary Magno’s forced departure from the DOF means that the administration is jeopardizing and forgoing the opportunity to enact positive reforms. The administration has lost a reformer with technical expertise who can reach out to sectors with varying persuasions — politicians, investors and businessmen, people’s organizations, academics, and the international community. It has lost a reformer who has the technical grasp and the political acumen to shepherd the reforms. 

Against the backdrop of rising inflation, a ballooning fiscal deficit, and lackluster growth, the loss of good reformers makes the work at the Department of Finance all the more challenging.