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Duterte: If you don't want federalism, fine

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President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday apparently conceded that changing the country's form of government to federalism may not be realized within his term.

"If you do not want federalism, fine. But change the constitution that would really change this nation. Sabihin ko sa inyo," Duterte said in a speech before newly-elected local officials in Malacañang.

Duterte has been pushing for a shift to a federal form of government as a means to address national economic and power imbalances.

Past surveys however indicated that majority of Filipinos have little to no knowledge at all about the current 1987 Constitution and are not aware of the proposal to amend the charter.

Duterte's proposed shift from a presidential form of government to a federal system has yet to pass Congress, which is dominated by his allies, despite amendments proposed by the Consultative Committee (Con-Com) chaired by former Chief Justice Reynato Puno.

Campaign promise

A federal system of government is among Duterte's campaign promises.

In a presidential debate in February 2016, Duterte said he would offer federalism to all . . . "because nothing short will bring peace to Mindanao."

In his first State of the Nation Address in July 2016, he directed the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) to undertake a nationwide information campaign on federalism.

DILG held several "federalism summits" in cities nationwide in an advocacy campaign that aimed to bring the issue down to grassroots communities and help ordinary citizens understand the concept of federalism.

In the middle of 2018, then Communications Assistant Secretary Mocha Uson got the ire of lawmakers and ordinary citizens due to the video in which blogger Drew Olivar performed a federalism jingle while gesturing to his crotch and chest.
The widely criticized video on federalism, according to a Cabinet official, "poured very cold water on the federalism initiative."

Federal states
Several versions of the new Constitution were proposed at the House of Representatives, reaching up to floor debates.

The Senate started several hearings at the committee level.

Former Senate President Aquilino "Nene" Pimentel Jr., a longtime advocate of federalism, proposes 12 federal states, plus Metro Manila as the federal capital.

Under the federal system, the central government would be limited to a few powers like maintenance of law and order, one army, one judiciary with modifications, one educational policy, one flag, and a few other functions. All other duties of government especially on matters of development would now be a function of federal states," Pimentel told GMA News Online in 2016.

In speeches he made to universities in 2015, Duterte himself envisions at least 14 federal states, each with its own state police, while the federal government retains control of the armed forces, as well as foreign relations and finance.

Sara, economic managers oppose

Before the May 2019 midterm elections, some quarters have raised the possibility of a no-election scenario to give way for a smooth transition to a federal form of government.

This was rejected, however, by Malacanang, and with the election pushing through, the changing of the Constitution has become an issue of little consequence.

Several surveys have also come out showing that majority of Filipinos oppose federalism.

No less than Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, the president's daughter, has thumbed down the shift to a federal government, saying it would make the warlords even more powerful.

Duterte's economic managers, led by Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia had also said that federalism was not considered when the stakeholders crafted the Philippine Development Plan for 2017-2022.

Other economic managers such as the leaders in the Department of Finance and the Department of Budget and Management also share the same sentiment, Pernia had said.

The public awaits if federalism would again take center stage in the President's SONA in July, or would just be relegated to the sidelines, leaving its fate up to the next administration.—LDF, GMA News

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