The Cabinet-level Inter-Agency Task Force on the Federalism and Constitutional Reform (IATF) led by Interior and Local Governments Secretary Eduardo Año is committed to helping President Rodrigo R. Duterte realize his dream of a federal Philippines and will work double time to inform the people of the merits of Federalism once the new Congress opens its session next month.
DILG Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya said he believes the President was merely acknowledging the dearth of knowledge and understanding among many Filipinos on the proposed shift to a federal system when he spoke about the possibility it may not happen within his term.
“The President was just being realistic. He understands that federalism is a profound change. He merely underscored the need for more information dissemination so it will gain greater public support. But it does not mean that he’s abandoning the advocacy,” he said.
Malaya noted that their studies have shown that the more people understand federalism, the more support it gains. “Thus, the DILG will relaunch the information campaign next month,” he said.
He pointed out that while the President acknowledged that support for Federalism may not be strong among the people at the moment, the Chief Executive repeatedly stressed the need for major constitutional reforms to address social ills like rampant corruption and widespread poverty among Filipinos.
Malaya said that when the President noted that Federalism may not pass yet under his presidency, he warned that the nation’s problems will worsen unless real reforms are made in our Constitution.
“Not for anything. If you do not want federalism, fine. But change the Constitution that would really change this nation,” the President stated in his speech at the oath-takinģ of recently-elected local officials in Malacañang recently.
“Thus, if you read the President’s statements closely, it is really an affirmation of the need to change the system of government from the over-centralized system of the present to a system that shares more power and resources to the region,” he said.
The IATF under the leadership of Secretary Año is now completing the review of the 1987 Constitution and rolling out an intensified information campaign to generate more knowledge and understanding of Federalism among Filipinos, Malaya said.
This was seconded by former Senate President and long-time federalism advocate Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel Sr. as he noted that the greatest challenge is explaining to the people the positive impact of Federalism on the nation.
“Siguro, sa isip ni PRRD, ang pederalismo ay hindi gaanong naiintindihan ng taumbayan at this moment. Kailangan munang ma-explain sa taumbayan bago nila tanggapin 'yan,” Pimentel said in an interview with radio station DZRH.
Malaya said the IATF led by the DILG would be ramping up its information and education campaign to get more Filipinos to understand it. The IATF will soon present its findings and recommendations to the President and ultimately to Congress.
“There is still 3 years remaining to get this done so there is time to realize his federalism vision,” Malaya noted. “The President was simply saying that if the people don't want it, then he will not railroad it. But our studies show that the more people know about the new system, the more they support it.”
Pimentel, meanwhile, said the President could be thinking that if the proposed constitutional shift to a federal system of government would not happen within his term, the strengthening of and devolution of more powers to local government units should happen.
“Palagay ko, 'yun ang tema ni President Duterte. Kung ayaw n'yo ng federalismo, at least 'yung highly centralized government system, ang ibang kapangyarihan, ibigay na sa local governments concerned,” the former Senate President noted.