The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) is confident that support for federalism will rise once the Consultative Commission appointed by President Duterte wraps up its work and submits its recommendations to the people in July this year.
Reacting to the survey results released yesterday by Pulse Asia, DILG Assistant Secretary Jonathan Malaya, head of the DILG’s Federalism and Constitutional Reform program, said that the survey results actually show that 55% of the 1,200 respondents are open to amending the constitution but simply differ on the matter of timing.
“If you study carefully the survey results, 23% said that they are open to amending the charter now while 32% are open to amending the charter in the future, which means a majority actually support charter change. Only 32% are strongly opposed to it now or in the future,” he said.
Malaya also said that it was the same in the question of changing the present unitary to federal where 57% are actually in favor but differ only in the timing. “We should note that 27% said they are “in favor” while 30% are open to it in the future,” he said.
He said that he finds the survey results premature because there is no concrete proposal yet on the table because the Consultative Commission is still deliberating on the actual proposal of the current administration.
“Again, questions like parliamentary vs. presidential, 12 states/regions vs. 17 states/regions, actual powers of the federal vs. regional governments, shared powers between both levels of governments, revenue sharing, unicameral or bicameral legislature, and many other issues are still undergoing deliberation and have not yet been presented to the people; hence, the people cannot be expected to have sufficient knowledge of these proposals,” he pointed out.
“We have to reserve judgement until after the Chief Justice Puno’s commission finishes its work, only then can we debate on the actual merits of federalism,” he said.
Malaya also said that the survey questions made some presumptions when respondents were given an introduction: “In a federal system, there will be several states in the Philippines with the power to enact their own laws and manage their own local or regional governments without much control or intervention by a national government. The national government will have authority over state governments only in matters relating to citizenship, foreign affairs, defense, currency, and commercial exchanges between and among the nation’s states.”
He said that the introduction assumed that these were the features of the proposed federal system of the administration and PDP Laban when in fact it is not. “There is no “one size fits all model” of federalism. Every federal country makes its own division of powers and in the Philippines we are developing our own “Bayanihan” or cooperative federalism where we don’t focus on exclusive powers but on shared powers between the national and regional governments,” he explained.
“The introduction given to the 1,200 respondents assumes that regional or state governments under our proposed federal system will be all-powerful entities with little or no oversight from the national government. That is a dangerous assumption because that is not the case,” he said.
Nonetheless, the DILG Spokesperson is confident that support for federalism will snowball once the Department launches its Federalism Roadshow program together with the Consultative Commission starting next month.
“We recognize the need to increase public awareness of the basic principles, concepts, and possibilities under federalism which is why we are launching a massive information and advocacy campaign across all the 17 regions starting next month. The roadshow will also serve as a consultation platform where we can hear the sentiments of the people directly,” he said.
Malaya said that they will be working closely with all stakeholders from local government units to civil society organizations to chambers of commerce to sectoral groups. “When you change the status quo, there will always be questions and we are prepared to explain to our people why the time for change is now,” he said.