By Ellson Quismorio
The Partido Demokratiko Pilipino’s continuing expansion in terms of membership among politicians all over the country has bolstered the administration’s push for federalism, House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said.
“Meron na lang ibang mga natitirang probinsya, yung mga hindi ko pa napupuntahan, pero yung mga respective representative nila in Congress halos PDP na rin (There are a few remaining provinces that have yet to join the fold of PDP, those that I have yet to visit. But most of their respective representatives in Congress have already joined PDP),” Alvarez said in a press briefing at Hotel Sibugay in Ipil, Zamboanga Sibugay over the weekend.
Alvarez sits as secretary-general of the PDP, and has conspicuously dropped the “LABAN (Lakas ng Bayan)” part of the ruling party’s name in recent weeks.
PDP became the country’s top political faction after its standard-bearer, former Davao City mayor Rodrigo Duterte, won the May 2016 presidential polls in landslide fashion.
Alvarez said that more or less the PDP recruitment campaign has covered the major provinces in the country.
“Hopefully ito ay makakatulong sa kampanya tungkol sa federalism. Kasi nga yung advocacy ng PDP ay talagang itong federal form of government (Hopefully, this would help in our campaign for federalism because PDP’s advocacy is to push for a federal form of government),” Alvarez said.
President Duterte is the biggest advocate for the switch to a federal system of government from the current unitary system, which has been criticized as being “overly centralized.” Alvarez is his top lieutenant in the legislature.
Shortly after the press conference, Alvarez proceeded to the Ipil Central Sports Complex and administered the oath to an estimated 5,000 new PDP members composed of local officials from the 16 municipalities, 2 districts, and 390 barangays of the province.
The PDP oathtaking coincided with the start of the celebration for the province’s 17th founding anniversary.
In his message to the new PDP members, Alvarez reiterated that federalism would allow provinces to retain most of its revenues and empower them to decide what is best for them.
No longer would provinces have to beg the central government in Manila for their just share of the national revenues, according to Alvarez. As a result, Alvarez said development opportunities would open up for the provinces.
The Speaker said he expected Charter Change (Cha-Cha) efforts–which would pave the way for federalism–to be completed within the year.
“Para yung next year, maybe first half of next year baka pwedeng magkaroon na tayo ng massive information drive doon sa mga magra-ratify sa plebisito. So kailangang maintindihan ng taong bayan kung ano ba itong Saligang Batas na ito (So that by next year, maybe the first half of next year we can probably have a massive information drive for those who would ratify this constitution in a plebiscite. It is imperative for our people to understand the features of the new federal constitution),” Alvarez said.
Reject anti-federalism bets
However Alvarez said that while the House is fully supportive of President Duterte’s advocacy for a shift to a federal form of government, some senators are opposed to the idea.
Alvarez said that while they are discussing Cha-Cha for a shift to a federal system, they are also preparing for the 2019 senatorial elections.
In his message to the new PDP members, Alvarez reiterated his call to reject senatorial candidates who would not support federalism.
On the other hand, Alvarez presented Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali, Maguindanao Rep. Sajid Mangudadatu, Davao City Rep. Karlo Nograles, and Negros Occidental Rep. Alfredo Benitez as possible senatorial candidates of the administration party.
“Hindi naman siguro ako mapapahiya sa linyada na ito (I don’t think this lineup would let me down),” Alvarez said.