By Argyll Cyrus Geducos
Malacañang expressed that Filipinos are ready for a shift to a federal form of government, citing the overwhelming votes President Duterte received during the 2016 national elections.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque, in a press briefing in Katipunan, Zamboanga del Norte, noted how Duterte campaigned for federalism by going around the country during and even before the 2016 polls.
“[I]to’y isang plataporma ni Presidente noong siya’y tumakbo bilang Presidente. Sabi niya isusulong niya ang pederalismo, hinalal naman siya ng napakaraming Pilipino (Federalism is one the President’s platforms when he ran for office. He said he will push for it and a lot of people voted for him),” Roque said this afternoon.
“So ang tingin ko, handa na ang Pilipino sa pederalismo. Otherwise, hindi dapat nila hinalal si Presidente Duterte (So I think, Filipinos are now ready for federalism. Otherwise, they would not have elected President Duterte),” he added.
Duterte has been pushing for federalism as he thinks that decentralizing the government would equally benefit the entire country. He also said federalism will resolve the long-standing conflict in Mindanao.
However, the President earlier lamented that Filipinos seem to lack interest in a shift to a federal government. He even said he is willing to concede his proposal if the public continues to oppose the idea of revising the 1987 Constitution.
Duterte proposed for a hybrid government like Hong Kong and China, and even said that he is willing to cut his term short if federalism will be approved by 2019 or 2020.
Duterte’s proposal for a federal government has been hit by his critics, saying Duterte only wants to stay in power.
With the many proposed revisions to the 1987 Constitution, Roque reiterated that the Congress should wait for the work output of the 25-member Consultative Committee, headed by former Chief Justice Reynato Puno, tasked to review the governing law of the land.
“Kaya po binuo ng ating Presidente ang Constitutional Commission na ‘yan ay dahil nais niya na ang Kongreso should be guided by the work output of the Constitutional Commission (The President formed the consultative committee so that the Congress can be guided with its work output),” Roque said.
“So lahat po ng mga pending proposal naman for federalism, lahat po ‘yan eh open din na i-sumite sa Consultative Commission na binuo ng Presidente (So all pending proposals for federalism can be submitted to the committee),” he added.
According to Roque, Duterte decided to form the consultative committee to speed up the process of crafting the new Constitution suitable for a federal government.
“Ang nais na mangyari ng Presidente ay hayaan na itong Consultative Commission na ito na kumumpas at maghain ng mga aktwal na mga rekomendasyon sa ating Kongreso nang mapabilis naman ang proseso sa ating Kongreso (The President wanted to let the consultative committee to lead and propose actual recommendations to the Congress to speed up the process),” he said.
Meanwhile, Roque added that Filipino values should still be embodied in the new Constitution.
“I think we should not completely isolate values from the Constitution because they say that the Constitution is a living Constitution—they can also embody the values of the Filipinos as a nation,” he said.
“So I think the process of revising the Constitution also entails reiteration of values that we treasure as a people,” he added.
Barangay elections will push through
Roque also echoed the sentiment of President Duterte that the long overdue barangay elections should push through in May 2018 after being postponed twice due to the administration’s drug war.
The Palace official, however, said they are leaving the decision up to Congress as this year’s local elections would only be postponed anew if a law would be passed.
Malacañang earlier assured that the barangay elections will finally push through this year, citing Senate President Koko Pimentel’s statement that no one in the Senate is supporting any move to postpone the polls.
“While there is a pending bill in the House filed by Congressman Johnny Pimentel to suspend anew the barangay elections, Senator Pimentel declared before the audience of 4,000 that there was no support in the Senate for another postponement of the Barangay elections,” Roque said on Monday.
The barangay elections were twice postponed since Duterte took office, citing that the holding of the polls would negate the fruits of Duterte’s drug war. According to President Duterte, he fears that drug money may be used to fund the campaign of some candidates.