By Genalyn Kabiling
The proposed Charter change, particularly the shift to a federal form of government, was not included in this year’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) since it is “not the proper time” to discuss it, President Duterte said Monday.
But Duterte said he will still push for a shift to a federal system of government.
“Federalism is good but there are certain things that you have to be very clear. One is that it devolves a lot of authority to the local governments, regional. It must be something like, the president – not I. But it has to have a strong president to put together the country, I suppose that it would come after me,” he said.
Should the Constitution be amended, it must be clear on the authority given to the local and governments.
He stressed that a federal system of government is “a very loose structure” where local officials have “a lot of power.”
“Kasi ang (Because) federal, it’s a very loose structure na, eh. One has a lot of power locally,” Duterte said.
“So the president will have to have to [devise?] it until such time that we have perfected it, there has to be a strong president with the same powers now. Pero ako, I’m out of it because I think that it will pass beyond my time,” he added.
As of now, the President said he prefers to tackle any proposed Charter amendment in closed-door conferences with concerned groups before presenting a “complete package” to the public.
He also said that while he supports the federalism initiative, he conceded that it might pass “beyond his time.”
“It is not the proper time to be discussing it ngayon, now. It’s better left in conferences that are not allowed to be open to the public,” Duterte said during a press conference after delivering a one-and-a-half hour SONA before a joint session of Congress.
He noted that any discussion on a single constitutional amendment will likely involve tedious deliberations on the “pros and cons.”
“Kasi ‘pag isang provision to one another, magulo, eh. Sa isang provision lang if it’s – there are a lot of complaints. A lot of pros and cons. Mahilo ka. So better, you just talk it among yourselves and present it to the public ano na, ‘yung package na – completed [If we change just one provision, there will be a lot of complaints, a lot of pros and cons. It will be complicated for you. So better just talk about it among yourselves and present it to the public if it’s already a package and completed],” he said.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said President Duterte’s silence on federalism during his SONA speaks volumes.
Drilon said non-mention of federalism, one of the President’s top campaign promises, is a strong indication that Charter change or Cha-cha, is not a priority of the Duterte administration anymore.
“What’s more telling in the President’s speech is not what he said but what he did not say. That speaks volumes,” Drilon said on Tuesday.
“For me, the non-inclusion of federalism indicates that the Cha-cha was laid to rest yesterday. The SONA became Cha-cha’s ‘final resting place,’” Drilon said.
Earlier, Malacañang said the President has left it to Congress whether or not to pursue the proposed federal form of government.
Last June, President Duterte urged lawmakers to amend the Constitution to improve the country’s situation, if they are no longer interested in pursuing federalism.
Duterte, who has long advocated for federalism to decentralize power from Manila, said it was “fine” if the lawmakers do not favor federalism. (With reports from Hannah L. Torregoza and PNA)