President Rodrigo Duterte is not abandoning his push to shift the country into a federal system of government, the Palace said on Monday three days after the President mulled to amend a few economic provisions of the Constitution.
Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said Duterte was just expressing ideas on how to approach the push for a federal Constitution.
“Well, you know the President is a very creative person. If he feels that one method is not practical or cannot be realized, he goes to another mode. What is important to him is certain provisions in the Constitution must be amended and that is a judgment call of the Congress,” Panelo said in a Palace press briefing.
“He was just expressing an idea. And it depends how members of Congress would take it,” he added.
Asked what made the President think that it is difficult for his administration to push for federalism, Panelo said Duterte thought of the slow-moving development of Charter change in Congress.
“Perhaps what he is saying is that it takes too long for Congress to act on it. You must remember that he has been advocating for a revision of the Constitution at the inception of his presidency and Congress know that or knew that. But Congress hasn’t taken serious moves to make it a realization,” Panelo explained.
The Palace official also said the President's change of mind may have been caused by a realization that members of the Congress do not support the Duterte-backed federal constitution.
“As he tells us he is fond of shaking the trees. So, maybe he wants a reaction from those who would want to respond to his idea,” he said.
“He wants the Constitution to be amended the soonest... We have to ask Congress why it’s moving slow,” he added.
Sought for a comment on what economic provisions that the President would like to change, Panelo said Duterte wants to amend the entry of foreign investments in the country.
“He mentioned during the campaign about the entry of foreign investments; there is so much restriction. He wants to liberalize that,” he said, without particularly identifying an industry.
According to Panelo, Duterte's wanting to revise some of the economic provisions in the Constitution will “not really” affect the administration's push for federalism.
“What he is just saying is, ‘Maybe you should do this first. If you don't want to do prioritize the federalism then to do this’,” he said.
Even with Duterte's recent remarks, Panelo said the federalism idea of the President remains, expressing optimism that Congress will pass federalism before the end of his term in 2022.
“It will always be there because he believes in it,” he said.
“The President is optimistic that it will [pass] because he knows that federalism will help the development of this country. It’s a matter of time on the part of Congress who would do it,” Panelo added.
According to the Palace official, Duterte pursues federalism in order to improve governance in the local government units and accelerate economic growth and progress in the provinces.
The President has been promoting the shift to a federal form of government to address the country's economic issues, power unevenness, and armed conflicts in Mindanao, among others.
Duterte earlier announced that he would step down from his post once the proposed federal charter has been ratified. He also downplayed the efficiency of having a present unitary system of government for it has failed the Filipinos by keeping resources and power centralized.
Two months ago, in his bid to push government efforts towards charter change, Duterte has ordered the creation of an inter-agency task force that would focus on Federalism.
Under his Memorandum Circular No. 53, Duterte tasked the Inter-Agency Task Force on Federalism to integrate, harmonize, and coordinate ongoing efforts towards federalism and reform of the 1987 Constitution.
The IATF is expected to develop strategies and implement activities needed for information dissemination, emphasizing the need to conduct a public information drive and advocacy campaign for public awareness.
“The President is optimistic that it will because he knows that federalism will help the development of this country. It’s a matter of, I think time, on the part of Congress to do it,” Panelo said.
Duterte, the country’s first’ President from Mindanao, has made federalism one of his major campaign promises during the 2016 elections.
Since then, Duterte has tasked a consultative committee composed of justices, ex-legislators, lawyers, academics, among others to draft a federal charter which has been submitted to Malacañang and is now accepting public feedback. With PNA