About two in every three Filipinos are against amending the Constitution at this time or shifting to a federal form of government, the latest Pulse Asia survey revealed Monday.
In a survey conducted from June 15 to 21, 67 percent of the 1,800 respondents interviewed nationwide opposed changing the country’s charter immediately, 18 percent expressed support for Charter change, while the remaining 14 percent were undecided.
A majority of those polled—or 62 percent—were also opposed to switching the present unitary system to a federal system of government. Only 28 percent approved of a federal system of government, and 10 percent were undecided.
The report also found out that almost seven out of 10 Filipinos had at best a low level of knowledge about the federal system of government that is being proposed by Charter change advocates. Only 31 percent said they had an ample understanding of the issue.
The Palace said the lack of support was a consequence of insufficient information.
“We cannot expect our people to support an initiative of which they know only little about,” Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said.
He acknowledged the administration needed to work harder to spread awareness about Charter change and federalism.
“We will... exert even more effort to inform and educate our citizens about federalism since the approval of the proposed changes in our current Charter ultimately lies in the hands of the Filipino people,” Roque said.
According to the draft federal constitution, the country will be divided into several states, which will have authority over their own affairs.
These states will have the power to enact their own laws, manage their own local and regional government without intervention by the national government.
The national government will have authority over these states on matters of national citizenship, foreign affairs, national defense, currency, and commercial exchanges between the states.
Pulse Asia’s nationwide survey has a + 2 percent error margin at the 95 percent confidence level.
The poll was done on June 15 to 21, two weeks before President Rodrigo Duterte’s consultative committee submitted the draft federal constitution to his office. The proposal also had not been made public during the survey period.
Of those who said no, 30 percent said the Charter should not be amended now but could be changed sometime in the future, while 37 percent said it should not be changed “now or any other time.”
House leaders said the latest survey did not worry them and said they would launch a massive information drive to let people know about the benefits of a federal system of government.
Reps. Gwendolyn Garcia of Cebu and Rodolfo Albano of Isabela said winning support for the proposed Charter change to effect federalism is a matter of explaining the entire process to the people and explaining how it will help to change their lives for the better.
“Surveys come and go... While we take into consideration public opinion, we will focus on our work. We will not base our direction purely on surveys,” Garcia, a deputy speaker, said.
Garcia said people as yet do not realize the benefits of federalism as experienced by other countries.
Albano echoed Garcia’s view, adding that those opposing federalism “do not know anything about it.”
Albano said a massive information drive would help people to realize that a federal system of government does work.
Parañaque Rep. Gus Tambunting said “for now, it is the job of the Consultative Committee and Congress to frame the issues correctly, to provide avenues for discourse so that the people can make an informed choice. That is why this work has to continue.”
“While we acknowledge that the people would be more interested to see solutions to crime and rising prices, which are perennial concerns, government and its leadership must also be forward-looking and attempt to see a broader spectrum of solutions to our nation’s problems. At the end of the day, it is also the people who will decide the issue,” Tambunting said.
But opposition lawmaker and Akbayan Party-list Rep. Tom Villarin said the Pulse Asia survey confirmed the public’s strong opposition to the proposed shift to a federal system.
“The prevailing sentiment among Filipinos against Charter change now is a knock on the head of a stubborn Duterte administration. All surveys are consistent that a big majority do not want Charter Change.
Garcia said the House under the stewardship of Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez will continue to support federalism.
“The President, when he was still a candidate, had pushed for this shift. This is very much a part of the platform of the President,” she said.
“We are in full support of the advocacy of the President which is why we will continue to push for this shift to a federal system,” Garcia added.
Senator Grace Poe vowed to stop any railroading of Charter change by people driven only by self-interest.
Citing the latest survey, she said there is no palpable popular clamor for a new Constitution, and neither there is proof that a brand new one is a magical cure-all to the country’s manifold problems.
“As it stands now, the man on the street is perplexed on how Cha-cha can be the answer to the problems he grapples with daily, like the rising prices of food, poor infrastructure, the lack of jobs, pollution and a health system that can barely take care of the sick,” she said.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III said he will listen to what his colleagues have to say.
Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said he could be counted as “part of the 67 percent” who oppose Charter change now.
For the ordinary citizen, Senator Francis Pangilinan said Cha-cha and federalism could also be used as a pretext for cancelling elections in 2019.
“We hope they don’t test the patience of the people by forcing Cha-cha, or the administration’s approval rating may fall further and their candidates may taste defeat in the coming elections,” said the Liberal Party president.