For the first time, President Rodrigo Duterte seemed to lose heart in campaign promise to shift the country to a federal form of government
, saying such a move was unlikely to prosper under his administration.
In a speech after the oathtaking of local officials and Hugpong ng Pagbabago-endorsed senators on Tuesday evening, the President said the movers and shakers of the country should at least amend the present Constitution if they will not support federalism.
READ: Duterte still behind push for federalism—Palace
“Really, it’s not for me [and] in my generation, [it’s for] somebody else’s,” the President said.
“But you should change the Constitution actually. Not for anything. If you do not want federalism, fine. But change the Constitution that would really change this nation. That’s what I tell you,” he added.
The shift to a federal form of government was one of Duterte’s campaign promises. The President said federalism would break the power centralization in Metro Manila, allowing other areas in the country to prosper and develop.
Serious about his promise, the Chief Executive then ordered the creation of the 22-man Consultative Committee to draft a proposed federal constitution.
However, even with the administration’s strong push to achieve federalism, a Pulse Asia survey reported that almost seven out of 10 Filipinos have, at best, a low level of understanding about President Duterte’s plan. Sixty-nine percent of those polled said they have little knowledge of the proposed federal system of government.
In the wake of the survey, the Palace created an inter-agency task force to conduct a public information drive and advocacy campaign to raise public awareness on federalism.
Earlier this month, the Palace clarified that the President was not abandoning his push for federalism, saying Duterte was just expressing ideas on how to approach the federal constitution.
Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said the Palace remained optimistic that Congress would pass a law on federalism before the end of Duterte’s term in 2022.
Duterte has been promoting the shift to a federal form of government to address the country’s economic problems, power unevenness, and armed conflicts in Mindanao.
Congress has yet to decide on Charter change proposals as several lawmakers said the Philippines is not yet ready for a federal shift, citing the lack of awareness of the electorate.
In December last year, the House of Representatives approved its version of the draft federal charter on third and final reading. The Senate has yet to pass a counterpart bill.
READ: ‘Unbundle’ federalism, Teehankee tells Duterte government