Minority senators: Low approval means Filipinos don't see federalism's benefit

Patricia Lourdes Viray - Philstar.com
Minority senators: Low approval means Filipinos don't see federalism's benefit
"For the ordinary citizen, Chacha and federalism not only taste bad, they're also not useful and satisfying, and may even be poisoned by no-el and term extension," Sen. Francis Pangilian said.
Senate PRIB / Alex Nuevaespaña

MANILA, Philippines — The results of a survey on charter change show that ordinary Filipino citizens don't see the benefit of charter change in their daily lives, Sen. Francis Pangilinan said Monday.

The latest Pulse Asia survey found that 67 percent of respondents were against charter change and only 55 percent are aware of proposals to amend the constitution.

"For the ordinary citizen, Cha-cha (charter change) and federalism not only taste bad, they're also not useful and satisfying, and may even be poisoned by no-el and term extension. The people will throw up force-fed (no elections) and Cha-cha," Pangilinan said in a statement.

He noted that Filipinos struggle daily against higher prices of goods, lower value of earnings, traffic and continuing violence but do not see the potential effect of federalism on their lives.

Pangilinan warned that the Duterte administration's approval rating may further fall if they will force charter change on the people.

'No election' scenario

Sen. Franklin Drilon, also a member of the LP, shared the same sentiments particularly on the possible "no election" scenario in 2019.

"There is no one else to blame for the rising opposition against charter change but the very people advocating for it, particularly those in Congress, who muddled the issue and are planning to use charter change to suspend the election and extend their term. Postponing elections means on July 1, 2019, when terms of elected officials expire, the president can appoint 12 senators, all congressmen, all governors, all mayors, and all local officials," Drilon said in a statement.

It is unclear whether the president can indeed do that since a draft federal constitution leaves the guidelines of the transition period between constitutions to a Federal Transition Commission

House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez (Davao del Norte) has said he would prefer polls postponed so lawmakers can focus on charter change.

"How can we have quorum? Of course, congressmen will campaign – it’s elections, it’s survival," Alvarez told reporters in Filipino last week. "So how can we work on proposal to revise the constitution?"

Senate President Vicente Sotto III initially said a "no elections" scenario is possible but later clarified that the constitution must be amended if the 2019 elections are to be pushed back. 

"If the amended date will be set beyond the term of office provided by law, (members of Congress) whose terms end at noon of June 30 cannot have a holdover capacity,” Sotto said in a message sent to reporters.

"Their term of office cannot be extended as an effect of the law changing the date of the election," he added.

Heed survey results, federalism advocates told

Those who are advocating the proposed shift to federalism should take note of the latest Pulse Asia survey showing the Filipino people's opposition toward amending the charter, Drilon said.

"The fact that opposition to Charter change increased in the last quarter despite the aggressive campaign and information drive on Charter change for the past months speaks of the people's strong opposition towards amending our charter," he added.

Sen. Grace Poe, meanwhile, vowed to block any "Cha-cha express" as she takes the centrist view of conducting a thorough study on the consultative committee's draft federal constitution.

For the independent senator, the committee's draft charter should be subjected to intense debate so that the people can make an informed choice in the matter.

"A document as important as the basic law should be rigorously studied, and not railroaded. I will block any Cha-cha express, especially one driven by people with expiring terms and fuelled by selfish interest," Poe said in a statement.

She added that there is no palpable popular clamor for charter change and there is also no proof that a new constitution would solve the country's 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.

Malacañang, on the other hand, vowed to intensify its information drive following the latest survey on charter change.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque admitted that there is little awareness for the proposed shift to a federal system of government.

"We will therefore 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 in a statement.






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