Duterte confident Filipinos will back federalism

The Philippine Star
Duterte confident Filipinos will back federalism
In this file photo, Duterte supporters hold a rally in Quezon City in support of federalism.
The STAR / Emmanuel Tupas

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte is optimistic that Filipinos would support efforts to amend the constitution as he reiterated that he does not intend to prolong his stay in office. 

Duterte said a federal constitution would "truly embody the ideals and aspirations" of all Filipinos and create opportunities for growth. 

"I am confident that the Filipino people will stand behind us as we introduce this new fundamental law that will not only strengthen our democratic institutions, but will also create an environment where every Filipino—regardless of social status, religion, or ideology—will have an equal opportunity to grow and create a future that he or she can proudly bequeath to the succeeding generations," the president said during his third State of the Nation Address. 

The president lamented how national projects in Metro Manila have been funded, "leaving a pittance to Mindanao."

"Mindanao was dubbed as the land of promise and Mindanaoans say in the region that is so because what it got from the government through the years of promises, promises and more promises," he said.

Earlier Monday, Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez (Davao del Norte) — while speaker of the House — told the chamber that despite the achievements of Congress over the past year, it faces a bigger task, that of “dismantling” the Constitution that he said has “robbed” the rest of the Philippines of its “chance to fully realize its potential for growth and development.”

Critics of the charter change question the motives behind the proposal — Alvarez had proposed postponing elections so lawmakers could stay on and focus on amending the Constitution — and have said a change in the form of government would not work if the same officials stay in power.

"Yes, bad people are also responsible for the mess that we are presently in. But to miss the bigger picture and fail to understand the role that institutions play in the puzzle of prosperity and development for our nation will seal our fate and preserve mediocrity as status quo. We have to do something about this," Alvarez said. 

Duterte said in his SONA that four administrations before him have tried to amend the constitution but failed. 

Palace: Work needed to promote federalism

A recent survey, however, showed that charter change remains unpopular among Filipinos. 

A Pulse Asia poll conducted last June suggested that 67 percent of Filipinos are not in favor of amending the 1987 Constitution while 62 percent are against the proposed shift to a federal system of government.

In this file photo, supporters of federalism head to a rally in Manila. Philstar.com/Efigenio Toledo IV

READ: Majority of Filipinos reject charter change, shift to federal government | Pulse Asia: 6 out of 10 Filipinos oppose charter change 

Malacañang has admitted that much work has to be done to spread awareness on charter change. 

Duterte stressed that he does not seek to remain in power beyond the term allowed by the constitution. 

"I have no illusions of occupying this office one day longer than what the Constitution under which I was elected permits; or under whatever Constitution there might be," the president said. 

Duterte thanked members of the consultative committee (ConCom) for coming up with a draft federal charter.  

"I therefore consider it a distinct honor and privilege to have received earlier from the Consultative Committee that I created, the draft Federal Constitution that will truly embody the ideals and aspirations of all the Filipino people," He said. 

"I thank all the members of the committee, especially those who came out from their retirement, for their valuable services in crafting this draft Federal Constitution. I would like to extend my particular gratitude to former Chief Justice Reynato Puno and former Senate President Aquilino Pimentel, Jr.," he added.

Pimentel, one of the founders of the PDP-Laban party that Duterte chairs, is one of the most vocal and consistent proponents of a shift to federalism. Pimentel, while at the Senate, filed a bill in 2008 for a shift to a federal form of government. — Alexis Romero

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