Wanted: A lasting legacy from Pres. Duterte
SHOOTING STRAIGHT - Bobit S. Avila (The Philippine Star) - July 25, 2019 - 12:00am

There is no question that the 4th State of the Nation Address (SONA) delivered by Pres. Rodrigo Duterte stated facts and figures that could not be disputed. Call it historic that it was the first time in Philippine political history that a President issued his SONA at the height of his popularity. Usually, the President’s popularity would nose dive after the end of the mid-term elections. But lo and behold, in the Senatorial race, not a single member of the political opposition made it to the top 12, which is quite a remarkable feat. So what we have here is a Presidency that has control over the Senate and House of Representatives, which makes him perhaps the most powerful president in this country. 

With this said, I was quite taken aback that Pres. Duterte failed to talk about the shift to federalism, which he said is key to achieving lasting peace in Mindanao. We in the Visayas voted for Pres. Duterte simply because he was the only President that sold us the idea of shifting our political system into something that the Philippines should have adopted in the 1987 Constitution. Secondly, it’s been 30 plus years since this country had its Charter changed, and the biggest reason why the 1987 Constitution was not changed was simply because the Aquino family did not want any Charter changes because it is named the Cory Constitution.

We’ve been studying all the nations and their systems of governance and the best political system in the world is a parliamentary system, which most nations have adopted and this has helped stabilize nations and improved their respective economies. The Philippines has remained with a presidential system with a weird set in the House of Representatives. Something better has to be done in order to make the Philippines look up with the rest of the nations of the world. Our Senate for instance does not give representation to the various regions that we have in this archipelago!

With regards to the issue on the shift to federalism, Pres. Duterte said the SONA is not the proper time to discuss the matter. He added that “It’s better left in conferences that are not allowed to be open to the public.” When the President was pressed if he is still pushing for federalism, the President replied: “Yes, but I said there are things which I cannot mention now. Federalism is good but there are certain things that you have to be very clear.” The President noted that federalism devolves a lot of authority to the local governments. He said the federal system has to have a strong president to put together the country.

Come now… today is the right time to ask whether we Filipinos believe that Pres. Duterte is a strong president. As I already mentioned, for a President to emerge with a very high popularity ratings after the mid-term elections, I have no doubt that we have a very strong President. But I find it unfortunate that Pres. Duterte is not pushing for federalism when he is at his peak political power. Let me say this, I don’t think the Philippines will ever get a president with a very high ratings after the mid-term elections ever again! So the least we expect from Pres. Duterte is for him to try so we would know where the problems or what issues we need to address.

I have no doubt that Pres. Duterte’s not giving any importance to Charter changes or the shift to a federal form of government has buoyed the yellowtards. Just look at what Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said, “Pres Duterte’s silence on federalism in his fourth State of the Nation Address (SONA) indicated that Charter change (Cha-cha) is no longer a priority of his administration.” Drilon added, “For me, the non-inclusion of federalism indicates that Cha-cha was laid to rest yesterday. The SONA became Cha-cha’s final resting place.”

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