AMID the issue of constitutional amendments to change the current form of government, Mayor Joseph E. Estrada said he supports the move of the League of Municipalities of the Philippines (LMP) to make federalism happen during their three-day 2nd General Assembly, themed “Pederalismo: Ngayon Na!” at the Manila Hotel.
In his welcome address, Estrada said he supports the federal system because he has a full grasp of problems besetting a local chief executive.
“I had nearly two decades of experience in leading the now-progressive city of San Juan. I really know the problems you are facing since I also had to deal with that for almost two decades,” he told his colleagues, who were present during the conclave that will run until today, Wednesday.
The 1,400 members of the LMP, led by its president Mayor Maria Fe Villar-Brondial, revealed that they will issue an official statement urging Congress to prioritize changes in the 1987 Constitution for a shift to a federal form of government.
Since his presidency in 1998, Estrada said he has been backing up this effort to empower local government units (LGUs).
“I can recall that in August 2000, I even made the following announcement: ‘The local chief executives must be the shepherds who must lead their communities towards a better future,’” he said.
The mayor added that he issued that statement, following a decision of the Supreme Court concerning the internal revenue allotment, a mandatory allocation that is due to all LGUs.
“I believed it then, and believe it now: We are the leaders who will guide our communities toward a brighter tomorrow. It will only become a reality if the funds for our communities will be given as it should be,” he said.
Estrada said he firmly trusts that federalism will happen under President Duterte, whom, he said, completely understands local chief executives’ concerns. The latter had been a mayor of Davao City for 23 years. During the presidential elections of 2016, he campaigned for federalism, saying that it is the only way to turn around the supposedly defective system in place.
In this government setup, the local resources are with the federal states. How it works, Duterte previously explained that “if it is P100, you get P30, give it to the federal government, you retain P70.”
According to Estrada, “there’s finally light at the end of the tunnel” toward federalism. He, however, advised the delegates to be cautious in the discussion and debates concerning the shift from presidential to a federal type of government.
“But with President Duterte’s firm grasp of the situation—our situation—then there is every reason to hope that indeed change is coming,” the Manila mayor said.
The 2nd General Assembly of LMP delves into the problem of unfair distribution of funds between the nation and local governments. President Duterte was invited to speak on Tuesday.