The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) expects strong public support for the revision of the Constitution to pave the way for a federal form of government after the consultative committee (Con-com) tasked to study the changes comes out with its recommendations.
Assistant Secretary Jonathan E. Malaya, DILG Spokesman, said the latest survey results showed that 55 percent of the respondents are open to amending the constitution. Malaya was referring to the survey conducted by Pulse Asia Research Institute Inc. from March 23 to 28.
Pulse Asia used face-to-face interviews in the survey.
Malaya, who is also the chief of the DILG’s Federalism and Constitutional Reform program, added: “If you study carefully the survey results, 23 percent said that they are open to amending the charter now, while 32 percent are open to amending the charter in the future, which means a majority actually support Charter change [Cha-cha]. Only 32 percent are strongly opposed to it now or in the future.”
At the same time, Malaya noted that it was the same in the question of changing the present unitary to federal form of government, “where 57 percent are actually in favor but differ only in the timing.”
“We should note that 27 percent said they are “in favor” while 30 percent are open to it in the future,” he said.
He viewed the results of Pulse Asia’s survey as “premature because there is no concrete proposal yet on the table, and the Con-com is still deliberating on the actual proposal of the current administration.”
“Again, questions like parliamentary vs. presidential, 12 states/regions vs. 17 states/regions, actual powers of the federal vs. regional governments, shared powers between both levels of governments, revenue sharing, unicameral or bicameral legislature and many other issues are still undergoing deliberation and have not yet been presented to the people; hence, the people cannot be expected to have sufficient knowledge of these proposals,” he pointed out.
“We have to reserve judgement until after the Puno commission finishes its work, only then can we have good debate on the actual merits of federalism,” he said.
Malaya also said the survey questions made some presumptions when respondents were given an introduction: “In a federal system, there will be several states in the Philippines with the power to enact their own laws and manage their own local or regional governments without much control or intervention by a national government. The national government will have authority over state governments only in matters relating to citizenship, foreign affairs, defense, currency and commercial exchanges between and among the nation’s states.”
He said the introduction assumed that these were the features of the proposed federal system of the administration and PDP Laban when, in fact, they are not.
“There is no “one-size-fits- all model” of federalism. Every federal country makes its own division of powers, and in the Philippines, we are developing our own bayanihan or cooperative federalism where we don’t focus on exclusive powers but on shared powers between the national and regional governments,” Malaya explained.
“The introduction given to the 1,200 respondents assumes that regional or state governments under our proposed federal system will be all-powerful entities with little or no oversight from the national government. That is a dangerous assumption because that is not the case,” he said.
As the Cha-cha conclusion is far from over, the DILG headed by Undersecretary Eduardo M. Año is confident that the public’s support for President Duterte’s agenda to transform the country into a federal form will eventually snowball once it launches its program called “Federalism Roadshow” side by side with the Con-com starting next month, Malaya said.
The DILG will hold a federalism road show because “we recognize the need to increase public awareness of the basic principles, concepts and possibilities under federalism, which is why we are launching a massive information and advocacy campaign across all the 17 regions starting next month,” Malaya added.
The road show will also serve as a consultation platform where we can hear the sentiments of the people directly, Malaya said.
The DILG will work closely with all stakeholders from local government units to civil-society organizations to the chambers of commerce and various sectoral groups, he added.
“When you change the status quo, there will always be questions and we are prepared to explain to our people why the time for change is now,” Malaya said.