A stronger push for Federalism

The serious push for federalism has to happen now. Else, it may never prosper in our lifetime.

The pursuit of federalism was one of the anchoring points of President Rodrigo Duterte's campaign in 2016. However, the President's high political capital has not translated into substantial awareness and support for federalism as shown in recent polls.

In a recently conducted survey by the Social Weather Stations (SWS) from 23 to 27 March 2018, only 1 in every 4 Filipinos are aware of federalism. Of the total number of survey respondents, only 37% are agreeable to a federal system, while 29% are disagreeable. Although the Department of Interior and Local Government’s Center for Federalism and Constitutional Reform has intensified its public information and education drive on federalism, much is left to be desired in terms of creating a national consciousness and discussion on the need for federalism.

Public clamor is essential in any policy/programmatic initiative. While there is a recognition of the current institutional frailties in the 1987 Philippine Constitution among many political experts, the proposed constitutional reforms have not been properly dissected for the public's consumption. Ordinary Filipinos remain skeptical on the impact of federalism on prices of basic services/commodities, poverty & unemployment and government efficiency. Without a clear understanding of federalism, people will not rally behind this critical proposal, even as the President has thrown his 100% support behind it.

There is also a lack of consolidation among federalism advocacy groups and organizations in the promotion of federalism. New federalism groups, created by personalities with vested interests, have sprung from nowhere and have used the cause for financial gain or political favors. Moreover, alliances on federalism have been short-lived due to the clashing egos of political figures for credit and power.

The President has about four years left in his term, but only about one to two years to facilitate the transition to a federal system of government. The recently launched DILG federalism roadshow needs to cover as many barangays, provinces and regions if the administration is intent on pursuing charter change and federalism within 2018.

Political events and circumstances will also have an effect on the federalism initiative. By 4th quarter of 2018, incumbent LGU officials and some Senators will be pre-occupied with their own campaigns for the Midterm Elections. By middle of 2019, the President will have completed the first half of his term.

The time is ticking for federalism and its advocates. It requires unity, collaboration and lesser pride from all stakeholders to get things done, given the President's marching orders. Equally important, the federalism advocacy should be well-understood and received by our people to generate the needed clamor.

The serious push for federalism has to happen now. Else, it may never prosper in our lifetime.

About the Author
Mr. Aaron Benedict De Leon is currently a Business Development Practitioner in a private consulting firm. He has more than six years of professional experience in leading and managing political and non-government organizations, specializing in organizational management, policy development and program management. He has had stints with notable political/socio-civic organizations, serving in various capacities as: Secretary-General of the Centrist Democratic Party of the Philippines (CDP) [2013-2015], Founding Chairperson of the Centrist Democratic Youth Association of the Philippines (CDYAP) [2012-2014], Philippine Representative to the International Young Democrat Union (IYDU) [2011-2012], Chairperson of the Christian Democratic Youth [2011-2012], Secretary-General of YOUTH Philippines [2010-2011], and Spokesperson/Communications Director of the GT2010 Gilbert Teodoro Presidential Campaign [2009-2010].
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