As the proposal to have a federal form of government shifts into high gear following the approval of the proposed federal charter by the Constitutional Commission (ConCom), concerned state offices and agencies would do well to intensify their nationwide information dissemination campaign.
To the government belongs the task of explaining to the public the effects of having a federal government replacing the presidential system that’s been with us since time immemorial.
After all, a recent Social Weather Station (SWS) survey showed only 25 percent of Filipinos, now numbering more than 100 million, are aware of the federal system of government being pushed by the Duterte administration.
This was also the concern aired by presidential spokesperson Harry Roque as he acknowledged that with the low number of Filipinos who are aware of the federal system, the information drive that has been done so far was very deficient.
Roque encouraged government to take the necessary steps to ensure everyone will have a clear idea on how a federal system of government works and the benefits it can bring to Filipinos by balancing economic development across the country’s regions.
“Everyone in government should exert more effort in popularizing… the need to shift to a federal form of government, its advantages to the people and its effect on everyday lives of the common people,” Roque said.
The shift to the federal system of government is the cornerstone of the administration of Duterte as his promised inclusive growth was pegged on the premise that a Manila-centrist government such as the present one deprives other regions of needed support and attention.
The President, along with House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, has been saying federalism can be expected to spur development in the countryside, where majority of the poor, mostly farmers, fishermen and laborers, work and live.
Duterte also expressed the belief federalism would address the decades-old armed conflict in Mindanao which has claimed the lives of thousands of Muslims and Christians alike.
Under the ConCom’s proposal, the federal government will effect a “distribution” of state powers traditionally concentrated in the central government, noting the proposed federal Constitution envisions a “permanent and indissoluble nation” with guarantees against separation or secession.
It also has the provision the Federal Republic will be composed of 18 constituent political units called federated regions, including the previously dissolved Negros Region, the Bangsamoro and the Cordilleras.
It also suggested reforms in the political system through prohibitions on political dynasties up to the second degree of consanguinity or affinity, party-switching and the institution of the people’s power to enact or repeal laws, among other things.
It also spelled out the Philippines’ sovereign rights over the maritime expanse beyond the country’s territorial sea “to the extent reserved to it by international law.”
The draft charter likewise “strengthens” the Bill of Rights through the inclusion of socioeconomic and environmental and ecological rights and revamps the existing constitutional commissions on audit, civil service and elections, the Office of the Ombudsman, and added the Commission on Human Rights.
We believe rewriting the 1987 Constitution hinges on the greater consideration that amendments should benefit the Filipino people, notably the poor.
This is why concerned government offices and agencies must work in unison to ensure that the people are aware of their many benefits under a federal system of government.
After all, the people cannot vote in favor of federalism if they have little clue as to what benefits they can derive from it.