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Tough convincing for fed shift

Ninez Cacho-Olivares



Filipinos like electing directly their president.

Convincing Filipinos to embrace federalism is going to be a hard climb for the Consultative Commission (ConCom) officials and members, with a recent Pulse Asia survey saying that a majority of Filipinos have thumbed down the proposed shift to a federal system of government at this time.

The same survey found that only two out of 10 Filipinos agree that the 1987 Constitution should be revised at this time.

The poll results showed that 62 percent don’t want the present unitary system of government changed to a federal system for now.

However, some 56 percent said they do not object to a shift to federalism in the future.
Pulse Asia said it conducted the survey around the time the ConCom started its regional consultations which was sometime in February or five months ago.

By this time, it is expected that with media reporting on the federalism shift, a lot more Filipinos would be more aware of the drive by the ConCom, as well as Malacañang and the House of Representatives’ push for the shift along with majority of the Senate members rejection of Charter change.

Apparently, Filipinos are now more aware of the move of Congress for the federalism shift.

The survey also mentioned that despite this rise in awareness among Filipinos, there is still a small number who are “knowledgeable about the federal system of government being proposed by the administration.”

Awareness of the proposed shift appears to be growing among Filipinos with the survey showing that a majority or 69 percent said they know little or nothing about the proposed federal system of government.

In March, 71 percent of Filipinos said they had little or no knowledge of the proposed systems shift.

Pulse Asia found that 55 percent or more than half of Filipinos are knowledgeable on the federalism move which Pulse said is a six percentage point increase from the March figure of 49 percent.

It really will be rough going for the pro-federalism congressmen and senators, and even Malacañang, to convince more of the electorate to go for the shift to federalism.

The problem really is that the change from a unitary system of government with which Filipinos are comfortable and is about the only government system they have known for generations, is that the federalism shift is too soon and too drastic for the majority of the electorate to accept, especially since federalism is alien to the Filipinos who prefer direct voting for the presidents and senators.

Even some provincial officials such as, say, governors and mayors, wouldn’t be too happy with a federal system as their chances of being elected would be difficult. This is because the formed state will cover not just one other province but several, which means the incumbents today may not be elected, as they may not be known by a different and bigger electorate in the formed state. Their victory may be difficult to be obtained.

Apart from this is the fact that Filipinos like electing directly their president while under a parliamentary form of government, and if a pure parliamentary system accompanies federalism, the prime minster will not be directly by the people, but elected by the parliamentarians — something alien to the Filipinos who love direct elections.

Besides, under a parliamentary system of government, what can be expected is a Cabinet government, which means the Cabinet will be made up of politicians elected as parliamentarians, which can mean that technocrats and experts who have no chance of being popularly elected by Filipinos will be missing from the Cabinet. That also means a brain drain of experts once a purely political Cabinet gets into the picture. Filipinos should be ready for amendments to the Constitution.

There is also talk of a people’s initiative in getting the 1987 Constitution amended. This may not work either, unless guidelines are prepared by the two houses of Congress, following the rejection of two people’s initiative mode, which were rejected by the Supreme Court. The first one was tried under the Ramos regime and the other under the Arroyo regime.

Both were thumbed down by the High Court.

A few steps at a time in shifting systems can lead to the federalism shift and timed when the electorate is ready to embrace federalism.

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