Govt information drive promotes 'Federalism 101'

Christian V. Esguerra, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 22 2016 01:24 PM | Updated as of Dec 22 2016 02:29 PM

MANILA - A government-led information campaign seeks to drum up interest in communities where demand for a shift to a federal system remains "minimal," an administration official said. 

But support has been "growing" since the Department of the Interior and Local Government and other groups began detailing the proposed federal structure, said higher education commissioner Ronald Adamat, spokesman of the People's National Movement for Federalism.

"Sa ngayon minimal pa yung demand," he told ABS-CBN News during a gathering of supporters of federalism in Taguig on Wednesday. 

"We can understand that the grassroots are not really aware about the nuances of federalism. But since we know that this is good for the country, we have to push it."

The community-based information drive will run for two years while proposed changes in the constitution are tackled at the national level, said Interior Undersecretary Emily Padilla, who oversees the campaign.

FEDERALISM 101

President Rodrigo Duterte is forming a 25-man committee to study possible changes in the constitution. 

Duterte initially preferred a constitutional convention. But he later agreed on the less expensive mode of constituent assembly  where sitting legislators would introduce and deliberate on amendments.

Since September, the government has covered 15 provinces, including half of Metro Manila, explaining the "general principles" of federalism, Padilla said.

"We call it Federalism 101," she said.

Discussions include a semi-presidential federal model where the president will share powers with a prime minister, who will serve as the head of government.

DUAL EXECUTIVE

Both leaders will "complement" the other under this "dual executive" set-up, said political science professor Edmund Tayao, who is part of a group studying a proposed federal model suited for the Philippines.

The proposal includes a five-year term for subsequent presidents, who can gun for a second and final term.

Tayao said the shift to a federal system should be done "as soon as possible while there is still substantial support" for the President.

Discussing federalism during Duterte's last three years in office could give rise to speculations that it is a "ploy or a plan to prolong a sitting president's term of office," Tayao said. 

"This scale of reform and the type of reform itself already carries tremendous political weight," he told ABS-CBN News.

"The second half will always be the heightened opportunity for the opposition to escalate their attacks on the incumbent administration."