MANILA - Local executives spent much of their assembly Thursday afternoon listening to members of President Rodrigo Duterte’s consultative committee courting their support for federalism.
But one of them stood up and asked that which the rest seemed to have been reluctant to discuss: postponing the 2019 elections.
"If we will not talk about a no-election (scenario), all politicians now in the local level will be very busy aligning and realigning for the elections next year. It is the truth," said Oriental Mindoro Vice Gov. Humerlito Dolor to the applause of other members of the Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines.
With the next elections out of their minds in the meantime, local officials can "rally the people to understand where we are going" with federalism, he added.
The committee headed by former Chief Justice Reynato Puno is set to begin work on Feb. 19, hoping to have a new federal constitution for the president’s endorsement to Congress during his State of the Nation Address on July 23.
But the consultative body had been reluctant to discuss the possibility of deferring the mid-term polls, preferring to tackle the more substantive issues on the federalsim debate.
"Let us be open to the discussion," said Dolor
A no-election scenario earlier floated by some congressional leaders triggered suspicions that they wanted to revise the constitution only for their personal benefit.
ULAP, an umbrella organization of local elective officials, earlier passed a resolution supporting Duterte’s planned federal shift.
"You will be at the front and center of this reform process," political science professor Julio Teehankee, a member of the consultative committee, told the group.
"It’s important for your voice to be heard in this process."
The Department of the Interior and Local Government will help spread information on federalism and explain the output of the Puno committee later during nationwide consultations, said Assistant Secretary Jonathan Malaya.
"We have reached the limit of what decentralization can offer," he said.