Drilon: Federalism skipped in SONA means time to stop it

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 23 2019 08:10 AM | Updated as of Jul 23 2019 08:30 AM

President Duterte delivers his State of the Nation Address (SONA) at the House of Representatives in Quezon City on July 22, 2019. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA -- President Rodrigo Duterte's failure to push for a federal form of government in his annual report to the nation could mean that it is no longer part of his legislative agenda halfway into his term, an opposition lawmaker said Tuesday.

While he did not mention federalism in his State of the Nation Address on Monday, Duterte told reporters after his speech that fulfilling the shift could be up to succeeding administrations. 

Duterte, the first president from Mindanao, had promised to spread political power and resources that have long been held in the capital, Manila, by setting up a federal government through charter change.

"Wala s'yang binanggit [na federalism] kahapon, ibig sabihin wala sa legislative agenda ng Malacañang iyung pagbabago ng Saligang Batas," Sen. Franklin Drilon told DZMM. 

"Iyan siguro ay senyales na na huwag nang ipilit ng ibang may balak na baguhin ang Saligang Batas, lalo na po sa mga kongresista na ibig habaan ang kanilang termino. Tumigil na sila," added the minority lawmaker.

(He did not mention federalism yesterday, meaning changing the constitution is not in the legislative agenda of Malacañang. That may be a sign that it should no longer by pushed by those who have plans to change the constitution, especially congressmen who want to extend their term. They should stop.) 

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In his press conference after his SONA, Duterte said federalism "is good but there are certain things that need to be very clear." 

"One is that it devolves a lot of authority to the local governments, regional... The President, not I — I suppose it would come after me — but it has to have a strong president to put together the country," he said. 

"Kung ako, I'm out of it because I think it will pass beyond my time," he added. 

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Duterte last month acknowledged that the shift to federalism was not likely to happen during his term, which ends in 2022. He said he could instead opt to have the economic provisions of the 1987 Constitution amended.

The House of Representatives in the 17th Congress approved a draft federal charter on third and final reading last December. The Senate did not approve it.

In his fourth SONA, Duterte also called for the creation of separate executive departments that would focus on migrant workers, water allocation, and disaster resilience, among others. 

This is inconsistent with the government's drive to streamline agencies with overlapping functions, said Drilon.