Duterte renews call for shift to federalism

Duterte renews call for shift to federalism

Candidate Rodrigo Duterte is greeted by a huge crowd during his 2016 visit to Danao City, the hometown of his father, in Cebu. The Freeman/Kristine Joyce W. Campaña, file.
MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte has renewed his call to amend the constitution, saying Filipinos will remember him long after he is gone if the bid for federalism fails and the same problems continue to hound Mindanao.
 
Duterte stressed that there would be no peace in the southern Philippines if the unitary form of government, which he said was imposed by colonizers, is not changed to a federal type.
 
“If you do not reconfigure the unitary type of government now, which is the one that we’re using, and if there is no change in Mindanao, there will be no peace until the end of time for the Philippines,” the president said during the Philippine Development Forum in Mandaluyong Wednesday night.
 
“You will remember me for this. I am sure when I am gone, and everything is not all right, you will remember me,” he added.
 
Federalism provides more powers to local governments including the power to establish courts, implement business regulations and impose taxes.
 
Under a unitary form of government, much of the decisions come from the central government, a setup that federalism advocates claimed is one of the reasons some areas in Mindanao are left behind in terms of resources.
 
Duterte, while a candidate, promised a shift to federalism as one of his key platform issues.
 
Duterte believes that a federal government would address underdevelopment, which has been blamed for the emergence of extremist groups.
 
“If we are not ready to go federal, let us begin with a regional structure that’s change and give to the Muslims. It will now be up to them… Give them the peace of territory,” the president said.
 
“Otherwise, if you do not force the issue, there will always be war. And remember that, this time, there is a new element that has entered the picture – ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria),” he added.
 
READ: Federalism: What Filipinos need to know
Duterte open to forming a constitutional commission
 
Last year, House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said Duterte wanted the constitution to be amended through a constituent assembly, wherein lawmakers would convene to propose changes to the charter.
 
But Duterte said he is also open to creating a constitutional commission composed of former justices.
 
“I suggest that we appoint 24 commissioners. If you want, you can put all the retired justices. Few civilians, about five,” Duterte said.
 
Duterte said a constitutional convention, where delegates are elected by the public, would be too costly.  He claimed that a constitutional convention is not an assurance that there would be intelligent discussions about proposed amendments.
 
“A constitutional convention is really costly. Now, do not tell me that the composition of that constitutional body would be wiser, would be more honest, is not protecting anyone or has no bested interest,” Duterte said.
 
“I’m sure we will end up with something like the same structure --- No, no, the same embodiment of maybe a democracy,” he added.
 
Last December, Duterte issued Executive Order No. 10, creating a 25-member consultative body that would review the 1987 Constitution. 
 
READ: PDP-Laban favors semi-presidential federal government