MANILA -- Despite a shift to federalism being among his campaign promises, President Rodrigo Duterte has accepted that a new system of government may not be possible within his term.
Senator-elect Christopher “Bong” Go, Duterte’s former aide, said the President is well aware that federalism may not be passed given lack of public awareness.
“Nagkausap rin po kami ni Pangulong Duterte tungkol sa federalism. Sabi niya mukhang mahihirapan po tayo sa ngayon (The President and I talked about federalism. He said it looks like we’ll have a difficult time passing it for now),” Go said in a press briefing in Casa Roces restaurant across Malacañang.
Asked if the President has accepted that federalism may not be passed before he steps down in 2022, Go said: “Yes, tanggap po niya (he accepts it).”
Go, who vowed to help push for Duterte’s agenda in the Senate, said what should be prioritized for now is spreading federalism awareness.
“Sa ngayon, maybe kailangan po talaga ng education campaign para maintindhan po ng tao at magdagdag po ng interes sa taongbayan kung ano po talaga ang kabutihan na puwedeng idulot ng federalism (For now, maybe there really is a need for an education campaign so that people can better understand the many benefits of federalism),” Go said.
“Para sa akin, priority is ipaintindi muna sa tao -- acceptability ng publiko muna (For me, the priority is to make people understand federalism -- we should work on public acceptability first),” he added.
Last January, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said Duterte is not yet abandoning his push for federalism after the chief executive said he wanted few economic provisions in the Constitution and not necessarily change the entire charter.
Panelo said since Duterte knew that the Congress is not prioritizing Charter change, he was expressing an idea knowing that if "one method is not practical, he goes to another mode."
Since Duterte assumed office in 2016, he has tasked a Consultative Committee (ConCom) composed of justices, ex-legislators, lawyers, academics, among others to draft a federal charter which has been submitted to Malacañang and is now accepting public feedback.
Duterte has also created an Inter-Agency Task Force on Federalism (IATF) to raise public awareness on federalism.
Go, however, said he will continue to push for the passage of measures he thinks will benefit the public the most such as another salary standardization law to increase the salary of public school teachers as well as public nurses and engineers.
Other measures Go will push for include the passage of a National Housing and Development Act to increase appropriation for the construction of houses every year to close the 6.5 million housing gap in the next 20 years; a Department of Disaster Resilience; a Department of OFWs (overseas Filipino worker); and an act Institutionalizing the Malasakit Centers.
The first-time senator also said he would try to convince the President to move the barangay (village) elections from May 2020 to May 2022 so incumbent officials would be able to serve for four years.
If elections would be held in 2020, Go said barangay officials would only get to serve for two years after Duterte moved the most recent barangay elections from 2017 to 2018. (PNA)