Federalism was the wind beneath the wings of Pres. Rodrigo Duterte when he ran for the highest position of the land in 2016. Until last year, the president was optimistic that Filipinos would rally behind him as the country shifts to federalism from a unitary system of government.
Before his 3rd State on the Nation Address, on July 10, 2018, the president approved and endorsed to Congress the draft federal constitution of the Consultative Committee led by former Chief Justice Reynato Puno and Senator Aquilino Pimentel. He was positive that “this new, fundamental law that will not only strengthen our democratic institutions but also create an environment where every Filipino regardless of his social status, religion or ideology will have an equal opportunity to grow and create a future that he or she can proudly bequeath to the succeeding generations.”
Last Monday, his 4th SONA, federalism and charter change were not mentioned which came as a surprise to those who were following keenly the promise of federalism.
In an interview with the media after the SONA, the president said that “there are things which I cannot mention now. Federalism is good but there are certain things that you have to be very clear.”
He intimated that federalism might “come after me” and that it needs a “strong president to put together the country.” He said federalism devolves a lot of authority to the local governments and until such time that the system is in place, “there has to be a strong president with the same powers now” adding that “I’m out of it because I think that it will pass beyond my time.”
So what happens to the new federal constitution drafted by the consultative committee? This might be shelved to the back burner as of now, but certainly, federalism advocates will lobby for its rightful place in the sun.