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Random Thoughts | Still no ¾ votes in the Senate

“The key item on the unfinished agenda is federalism. Mr. Duterte promised it, and two draft charters by the Puno – led consultative committee and the Arroyo – led House have been produced.” (Segundo Eclar Romero, “Cuckoos in Duterte’s nest,” on the move, Philippine Daily Inquirer, June 4, 2019).

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ROMERO doubts very much if the new Senate where majority of Senators are pro-Duterte, will support the move to shift to a federal system of government. He stressed in his recent column: “In the final crunch, Mr. Duterte’s ‘supermajority’ in the Senate will think twice before pushing for the shift to federalism. Apart from the President’s die hard senators, the others will likely look after their own political careers rather than blindly follow Mr. Duterte.” This writer fully agrees with the keen assessment of Romero above.

Let’s talk of numbers. To call for a Constituent Assembly and to pass an amended or revised draft New Constitution, our present 1987 Charter requires three-fourth (3/4) votes from the Senate. There are 24 senators and ¾ of 24 is 18 favorable votes. Thus, if they have seven opposition votes, they cannot get the 18 favorable votes needed and, therefore, no deal.

Senators who will surely oppose the moves to call for a Constituent Assembly and shift to a Federal Constitution are Drilon, Pangilinan, De Lima, Hontiveros, Poe, Binay, Recto, Villanueva, Lacson and Gatchalian.

Who do you think among these 10 senators can President Duterte convince to change their minds on the issues of Charter Change and Federalism?

Hence, obviously it is an exercise in futility to still hope that we, through Congress, can still undertake Constitutional Reform during the term of President Duterte. What about changing our 1987 Charter through Constitutional Convention? It is very impractical now (within the term of President Duterte) because of time limitation and uncertainty of its output (Federalism will not be adopted due to massive lobby).

The terrible consequences of a no Federalism scenario during the term of President Duterte is something our people should seriously ponder upon. These are: 1) The continuous existence of Filipino imperialists in our country; 2) The sickness of our society will further worsen particularly our culture of corruption and expanding poverty; 3) patronage and money politics; 4) unsustainable development; 5) revival of the Mindanao Secession Movement; 6) Its adverse impact to PDP-Laban/Hugpong ng Pagbabago political parties in the coming 2022 presidential elections; 7) Absence of a truly transformative legacy; and 8) Other negative effects on our sick society.

A trying time such as this to positive people is an opportunity for greatness. Despair is never an alternative to them. Remember the Filipino adage: “Kung ayaw puro dahilan. Kung gusto maraming paraan.” The “paraan” in this case is President Duterte’s strong political will coupled with his “tapang at malasakit” spirit. Clearly, only President Duterte can save federalism. We cannot rely on Congress and some of Duterte’s Cabinet members to push for federalism because of their selfish political and economic interests.

As we see it, only through a People Mandated Revolutionary Government for an honest-to-goodness constitutional reform that our country can shift to the freest, moral, inclusive and more responsive Federal System of government. With a Federal System, we can truly liberate our people from Filipino imperialists and save our country from being broken up by Mindanao secession.

John Tria, in his June 4, 2019 Mindanao column in Manila Bulletin wrote about President Duterte’s strong political will: “In all, it means that strong expressions of political will are no longer matters to hide or be ashamed of. The popularity of the President, the victory of the ruling party’s candidates reveal an endorsement of this will. “They reveal a strong desire among many to use this will for this resolve to continue to beat out our inherited chronic national ills and bring the Filipinos to new heights of stability and abundance.”

Thus, all Filipinos’ eyes and ears are now focused on the coming SONA of President Duterte as to what he will say or not say about his still unfilled election promise of shifting to a Federal System, Abangan.

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