Federalism will not solve corruption, poverty – lawmaker

Mara Cepeda

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Federalism will not solve corruption, poverty – lawmaker
Kabayan party-list Representative Harry Roque says there is no public clamor for federalism, but AKO Bicol's Rodel Batocabe says if the administration is serious about charter change, it should be pursued now

MANILA, Philippines – Kabayan party-list Representative Harry Roque said on Thursday, July 7, that federalism will not solve the longstanding problems of corruption and poverty in the country. 

Hindi ko po kasi maintindihan kung bakit kinakailangang baguhin ang ating Saligang Batas. Hindi ko po maintindihan kung paano ang federalismo can get past the problem of corruption and poverty,” said Roque at the Usaping Balita Media Forum in Quezon City. 

(I don’t understand why we need to change the Constitution. I don’t understand how federalism can get past the problem of corruption and poverty.) 

Legislators in the 17th Congress have filed bills and resolutions calling for either a Constitutional Convention or a Constituent Assembly to pave the way for federalism. (READ: Drilon files Con-Con reso to ‘review’ 1987 Charter)

Under this form of government, the country is broken down into autonomous regions that will have primary responsibility over their laws, finances, as well as the development of their industries, public safety, education, healthcare, transportation, recreation, and culture. (READ: Will federalism address PH woes? Pros and cons of making the shift)

The national government will focus on issues with nationwide impact such as foreign policy and defense.

During the campaign season, President Rodrigo Duterte strongly pushed for federalism.

Roque, however, said there could be uneven development among states if federalism pushes through. 

Meron na pong pag-aaral ang dating national treasurer natin sa panahon ni Presidente [Fidel] Ramos kung saan sinimulan ang suhestiyon na ‘to. Tanging 3 region lang daw po ang puwedeng tumayo sa kanilang paa kung magtatayo ng federal system – NCR (National Capital Region), Region 3 and Region 4, yung mga Southern Tagalog region,” he said. 

(There was a study by our national treasurer during the term of former president Fidel Ramos where this suggestion began. Only 3 regions can stand on their own feet under a federal system – NCR, Region 3 and Region 4, the Southern Tagalog regions.)

The lawmaker added that changing the form of government will not solve corruption and poverty if their root causes are not addressed. 

Hayaan muna natin ang status quo. Lutasin muna natin ang problema ng kriminalidad, pagkakagutom within the existing form of government,” said Roque.

(Let’s stick to the status quo. Let’s solve the problems of criminality, hunger first within the existing form of government.)

According to Roque, the call for federalism did not come directly from Filipinos as well.

Ang pinakamalaking problema ng federalismo dito sa ating bansa, walang public clamor for it (The biggest problem for federalism here in the country is that there is no public clamor for it),” said Roque.

Walang tao na nais magpakamatay dahil gusto nila ng federal form of government. Ito po ay isang initiative na nanggagaling sa taas,” he added. 

(No one is willing to die because they want a federal form of government. This is an initiative from the top.)

‘Pursue it now’

AKO Bicol party-list Representative Rodel Batocabe, however, supports shifting to federalism.

But he said that if the Duterte administration is serious about charter change, it should be pursued now. 

Simula po sa Pangulong Ramos hanggang sa Pangulong [Benigno] Aquino, laging nagsasabi na papalitan na ang Constitution. Kung gusto talaga natin na baguhin o rebisihan ang ibang mga probisyon sa Constitution, dapat po ngayon na gawin ‘yan,” said Batocabe. 

(From President Ramos up to President Benigno Aquino III, they kept on saying that they would change the Constitution. If they really want to amend or revise provisions under the Constitution, we should do this now.)

Batocabe said he prefers the mode of Con-Con to be adopted to change the Constitution.

In the meantime, he suggested that government offices be transferred to other parts of the country to stop the concentration of power, wealth, and manpower in “imperial” Manila. 

Ang pinakamadali para maalis po ang konsentrasyon ng mga tao sa Manila ay balikan po natin yung sa GMA (former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo) administration. May panukala na ang mga opisina ng pamahalaan ay dalhin na po sa mga probinsya,” he said.

(The easiest one I could think of was a proposal during the administration of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. There was a proposal to bring government offices to the provinces.)

Tingin ko po, yan po ang pinaka-doable, pinaka-practical para mawala po ang tao sa Metro Manila at maisawalat po natin ang yaman ng bansa (I think that’s the most doable and practical thing we can do now so people will move away from Metro Manila and we can distribute the country’s wealth),” Batocabe added. – Rappler.com

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.