No charter change, federalism push in Duterte’s SONA 2019

Camille Elemia
No charter change, federalism push in Duterte’s SONA 2019
(UPDATED) The President instead focuses on other priority bills, which are less controversial than charter change

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Unlike in the past, President Rodrigo Duterte made no mention of charter change and federalism in his 2019 State of the Nation Address.

Duterte, who has been pushing for federalism and charter change since the 2016 campaign, did not urge Congress to amend the 1987 Constitution when he addressed lawmakers of the 18th Congress. (READ: Duterte pushes for charter change after naming next Speaker)

Critics feared that after the administration’s big win in last May’s midterm races, the President would fast-track efforts to change the Constitution. His party, PDP-Laban, has long advocated for federalism. 

But despite party members leading Congress, their efforts have failed so far.

In an interview after the SONA, Duterte told reporters that “it is not the proper time” to discuss the issue. He added that he preferred a one-time overhaul of the Constitution, rather than amending it per provision. 

Several surveys showed that only a few Filipinos are in favor of federalism. And within the ruling coalition, it’s the economic team that has always opposed the proposed shift.

Neophyte Senator Bong Go, Duterte’s closest aide and PDP-Laban member, earlier said that the Chief Executive has come to terms with the difficulties of shifting to a federal system of government. (READ: Pimentel sees hope for federalism shift in Senate after 2019 elections)

On Monday, the President instead focused on his other priority bills, which are considerably less controversial than cha-cha.

These included the reimposition of death penalty for drug crimes, plunder, and corruption, the proposed National Land Use act, the coconut levy fund bill, the mandatory Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) and the Salary Standardization law, among others. –

Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation issues, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email