Still about drugs: Duterte’s other reason for giving up on federalism

Pia Ranada
The President fears local governments would be vulnerable to the spread of drugs under a federal form of government

NOT NOW. File photo of President Rodrigo Duterte presiding over the Cabinet Meeting at the Malacañang Palace on October 11, 2019. Malacañang Photo

MANILA, Philippines – It all boils down to the campaign against illegal drugs.

President Rodrigo Duterte said this was his other reason for abandoning his campaign for a federalism shift during his term.

Aside from acknowledging that Filipinos aren’t ready for the shift, Duterte, on Monday, October 28, said a federal form of government now would leave local government units vulnerable to the spread of illegal drugs.

Itong federalism maganda ‘to. But if you leave it to just the local governments to do it, madelikado especially sa drugs,” he said during a speech in front of new government officials in Malacañang.

(This federalism is good. But if you leave it to just the local government units to do it, it’s dangerous, especially with drugs.)

Papasukan ng drugs ‘yan. Walang control. Buti dito may maghawak eh,” he continued.
(Drugs will get in. No control. At least here we have control.)

The President repeated that he does not think Filipinos fully understand federalism.

“I do not believe that the Filipino people have really embraced what federalism is. It will be a good setup someday, but today when we are all in a quandary of how to solve even the smallest [problem],” said Duterte.

A shift to a federalist form of government was among Duterte’s biggest 2016 campaign promises. It was among the major reasons why he ran under PDP-Laban, a political party led by staunch federalism advocates.

In 2018, he formed a Consultative Committee to draft a federal constitution which they delivered July 2018 in a Malacañang ceremony.

The House of Representatives had been supportive of amending the 1987 Constitution for federalism but the Senate was lukewarm about it.

But a year later, Duterte began floating the possibility that the federalism shift won’t happen during his term.

In July 2019, he said he was fine if Congress did not pursue a federal constitution as long as they would amend provisions in the existing charter to strengthen safeguards against corruption.

Despite this, the Department of Interior and Local Government said it would continue its awareness campaign on federalism. –


Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at