Drilon says Cha-Cha 'laid to rest' without SONA mention

MANILA, Philippines – With nary a mention of federalism in the 4th State of the Nation Address, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said charter change (Cha-Cha) "is not a priority" of the Duterte administration.

"What’s more telling in the President’s speech is not what he said but what he did not say. That speaks volumes. For me, the non-inclusion of federalism indicates that the Cha-Cha was laid to rest yesterday. The SONA became Cha-Cha's final resting place," Drilon told reporters on Monday, July 22.

Unlike the past SONAs, President Rodrigo Duterte did not say anything about charter change nor federalism on Monday. Among Duterte's  2016 campaign promises was amending the 1987 Constitution.

"Hence, those who have plans to revive it this 18th Congress should better think twice. It will be an exercise in futility," Drilon said.

In an interview after SONA, Duterte said that he's still pushing for federalism but he "cannot mention now." 

Duterte partymate Senator Aquilino Pimentel III, head of ruling party PDP-Laban, echoed the same sentiment and said it doesn't mean federalism is out of the picture.

"Since federalism is a basic party objective, not only of PDP-Laban but also of some other parties like the CDP (Centrist Democratic Party of the Philippines) and Partido Federal, then that means that federalism will always be part of the political discourse and agenda as long as these parties exist," Pimentel told reporters on Tuesday, July 22.

"The President promised a 'brief SONA message.' Hence, it may have been the consequence of the effort to shorten the SONA," he said.

Surveys showed that only a few Filipinos were in favor of federalism.

Even the Philippine economic managers are lukewarm about the shift, as it could pose "dire, irreversible economic consequences."

In the 17th Congress, the House of Representatives approved on 3rd and final reading the draft charter authored by former house speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. It did not have a counterpart measure in the Senate.

What was pending in the upper chamber was a resolution calling for a separate voting of a Constituent Assembly, which had no counterpart version in the House. – Rappler.com

Aika Rey

Aika Rey covers the Philippine Senate for Rappler. Before writing about politicians, she covered budget, labor, and transportation issues.