MANILA, Philippines – The Duterte administration's programs to promote federalism and work towards charter change are still a go even if they were not mentioned in President Rodrigo Duterte's State of the Nation Address (SONA).
Interior Secretary Eduardo Año and Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles gave the assurance in a press conference on Tuesday, July 23, when asked about the fate of these administration programs after the Presidnet chose to leave the topics out of his 4th SONA the day before.
Año said he still believed that Duterte wants to push for federalism and that it remained a "priority" thrust of the government.
"In one of his (Duterte's) talks in Midanao, he mentioned he is still for federalism. Ultimately, this is the solution. Tuloy pa rin tayo (We will continue)," he said.
Año noted that there has been no order to stop the activities of the Interagency Task Force for Federalism and Constitutional Reform, which he chairs.
The task force's work of "consultation, discussion, and vetting continues," said Nograles.
Nograles added that the millions of public funds spent on the federalism campaign would not go to waste even if a shift to federalism does not happen during Duterte's term. (READ: Drilon says Cha-Cha 'laid to rest' without SONA mention)
"If it will not happen in the term of the President, all of the discussions are documented. They can serve as reference point. If it doesn't happen, it will establish the working template for the next administration," he said.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon had interpreted the non-inclusion of the two topics in the SONA as an indication they would no longer be pursued under the Duterte administration.
Extending mayors' term limits
It's also possible that if the chances for a federalist shift are bleak, the government will focus on changing certain provisions of the 1987 Constitution instead, as floated by Duterte himself.
Año personally supports longer terms for officials like mayors, as he believed their 3-year term was too short.
"After an election, he needs one year to study how to do the job. Then he has one year to fulfill it. Then the next year he has to think of elections again. So it's like a vicious cycle," he said.
Another "lapse" Año saw in the current charter is the mandatory retirement age of 56 for the military. Duterte had also expressed support for increasing the age for mandatory retirement, saying many soldiers at that age remained active and needed to continue earning salaries for their families. – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at email@example.com.