Sara Duterte opposes federalism

Pia Ranada

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Sara Duterte opposes federalism
The President's daughter takes a different stance from her father, saying federalism in Mindanao may only empower 'warlords'

MANILA, Philippines – Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte is against federalism, saying it would only empower “warlords” in Mindanao.

It’s the opposite of the stance taken by her father, President Rodrigo Duterte, the country’s most powerful champion of federalism. 

“I am not for federalism, but, I say, decision ‘yan ng Congress, decision ‘yan ng President natin (that’s the decision of Congress, decision of our President),” she said in Bongao, Tawi-Tawi, on Thursday, April 25.

Earlier that day, she visited Jolo, Sulu, dominated by the Tan political dynasty. Former governor Sakur Tan, the most powerful political broker in the island province, is a federalism advocate.

Sara accompanied Hugpong ng Pagbabago (HNP)-backed senatorial candidates to campaign in Jolo and Tawi-Tawi.

Sara said she opposed federalism because it would put more resources and power in the hands of Mindanao warlords.

“Ang Mindanao is an area na mayroong ‘kingdoms’ ang mga local politicians, local warlords. I do not think na tama ibigay ang mas malaking powers kapag ganoon ang set-up ng isang lugar (Mindanao is an area with ‘kingdoms’ of local politicians, local warlords. I don’t think it’s right to give them bigger powers when the set-up in an area is like that), she said.

Kasi baka mag-worsen ang situation ng mga lugar, especially sa mga lugar na hindi pa ready na tumanggap ng dagdag na responsibilities or dagdag na power ang mga local officials (The situation there might worsen, especially in areas where local officials are not ready to have added responsibilities and powers),” she continued.

Are HNP candidates anti-federalism too?

Federalism is a hot topic for the senatorial elections because it’s one proposal that requires the go-ahead of Senate. 

In the last Congress, the Senate did not prioritize a draft federal constitution, with some senators even saying federalism would be “dead on arrival” in their chamber.

A Senate dominated by pro-federalism senators could change all that. Administration critics have warned that the process of changing the Constitution to allow for federalism could also enable Duterte allies to extend the President’s term.

Will the senatorial candidates backed by Sara’s HNP support or oppose federalism?Sara said HNP as a party has no official position on federalism.

“None. HNP has no stand on issues. We leave it to the officers to form their own opinion, if they want to give it. We don’t have a collective stand on federalism,” Sara said in a mix of English and Filipino.

It was not the first time for Sara to take a different stance from her father. Sara was not sold on her father’s “oust Duterte matrix” alleging a concerted effort of media entities and a lawyers’ group to unseat him.

In 2018, when Duterte justified Mocha Uson’s lewd federalism dance and jingle by citing her right to freedom of expression, Sara said Uson should have been more “circumspect.” –


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Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is Rappler’s Community Lead, in charge of linking our journalism with communities for impact.