DAVAO CITY: A lawmaker who attended the federalism summit here on Monday said that changing the country’s system of government to federal form would need the support of the president as he warned that the bid would face strong opposition from the national government.
Rep. Silvestre Bello 3rd of 1BAP party-list maintained that a movement calling for the shift to a federal form of government would only truly gain momentum if the president backs it.
For Bello, this means that the main proponent of the shift himself, Mayor Rodrigo Duterte of Davao City, should run for president if he wants the bid to succeed.
“In order to pursue the movement (calling for the shift to federalism), it needs a national leader’s support and that would be Duterte if he runs as president,” the lawmaker said.
Gov. Jose Maria Zubiri of Bukidnon, meanwhile, said Duterte is the only personality who could unite Mindanao and Visayas and push for a federal system of government.
However, Duterte had already belied rumors that the Federalism summit was convened to rally support for his supposed bid for the presidency.
“This (the shift to federalism) is my advocacy now and I would [like]to clarify that this has nothing to do with calls for me to become president,” he said in a press conference held after the summit.
The mayor stressed anew that he has no plans to run for president in the 2016 elections.
“People might think that I am into it (presidency) because federalism is a good cause. They might think that I am just using the issue as a vehicle,” Duterte said.
He, moreover, maintained, “I’d rather belong to the other side where we only advocate for this federalism and not necessarily going into politics.”
Former government officials, members of the academe, as well as representatives of rebel groups attended Monday’s summit and registered support for the call to change the system of government.
Archbishop-emeritus Fernando Capalla of Davao and Ateneo de Davao University President Fr. Joel Tabora, to cite, lamented the unequal sharing of the country’s wealth between Luzon and the rest of the country.
Both have expressed support for federalism as an alternative system of government because of the said observation.
Capalla, however, clarified that his opinion is personal and does not represent the position of the Church.
Meanwhile, Randolph Parcasio, representative of the Moro National Liberation Front, proposed that the country be divided into four federal states, namely: Mindanao, Visayas, Metro Manila, and the rest of Luzon.
For his part, Bello said, “We have to look into this (the shift to federalism), study this more deeply and carefully.”
The lawmaker said that the proposal should take into account the form of Federalism that is most suited for the country.
Duterte has been advocating federalism as an alternative to Bangsamoro autonomy that is being formulated in the peace negotiations between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. However, he had said he still hopes that the Bangsamoro Basic Law would be passed by Congress and withstand the scrutiny of the Supreme Court.
Local leaders as well as former top government officials attended the summit and expressed support to the call.
Among those who attended Monday’s summit were former President Fidel Ramos, former Philippine National Police chief Hermogenes Ebdane, former Armed Forces Chief of Staff Hermogenes Esperon, former press secretary Jesus Dureza, and former Department of Transportation and Communications Sec. Pantaleon Alvarez.