Start Cha-cha, Arroyo urges Duterte allies


‘Presidency should be retained under federal system’

FORMER president and now Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo of Pampanga has called on fellow Charter change advo-cates to take advantage of the Duterte administration’s strong mandate and push hard for a constitutional over-haul, but said the presidency must be retained whatever form of government is chosen.


Arroyo, who is being eyed by President Rodrigo Duterte to head a 25-man commission to study amendments to the 1987 Constitution, made the call in a speech before the Philippine Constitution Association (Philconsa) Thurs-day night, as she recalled her administration’s multi-track efforts to amend Charter.

“Now that our very popular President has pushed for federalism, I hope the Charter change advocates will sustain their devotion to Constitutional revision as well as during my time,” said Arroyo, who was president from 2001 to 2010.

Arroyo acknowledged that suspicions of term extensions were the biggest stumbling blocks in her own bid to amend the Constitution, which, she said, the current proponents should avoid.

“In sum, the proponents should stress to the public that elections would not be cancelled, and that even in a par-liamentary system, they would still vote for the president. They should avoid semantic arguments on whether the proposal was parliamentary with a president or presidential with a unicameral congress,” Arroyo said.

Arroyo noted that prior to her term, the Philippines missed the boat for Charter change twice: first during the time of President Fidel Ramos with the “Pirma” signature drive and second during the term of President Joseph Estrada, who formed a preparatory commission on constitutional reform and launched the “Constitutional Correction for Development” or Concord campaign.

Arroyo said she and her allies failed despite various initiatives to pursue Charter change, namely: people’s initiative or signature drive, a constituent assembly with Congress convening in joint session to amend the Charter, and a constitutional convention in which voters elect delegates.

The people’s initiative was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 2006, in a close 8-7 vote because of the lack of an enabling law and because it was going to be used for a wholesale, rather than partial, revision of the Charter, she said.

Plans for either a constituent assembly or constitutional convention never took off because of upheavals such as the “EDSA 3” uprising over Estrada’s ouster and Arroyo’s takeover in 2001; the 2003 Oakwood rebellion in Makati; the scandal over alleged fraud during the 2004 presidential elections during which Arroyo was recorded while con-versing with a poll official; and the death of former President Corazon Aquino in August 2009 that generated public clamor for her son Sen. Benigno Aquino 3rd to run for President.

On top of this, Arroyo had to fend off five impeachment complaints.

Arroyo was hopeful the shift to a federal form of government – under which the country would be divided into 11 states with taxation and other powers – would succeed under the Duterte administration.

“Before he ran for President, he (Duterte) burst into the national scene advocating federalism. His landslide victory shows that the public response to Charter change is positive,” Arroyo said.

‘Federalism, not BBL, will bring peace in Mindanao’

On Friday, Interior and Local Government Secretary Ismael Sueno said federalism, not the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) to expand the powers of the Muslim autonomous region, would solve peace and security prob-lems in Mindanao.

“Everyone agrees that the solution [to conflict]in Mindanao is federalism,” Sueno told reporters.

“BBL is not the solution. In fact, most educated Muslim leaders are also not in favor of BBL and even the MILF [Mo-ro Islamic Liberation Front] does not agree [with BBL],” he added.

Sueno said federalism would be able to fast-track Mindanao’s development.

“BBL might trigger some problems if this will be passed in the Congress. With federalism, it will be able to garner resources and even develop Mindanao in terms of its economy,” Sueno noted.



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  1. I think the shift to federalism at this time might disrupt the momentum that we have painstakingly achieved for the first time in our history in our economic development specially our golden age of infrastructure.

    The changing of government structure, regulations and new set of regulators, might have a big impact on current and planned government development programs which includes big ticket projects mostly to be undertaken by joint ventures between local and international firms.

    The better way I think is to seriously consider the abolition of the present congress and adopt a unicameral assembly to be elected by regions and as much as possible be composed of lawyers, economists, engineers, doctors, members of the academe, business and labor sectors, retired police and military officers etc.

    In the meantime let us trust that President Duterte minus his obvious faults of course, will continue in a better way his all out war against Drugs, Corruption and Criminality to allow and inspire the private sector in doing their share in nation building.

    During this time let us also hope that President Duterte, with his political will, will be able to drastically reduce the “Badness” of the elite and the very rich which is the main cause of inequality in our country.

    He should also try to do something about population management, notably the uncontrolled production of babies in our slums and rural areas which is a very big factor in our lingering poverty and unemployment.

  2. Andro Bamahin on

    All the prosperous countries in the world have a federalized system: US, Canada, Germany, UK, Russia, China, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, etc. The extremely expensive cost of running for national office in the current Philippine centralized system ensures that 99% of candidates either have to be very rich or are financed by the very rich or narco politicians. Cory Aquino and her Constitutional Commission made sure that only the very rich or those who are backed by the very rich and narco politicians have a 99.9% chance of winning national elections. We need to switch to federal and parliamentary form of government very soon as we have been left behind even by Vietnam who just came from a civil war sponsored by two greedy foreign governments.

    Having a president who is elected directly by the people has at least two significant weaknesses: 1. It does not eliminate the huge expense to run in a presidential election so candidates will still be narco politicians, very rich or financed by narco politicians and the filthy rich. Narco politicians and the filthy rich buy out elections so that the winner will protect the narcos and filthy rich interests at the expense of the ordinary Filipinos; 2. It is difficult to remove a corrupt and/or incompetent president. Look at BSAquino, we had to suffer six long years of plunder, high crime rate and narco state before he was out of malacanang. In a parliamentary system, the moment that the people lose their trust and confidence in the Prime Minister he can easily be replaced within his/her term without a big upheaval. In our present presidential system it is extremely difficult to replace a crooked president as exemplified by BSAquino.

    • I am very sure China is not a federal government but a unitary one. The US is presidential-federal. Vietnam is not federal as well since it is communist. Singapre is actually just one big city that used to be part of Malaysia. However, I believe that if we fail to be nationalistic and the same political clans/dynasties remain, it will be the same no matter the system. Plus with federal, you have more taxes to pay on the state level and the national level.

  3. So the form of Federalism is like the French version – where there is a President and a Prime Minister who is under the President. Do not feel embarrassed to correct me if I am wrong. Thank you.

  4. GMA who has been a hands on President during her term is the right person to execute cha-cha (federalism) .Therefore there must be an outline of how federalism works, by enumerating every facets of it to all Filipino by advertising on television the format on how and what is Federalism form of govt.that way they will understand how it works is the govt responsibility to inform and educate all Filipinos regarding the functions of federal form of govt