In December 2016, half a year into his term, President Rodrigo Duterte signed Executive Order No. 10, which created a 25-man consultative committee to revisit the 1987 Constitution. Though it is yet to convene, as of this writing, 19 out of 25 of the review body’s members have already been appointed. Concurrently, conversations on Charter change (Cha-cha) have been prioritized by Congress, manifested by resolutions to form either a Constituent Assembly (Con-Ass) or a Constitutional Convention (Con-Con) filed in both Houses. In this light, political figures and advocates have been open with their expectations. The emergent timeline currently pegs May 2019 as the target period for federalism polls, with the possibility of being included as a ballot item in the midterm elections.
As of writing in February 2018, there exist two main proposals for amending the constitution: the (1) PDP-Laban version and (2) Resolution of Both Houses 008 (RBH008). Fully-drafted and already filed in the House of Representatives, both charters provide for a change in government structure from unitary to federal. A subcommittee from the same House also drafted some salient features of a proposed Constitution, after its review of Articles VI, VII and X of the 1987 Constitution.
Several government and non-government groups have been involved in the Cha-cha conversation throughout the country. The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) has been conducting multiple nationwide orientations through barangay assemblies, and has recently been tasked to lead the campaign for federalism by President Duterte himself. PDP-Laban, the President’s party, has also held similar fora all over the Philippines, while its Federalism Institute recently launched a book presenting its model for the Philippines. Likewise, various private and political organizations, think tanks, and academic institutions have organized similar events on the proposed reform.
Frequent as they may be, these discussions have always dealt with federalism in broad strokes, which are focused on the benefits of the proposed further decentralization of powers and resources. This big-picture approach barely seems to leave an impression. As shown by a March 2017 Pulse Asia survey, “charter change” ranks low at 3% in the list of Filipinos’ urgent national concerns.
Feedback from civil society shows that there is a need for more grounded and specific conversations that explain federalism in the language of day-to-day. Quality-of-life questions, such as, “Will federalism solve our traffic crisis?” and, “Will housing and education be more accessible?” have to be asked and addressed, in order for citizens to make well-informed choices. Though the questions seem to be indirect to the questions of federalism and constitutional change itself, it is necessary to provide a venue for the real questions to be addressed to bring the conversations to the level that makes an impact to the realities of the ordinary citizens.
It is with this premise that the Institute for Leadership, Empowerment, and Democracy (iLEAD), with the support of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation (FNF) and in partnership with the Ateneo Policy Center, conducted a Round Table Discussion (RTD) on December 13, 2018, guided by questions from sectors, communities, and citizens. Prior to the RTD, intimate sessions were held among issue experts to consolidate their works and studies related to the Chacha-Federalism proposals.
This Discussion Paper was generated to capture the insights that were gathered during the RTD and to inform succeeding conversations on the issue. Download the full report here.