Since his presidential campaign in 2016, Rodrigo Duterte has promised to change the country’s form of government to federalism. Now, more than two years after he was elected President, the following proposals that seek to revise the constitution have been filed in Congress: (1) Resolution of Both Houses (RBH) No. 8; (2) PDP-Laban Federalism Institute’s (FI) draft constitution; (3) summarized proposals from the House committee on constitutional amendments; (4) Bayanihan Federalism drafted by the Consultative Committee; and (5) RBH 15, primarily authored by former President and now House Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
The most prominent among these is Arroyo’s draft, which has been swiftly advanced for approval by its supporters in the House of Representatives. In fact, plenary debates on said proposal lasted for only three session days, despite 67 percent of Filipinos not being in favor of Charter Change (Cha-Cha) and 69 percent having little to no knowledge of the proposed federal system of government.
There are several compelling reasons to block these orchestrated efforts to revise the constitution. Essentially, the Duterte administration’s push for Cha-Cha and federalism is a populist authoritarian project that seeks to further consolidate wealth and power in the hands of the elite while appearing to cater to the interests of neglected and underdeveloped regions. This becomes clear once we deconstruct the Cha-Cha/federalism campaign and examine its aspects:
• Interests: The political actors behind revising the constitution, most notably Duterte and Arroyo, have long had ambitions to further entrench the neoliberal agenda and consolidate power and wealth in the hands of the elite and ruling class.
• Content: Being reflective of these interests, the proposed amendments essentially push the state towards having a more liberalized and globally integrated economy on the one hand, and an authoritarian government on the other.
• Context: Viewed within the larger context of a fascist administration, Duterte and Arroyo’s Cha-Cha can be regarded as the final, decisive step towards the administration’s dictatorship project.
• Propaganda: Meanwhile, the campaign’s politically motivated proponents are able to conceal these self-serving interests by giving emphasis to the problem of “Imperial Manila”—the perceived concentration of power, wealth, and resources in the region—and presenting federalism as the solution to the country’s ills.
Therefore, in order to uncover the authoritarian and neoliberal agenda driving the push for federalism through Cha-Cha, it is necessary to first examine and refute the populist ideas and approaches used as a veneer for the campaign.
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