MANILA, Philippines — Interior Secretary Eduardo Año on Tuesday said the push for a federal form of government would continue, despite the lack of mention in President Rodrigo Duterte’s fourth State of the Nation Address (Sona).
“Though the President did not mention it yesterday, in a talk in Mindanao, he mentioned he is still for federalism. Ultimately, this is the solution and we will continue,” Año told a press conference in Quezon City with other Cabinet secretaries.
Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles likewise said that the budget allocated for the government’s federalism campaign would not be wasted since Task Force Federalism’s “consultation, discussion and vetting” tasks continued.
The Inter-Agency Task Force on Federalism and Constitutional Reform is still finalizing the proposed changes to the Constitution, for submission to the Pwho will approve the final version.
No order to stop yet
Año, who chairs the task force, said they had not yet been ordered to stop their activities.
Nograles said he expected the 18th Congress to tackle the issue extensively, unlike the previous Congress.
“I think it will be one of the topics to be discussed in the committee on constitutional amendments both in the House of Representatives and in the Senate,” Nograles said.
Charter change (Cha-cha) may not have enjoyed any billing in theh’s Sona, but it will get its own moment next month when the President is expected to pitch for it, according to Interior Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya.
“My understanding of the President is it’s a matter of timing. It was not the proper time,” Malaya said in a phone interview.
“He does not want to encourage Congress without an executive draft,” he added.
Malaya said the President planned an event next month that would focus on constitutional reform.
Not on agenda anymore
The President had asked the Department of the Interior and Local Government to call the meeting and invite local government officials, members of Congress and other stakeholders, including Moro leaders.
“That is where he is expected to emphasize the need for Charter change,” he said.
In an interview after his Sona, the President said he was still for federalism but he thought it would happen after his term.
For Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, the President’s silence on federalism indicated that Charter change was not on the agenda anymore.
“For me, the noninclusion of federalism indicates that the Cha-cha was laid to rest yesterday. The Sona became Cha-cha’s ‘final resting place,’” he said.
Any effort to push Charter change now would be an exercise in futility, Drilon added.
Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian also took the President’s omission as a “silent message” that it was off the agenda.
Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III, however, said Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan would always push for federalism as it was a “basic party objective.”
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