Binan City - Saying “the people are tired of elections,” President Duterte’s allies are courting village leaders’ support for Charter change (Chacha) and a shift to federalism by suggesting the possibility of postponing the barangay and midterm elections.
Speaking to about 4,000 village chiefs from Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon) during a forum on federalism in Bi๑an City on Wednesday, Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali said postponing the elections would give Congress more time to finetune a federal Constitution.
Malacanang, however, said President Duterte would not push for the postponement of the elections.
Commenting on Thursday on Catholic bishops’ fears about the proposed amendment of the Constitution, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque quashed talk that efforts at changing the Charter would lead to a “creeping dictatorship.”
“There is no creeping dictatorship that the Catholic hierarchy fears will happen,” Roque said at a press briefing in Baguio City.
He said Duterte was an advocate of the rule of law and would step down at the end of his term in 2022.
Village, youth elections
The barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections have been rescheduled to May this year, after Congress passed legislation postponing it from the original schedule in October 2017.
A referendum for a new Constitution is proposed to be held simultaneously with the barangay election.
“I am asking your help because we don’t know how we can finish this by May. You know, the people fed up with elections. Let us postpone the barangay election in May,” Umali said.
“Help us bring this concern to our colleagues in Congress, especially those in the Senate, so the campaign for federalism and Charter change that our President wants will not be rushed. And maybe, in 2019, the election for local officials and congressmen can also be postponed,” he added.
The forum, organized by an organization of barangay captains and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), also launched the Barangay Federalism Movement to support the proposed change in the form of government.
Manuel Gotis, DILG regional director, said Calabarzon, being the most populous region in the country and “even bigger than Metro Manila,” had all the human and economic potential to become a federal state.
“One hundred ten percent, [Calabarzon] would truly benefit [from federalism],” Quezon Gov. David Suarez said.
Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said public consultations proved that administration allies would not railroad the amendment of the Constitution, adding that holding the elections would depend on how fast things would shape up in Congress.
“For me, if we can’t finish this by the May election, we can hold the referendum during the midterm election in 2019,” Alvarez said later on the sidelines of the event.
“[Federalism] is all about money, power, opportunity. These three reasons are why we want federalism. These three reasons are also why others oppose federalism,” he said.
Alvarez said that under a federal system, provinces could allocate about 10 to 20 percent of their local income to the central government.
He cited Batanes province, which he said contributed only a small amount to the national treasury compared with the “largest barangay in my district,” and yet received “billions” of pesos in allocation during the past administration “because the [former budget secretary] was from Batanes.”