By Francis Wakefield
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana expressed belief that the country is not yet ready to shift to a federal form of government.
In a press briefing at the Department of National Defense (DND) headquarters at Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City, Thursday afternoon, Lorenzana said he believes that a lot of Filipinos doesn’t understand or are not yet ready for a change in the type of government that we have and still needs to be educated about it.
“Hindi pa kasi… hindi nila naiintindihan eh, marami ang hindi nakakaintindi eh (They are still not, a lot of them doesn’t understand it),” Lorenzana said.
“Hindi pa ready kasi. Kailangan natin ng kunting, ng maybe more educational ano, ‘yung information saka maintindihan nila kung ano yung, what is it for us? Anong gagawin? Ano mangyayari dun sa ano namin? (They are not ready. People need to be educated more on it, the information so they could understand it what is it for us? What are to be done? What will happen to our?),” he added.
Lorenzana, at the same time, said he understands where Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III and Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia are coming from when they expressed their concerns about federalism.
He said in Sec. Dominguez part, he was looking at the matter in terms of the money needed when the country shifts to a Federal form of government while Sec. Pernia is looking at the effects of a federal government in the country’s economy.
“Secretary Dominguez is looking at it on the money, how much money is needed to shift? You know when it comes to the Department of Finance they always think, “Can we do this?” Lorenzana said.
“On Sec. Pernia’s part, it will wreck havoc on our economy. Talagang magulo ‘yan kung hindi naka-prepare ‘yung mga states (if the states are not prepared). Like if you will create Ilocos as a state, Cagayan Valley as a state, Central Luzon as a state. There are governors there, how do you fix that? How about the other provinces? Are there still governors or only mayors? On my part I’m also confused,” he said.
Malacañang earlier highlighted the importance of a healthy discourse in order to immediately iron out possible issues that may arise as the government pushes for a shift to a federal government.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque made the statement after Consultative Committee (ConCom) member Father Ranhilio Aquino’s called on President Duterte to fire Dominguez and Pernia because of their concerns about federalism.
“If he (Duterte) favors federalism, let him sack Dominguez and Pernia or command them to keep their traps shut,” Aquino said in a Facebook post.
Aquino’s statement came after Duterte’s two economic managers voiced out their concerns on the proposed federal shift. Dominguez said the draft charter was confusing while Pernia said the shift would wreak havoc on the economy.
According to Roque, the Palace welcomes Aquino’s concerns and acknowledges his passion and hard work in contributing to the drafting of the federal charter.
“We view the differences of opinion on federalism as part of the continuing discourse, even among members of the President’s official family, which the Chief Executive encourages to thresh out possible contentious issues,” he said.
He, however, addressed Aquino’s statement that Duterte may have grown lukewarm to federalism for allowing Dominguez and Pernia to speak against federalism.
“The President, as we all know, has long been an advocate of federalism and his policy has always been one of inclusive participation of various groups and sectors,” Roque said.
Earlier, Malacañang said that all Cabinet officials support the push for federalism. Roque said it is now incumbent on upon them to make it happen.
“The President will have to task them, because the President as, you know, the principal of all the alter egos of the President has said that he is pushing for federalism. So it is incumbent upon the alter egos to find ways and means now to make that happen,” Roque said.
“I’d like to see if there are alternatives because federalism remains a priority of the President and we need to address obviously even the financial aspects of the constitutional change towards federalism,” he added.
Roque had also explained that Cabinet members are speaking out because they have unanswered questions about the charter change.
“I think there’s a hundred percent agreement that we are pushing for federalism. The exact mechanics of how to do it, well, no one can claim a monopoly,” Roque said.
“What they were objecting to is because they have unanswered questions on the existing proposals made by the consultative committee, so let’s find answers. But if there are no answers, it is incumbent for alter egos of the President to make what the President wants to happen reality,” he added.
Duterte is pushing for federalism in order to decentralize the government and to empower the regions.