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Will MinDA push for federalism under Piñol?

July 12, 2019 - Friday 4:07 AM by Jimmy Laking

With the imminent transfer of Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol to the Mindanao Development Authority, will the MinDA finally take an aggressive push for federalism?

Let us hope such will be the case. To his credit, the late Abdul Khayr Alonto, who chaired the MinDa until lingering illness took hold of his life, was a federalism advocate. It was an advocacy he shared with President Duterte and with Southern Philippine Development Authority chair Abdulghani Salapuddin. 

With Alonto’s death, the MinDA and federalism has lost a champion. 

With Piñol as his replacement, let us hope federalism gets the desired push it needs. I recall that Piñol is no stranger to this advocacy, having accompanied President Duterte when he went the rounds to major Philippine cities in 2015 to push for federalism.

And like I alluded to earlier, Piñol may just be the right person to ramrod the MinDa into one cohesive unit supportive of the President’s major programs, and not as the refuge of people whose loyalty to the administration is suspect.

Sometime back, and taking a cue from President Duterte that he was no longer inclined to push for federalism, I inferred that he must have momentarily beaten a retreat from his advocacy.

This was after Senator Christopher “Bong” Go revealed that the President has practically conceded that the shift to federalism will not be realized under the incoming 18th Congress or in the three remaining years of his term.

Go added that the President has also realized the futility of pursuing federalism through legislation.

It appears the President was, in a manner of speaking, merely “shaking up the tree.” The signal for a last push for federalism came with the selection of his allies, Congressmen Alan Peter Cayetano and Lord Soriano, to man the ramparts at the House of Representatives as House Speakers, one after the after in the remaining three years of the Duterte administration. Simultaneously, the President let out his desire for a constitutional amendment through legislation to effect change. 

With them at the helm, the push for a constitutional change to pave the way for a federal system may run a smooth course.

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Duterte has time and again stressed that the only option left for the Philippines to get out of the hump is to go federal. 

It is his belief that the current unitary system sucks because it boils down to patronage and that the decision-making and sharing of resources is concentrated in Metro Manila. And that to make matters worse, the “destiny of the nation is controlled by politicians who come and go, and most of whom do not even know what to do.”

It is also his thesis that federalism can bring about lasting peace in the country (especially in Mindanao) as well as prosperity to the regions.

With his approval rating going up to an all-time high based on the Social Weather Station survey, this may well be just about the right time for President Duterte to beat the gongs that will trigger a ground swell for federalism. If in the end Mindanao will have to do it alone as he adhered to on several occasions, then consider it a destiny that should be embraced, nurtured and pursued to its logical conclusion.

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