Duterte's pitch for federalism: Centralized system holds back PH

DAGUPAN CITY, Philippines – In the heart of Ilocos region, Rodrigo Duterte made his pitch for his most radical proposal for change in the country: federalism.

Speaking to around a thousand people in a gym in Dagupan City, Pangasinan, Duterte began his argument with the premise that the present centralized system of government is not working. 

He first complained about the “tiny” budget that regions get from the national government, a fund called an Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA).

Napakaliit po. Walang one-fourth sa pinapadala ko. Davao is I think remitting P5 billion* a month. Pagdating sa amin, suwerte ako kung makakuha ako ng P2 [billion] or P3 billion a month. Pero ang balik sa akin kaunti lang,” he said.

(It is so small. Not even one-fourth of what I send. Davao is I think remitting P5 billion a month. When it gets to us, I am lucky to get P2 [billion] or P3 billion a month. What I get back is so small.)

Pangasinan residents cheer for Rody #Duterte as he goes around Lingayen through a motorcade. #PHVote pic.twitter.com/NIOsxI10SA — Pia Ranada (@piaranada) March 2, 2016

But what’s even worse is that the money that regions remit to the national government appears to line the pockets of corrupt politicians in Metro Manila, asserted the presidential candidate.

Pero magpili ka ng presidente at kongreso at kayo lang naghati-hati ng pera ng Pilipinas tapos kakaunti lang ang ibalik ninyo sa akin, ubusin niyo dito sa livelihood, pork barrel,” he said.

(You are chosen as president and members of Congress and you divide the money of the Philippines among yourselves and then only a small amount is returned. You use the money for so-called livelihood projects, pork barrel.)

Corruption holding PH back

His 22 years of serving as Davao City’s mayor and a one-time congressman has made him familiar with various modus operandi of abusive government officials.

The norm, he claimed, is for officials to demand 30% of the total cost of a project. 

“So P100-million project, ilan na lang ang naiwan, P70 [million]. Maghihingi pa ang barangay captain, maghihingi pa ang city engineer, anak ka ng... Ang project is P50 billion so sasabihin mo, ito ba yung project na P100 billion? Ito yung mahirap, ‘yung korupsyon. Nauubos ang pera ng Pilipino, kalaki ng pera ng gobyerno, kinukurakot eh,” he said.

(So for a project costing P100 million, only P70 million is left. The barangay captain and city engineer will ask for their kickback, son of a... The project is worth P50 billion and then you say, is this the P100-billion project? That is the difficulty, this corruption. The money of Filipinos is used up, government has so much money but it gets stolen.)

Duterte: We in Visayas, Mindanao, you in Ilocos, we are given corrupt, stupid leaders who spend gov't money #PHVote pic.twitter.com/fABLsf4tZo — Pia Ranada (@piaranada) March 2, 2016

The presidential bet from Southern Philippines said this current state of affairs has brought misery to Mindanao because “we are far from the money, we are far from the leaders of this country.”

But the people of Northern Luzon are swallowing the same bitter pill, he told the Pangasinenses. 

Kami mga Bisaya, pati Mindanao, pati kayo, ‘oo’ nang ‘oo’ lang. Eh walang problema ‘yan. Ang problema, binibigay sa atin, mga lider, mga corrupt na walang alam,” he said earlier in a public gathering in Lingayen plaza.

(We in the Visayas, you too in Mindanao, we just keep on saying yes. That's not a problem. The problem is, the leaders we get are corrupt and stupid.)

'Centerpiece' of campaign

His proposal of federalism, he told reporters, will address the gap between congested Metro Manila and the rest of the country.

This is because federalism will allow regions to take the lead in developing their economy instead of the national government based in Metro Manila.

“Federalism will pave the way for competition. They can invite foreign investors directly. It will eliminate bureaucratic greed. Manila gets everything so regions are forced to beg. The benefit of federalism, you can go directly. They won't have to go through departments like DOTC [Department of Transportation and Communications], NEDA [National Economic Development Authority],” he said.

A federal form of government creates autonomous regions or states where state governments administer their own affairs independent of the central government. 

The central government will only handle areas of nationwide interest like national security and foreign relations.

Countries with federal governments include the United States, Australia, Malaysia, and India.

Duterte called federalism “the centerpiece of my campaign.”

He believes shifting to federalism through a Constitutional Convention and weeding out corruption will usher in progress throughout the Philippines. Read about the rest of his platform here

Other presidential candidates, like Senator Grace Poe, have expressed reservations about federalism. Poe has said that federalism may further entrench political dynasties in provinces.

Pangasinan is the 3rd province in the Ilocos region that Duterte has visited. Last February, he was in La Union and the Marcos bailiwick of Ilocos Norte.

Pangasinan, with 1.7 million registered voters, is the most vote-rich province in the region. – Rappler.com 

*The article originally misquoted Duterte as saying Davao remittances per month were P5 trillion. He said "billion." We apologize for this mistake.

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.

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