Federalism gets strong support in Mindanao, survey shows

MANILA, Philippines – The proposal to change the Philippines' form of government to federalism appears to get strong support in Mindanao, according to a newly launched survey by political management and lobbying firm Publicus Asia.

However, the survey also showed that awareness and knowledge of federalism are somewhat low nationwide. 

In Publicus Asia's pilot Pahayag survey, released on Monday, August 28, only 33% of respondents across the country said they have read, heard, or watched about the proposed shift to federalism, while 67% have not.

Among those aware, only 22% understand discussions about federalism, 51% say their knowledge or understanding of the topic is not full, while 27% have no understanding about it.

But ratings on awareness and knowledge of federalism are high in Mindanao. Based on the survey, 49% of Mindanaoans were aware of the proposal. Among those aware of it, 43% understand discussions about it, while only 14% don't.

President Rodrigo Duterte, formerly a longtime mayor of Davao City in Mindanao, is pushing for the shift to federalism.

Photo of Pahayag survey result on federalism

"If you're going to do a dipstick [or informal survey there], Mindanao is ready for federalism," said Malou Tiquia, founder and chief executive officer of Publicus Asia. 

Scores are also higher in Mindanao compared to the country totals when those aware about the proposal were asked about opinions on specific elements and issues about federalism. (READ: Will federalism address PH woes? Pros and cons of making the shift)

For instance, 75% of respondents there said they are in favor of directly voting for the President, compared to 60% nationwide. A similar portion of Mindanaoans or 74% favored a "semi-presidential" system – or a President as head of state and a Prime Minister as head of government – versus 59% nationwide.

In Mindanao, 64% of respondents favored the election of two senators per region of the federal government; nationwide, the score is 53%.

55% in Mindanao agree to voting for one presidential-vice presidential ticket, instead of the current set-up where voters can "split the vote" and choose candidates from different tickets. Nationwide, only 40% favor this.

Opinion on issues

Among Mindanaoans, 68% believe the governor or mayor can perform more powers if the country shifts to federalism. This is higher than the 57% rate registered nationwide for the same question.

67% in Mindanao agreed that politics will change in a federal, semi-presidential system and 63% believed their lives will improve under federalism, compared to only 55% and 46% respectively nationwide.

As to political dynasties in a federal system, 65% of Mindanaoans believed these clans can control elections. The nationwide rate for this question is 51%.

As to when the shift to federalism should take place, only 36% of respondents nationwide said it should happen right away. In Mindanao, 55% said so. In south Luzon, only 16% prefer the same.

81% of Mindanao respondents also want the constitutional change, which would lead to federalism, to happen before 2019, under Duterte's term, compared to 66% of respondents nationwide.

TV is the main source of information about federalism, with 89% of respondents nationwide saying so. It is followed by radio (35%), newspapers (27%), social media (20%) and websites (17%). 

Meanwhile, a majority of respondents, or 69%, agreed that there is poverty "because of the way the government allocates limited resources," an issue federalism attempts to address.

The Pahayag pilot survey was conducted from August 7 to 9, 2017. The poll has 1,500 respondents from key cities in the country. 

It has a margin of error of 2.58% nationwide, and 5.77% each in the National Capital Region, north Luzon, south Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. – Rappler.com

Michael Bueza

Michael Bueza is a researcher and data curator under Rappler's Research Team. He works on data about elections, governance, and the budget. He also follows the Philippine pro wrestling scene and the WWE. Michael is also part of the Laffler Talk podcast trio.