MANILA, Philippines – Vice President Leni Robredo expressed concern that the Department of the Interior and Local Government’s (DILG) nationwide information drive on federalism may be used by senatorial aspirants to boost their chances in the 2019 polls.
On Tuesday, July 10, Robredo listed several government policies she is critical of as she accepted the call to lead and unite the opposition against President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration.
Apart from the bloody war against illegal drugs and Duterte’s anti-loitering policy, Robredo reiterated her belief that it was not the time for the Philippines to pursue charter change to pave the way for federalism. (READ: Charter change 'untimely' amid rising prices, killings – Robredo)
She cited the DILG’s federalism roadshow and alluded to a recent convention held in Albay in the Bicol region. The Vice President warned that the initiative, instead of enlightening the public on federalism, may be used for other political purposes.
"Doon sa amin sa Bicol, maraming nagrereklamo na mga kababayan ko na pinapunta sila [sa] DILG-sponsored event, so pera ng taumbayan. Pero may mga nagsalita na mga kandidato para sa susunod na senatorial elections. Bakit gagastusin iyong pera ng DILG para sa ganoon?" said Robredo.
(In Bicol, my provincemates were complaining they were invited to a DILG-sponsored event, which means public funds were used. But there were speakers who are running in the senatorial elections next year. Why would the DILG spend money for that?)
“Ako, wala naman akong oposisyon na magkaroon ng federalism caravan. Pero dapat sana iyong sadya nito, ipaintindi sa taumbayan kung tungkol sa ano iyong usapin. Pero instead na nagiging ganoon, parang nagiging kampanya tuloy siya. Nag-aalala ako na baka ginagawa lang itong vehicle para isulong iyong mga pribadong interes at hindi iyong interes ng taumbayan,” she added.
(I do not oppose the federalism caravan. I hope it will fulfill its goal of informing the public about federalism. But it seems the caravan is being used as a campaign platform. I’m worried it’s being used as a vehicle to put forward private interests and not the interest of the public.)
Robredo was referring to the DILG's Regional Federalism Convention held in Legazpi, Albay, on July 6, the third leg of its nationwide roadshow on federalism. The keynote speaker turned out to be Special Assistant to the President Bong Go, whose apparent pre-campaign ads had been airing in Bicol for more than two weeks. (READ: DILG federalism roadshow's 'surprise' guest in Albay)
Presidential Adviser for Political Affairs Francis Tolentino was listed in the official program as the keynote speaker. The DILG clarified that Go was invited to attend the event but could not make it, so he asked Tolentino to represent him.
The Legazpi roadshow participants, numbering around 5,000, were shown a video presentation on Go. After delivering his own message, Tolentino read Go's speech.
Go and Tolentino are believed to be gunning for Senate posts in 2019.
Robredo said the DILG’s program seeking public support for federalism should give a chance for Filipinos to not only listen to the government’s rationale for charter change, but must also serve as an avenue for the people to ask questions about the shift to a federal system of government.
“Iyong sa akin lang, malaki iyong ginagastos ng pamahalaan para sa sinasabing federalism caravan. Pero ang tanong, dito ba sa caravan na ito, binibigyan ba ng pagkakataon iyong mamamayan na iboses iyong kaniyang saloobin? Binibigyan ba ng pagkakataon iyong mamamayan na maintindihan kung ano iyong pederalismo, ano iyong epekto nito, ano iyong mga implikasyon?” asked Robredo.
(For me, the government spends a lot of money for the federalism caravan. But the question is, are people given the chance to voice their concerns? Are they given the chance to truly understand federalism, its effects, and implications?)
DILG Assistant Secretary Jonathan Malaya had earlier told Rappler that two hours was allotted for the question-and-answer portion during the morning session of the federalism roadshow in Legazpi, where members of the Consultative Committee took questions from the audience that included local officials, business leaders, and community organizers.
Many of those who attended both sessions in Legazpi said, however, that there was not enough time to discuss all the concerns about the proposed shift to federalism, and that more time was devoted to listening to administration and local officials lauding the move.
As it launched the federalism roadshow last month, the DILG said in a press statement that the primary objective was to "engage the people in the national discussions on constitutional change." It urged the public to participate in the discussion during the series of roadshows first held in Dumaguete City on June 17.
Duterte himself had promised to switch to federalism during the 2016 campaign, arguing it would decentralize power and wealth from Manila and empower the other regions.