Commentary: Not the first time; it's there all along
Iloilo (14 August) -- President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has consistently expressed her desire to have a federal government for the country. The President said in her reactions to the new furor and insinuations on her support to Resolution No. 10, that her bias for Federalism has always been there; it's there in the Senate and it is being talked about every now and then.
The message was clear when she hinted in her July 28 State of the Nation Address (SONA) that "the peace agreement with the MILF was in the works as differences on the tough issues of ancestral domains were resolved." She, likewise, asked Congress "to act on the legislative and political reforms that will lead to a just and lasting peace during our term of office."
When Arroyo ran for President in 2004 the shift to a federal form of government was part of the platform of K-4 (Koalisyon ng Katapatan at Karanasan sa Kinabukasan), her political party.
From then on, Arroyo, on many occasions, has expressed her desire for a federal form for the country, which she believed will progress and get the support of the people so that a fundamental change in the political system can materialize.
In radio interviews and in some meetings with the press, Arroyo had said: "Our present form of government has many gridlocks, which have become hindrance to our socio-economic growth." In March 2004, she said in a press conference in Davao City that "the search for peace must be constitutional but the Constitution must serve the quest for peace." She added that she believed that there is a better chance for lasting peace and development in Mindanao "if indeed we have a federal form of government."
President Arroyo said during the 3rd International Conference of Asian Political Parties in Beijing in September 2004, that Federalism is not merely a political form and it will have substantive implications on the political economy of the nation, hence, the issue of economic viability and the preparedness of component states.
She also said in the same gathering that she believed the shift to the parliamentary form of government must be spearheaded by meaningful political reforms, like a law on political parties that would spur the rehabilitation of societal organizations and mass movements, and cleaning up of electoral processes.
In her 2005 SONA, she said "Ours is a country divided; the story of our nation is a tale of two Philippines; almost, as it were, two countries under the same name. One is the Philippines whose economy, after long years of cumulative national endeavor, is now poised for take off. The other is the Philippines whose political system, after equally long years of degeneration, has become a hindrance to progress."
She added, "The economic progress and social stability of the provinces, along with the increasing self-reliance and efficiency of political developments and public services there, make a compelling case for federalism. Perhaps, it's time to take the power from the center to the countryside that feeds it."
In her 2006 SONA, Arroyo said the government has funds for constitutional and electoral changes and that there is a need to give power to the provinces.
Meanwhile, Secretary Jesus Dureza, in a press briefing, said the President made clear her endorsement of Resolution No. 10 so that all her efforts in opening up the Constitution, coming up with an ancestral domain agreement, coming up with a final peace agreement with the MILF are all responses to a historical aspiration that should be attended to now.
The insinuation that the President is going for Charter change because she wants to extend her power is unfair to her. (PIA) [top]