How do we teach Federalism to Filipinos?

MANILA Former street vendor Mila, 67, has heard the word federalism before, but barely understands how it is going to help improve the lives of Filipinos.

Hindi ko sinasabing alam ko na 'yun. Nasanay lang ako sa pakikipag-halubilo. So paano nila ipapaliwanag na makakatulong ito (I'm not saying I know what it means. I'm just used to talking to other people. So how is the government going to explain that it's going to help us)? Mila told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) in an interview.

Mila, who used to sell cellphone accessories at the foot of the overpass in Philcoa, Quezon City until she and her fellow vendors were driven away by the local government, is just one of the many Filipinos who might be aware that shifting to a federal system of government is one of President Rodrigo R. Duterte's campaign promises but is clueless on what it is about.

By definition, federalism is a system of government that allows the distribution of powers between a federal government and its constituent states. It is a system of government that allows regions to govern themselves.

Filipinos need to understand what federalism is because a plebiscite could be held early next year if Congress passes the new Constitution. Unfortunately, a Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey found that only "one out of four (25 percent) Filipino adults nationwide said they know about the federal system of government, while 75 percent learned about it only during the survey."

Another survey from Pulse Asia showed that 62 percent were not in favor of federalism, 28 percent were in favor, and 10 percent were uncertain.

Explaining federalism and its political and economic benefits, Mila said, should be a task assigned to barangay (village) centers and schools.

Puwede diyan sa mga local, mayroong nagpapaliwanag na ganyan. Dapat din sa school sa anumang paraan para kumalat at maipasok ang kaalaman sa mga tao (It can be taught at the local government level. They have people tasked to do it. It should also be taught in schools in any way to get the word out and give people enough knowledge), she added.

In fact, the barangay should be at the heart of this information campaign on federalism since it is the basic political unit that helps the national government attain its goals. There are about 42,000 barangays in the country.

Federalism in schools?

Rachel Pardeno, a freshman accountancy student at New Era University, said she knew that federalism involves change but was unsure what change it will be.

Naririnig ko lang pero di ko po iniintindi (I have heard about it but I don't really try to understand it), she said.

Like Pardeno, Angelito Verdeflor, 56, a painter, had little to say about federalism, but noted that teaching it in schools would help make future generations more knowledgeable about it.

Sa school? Oo, puwede. Ang bata nga marunong mag-computer e, maiintindihan din nila ang federalism (In school? It can be taught there. If children are able to learn how to use computers, they could understand federalism), he said.

Universities have subjects like Philippine Government and the Constitution to help students acquire knowledge needed to make informed decisions. For Verdeflor, incorporating federalism in their lessons would help get the word out better.

Verdeflor also said that the media, particularly tabloids and local TV stations, also have the responsibility to keep citizens informed.

He said that teaching or reporting about federalism is best done in the vernacular.

Maganda sa diyaryo. Saka sa Tagalog, hindi English e (It would be good to read about it in the newspaper and in Tagalog, not English), he added.

Duterte's ConCom

Last July 9, Duterte's 22-member Consultative Committee (ConCom) finished creating a proposed federal Constitution, which it has already submitted to Congress for review. However, there are also efforts to draft a federal Constitution being undertaken in both chambers of Congress.

At present, the ConCom is set to launch a nationwide information campaign to educate the public on federalism.

We are now crafting a nationwide information education program, which will be carried out in the next few months in order to let our people know what is being proposed, how it will benefit them, ConCom spokesperson Ding Generoso said in an earlier press conference.

Moreover, the ConCom will also be putting up its own website and social media page to increase its presence on the internet.

MalacaAang earlier said that the government needs to "work harder" to promote the numerous benefits Filipinos could enjoy under a proposed federal form of government.

We'll need to work harder given that the shift to federalism is the cornerstone of the Duterte administration, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said.

Despite the complete lack of understanding of federalism among most Filipinos, they feel that any kind of change in government and the Constitution should be carefully thought of.

Pang-matagal kasi 'yun, hindi basta-basta desisyunan mo 'yun sa sarili mo, dahil iyon ay pang habangbuhay (It is lasting. You cannot just decide on that on your own because the results are lasting), Mila said. (Azer Parrocha, Kris Crismundo, Ferdinand Patinio, Aerol John PateAa/PNA)

Source: Philippine News Agency

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