WITH three more years in his presidency remaining, President Rodrigo Duterte has finally admitted that his promise and dream of seeing a Federal State for the country may no longer succeed. This may be perceived as a failure on the part of the President by some sectors of society but the blame for such failure is equally attributable to those who for decades have greatly benefited from the misfortune of their countrymen mired in poverty and who continue to exploit such inequality even as many of them sit in the halls of power.
It was only recently that President Duterte lamented the fact that the party-list system which is supposed to represent other marginalized sectors and groups in the lower house in Congress has been invaded by millionaires who seek only to become representatives in order to protect their vested interests. Rich people in the country are getting richer by taking advantage of laws that are supposed to protect the interests of the poor. These oligarchs in turn make sure that poverty stricken regions remain that way to guarantee that they can easily be exploited without significant opposition from those affected.
This is what President Duterte may have wanted to address when he laid bare his advocacy to transform the country into a federalist state.
But the proposal to change the constitution in order to adopt a federal form of government apparently did not sit well with those in the Lower House of Congress and that is why the proposal has languished in the bottom of legislative priorities until the present time. In fact even if most of the congresspersons side with the President on a majority of his programs they remain ice cold to his entreaties to revise the constitution and adopt federalism.
The President should have seen beforehand that his proposed federalism would only dilute the power now being enjoyed by those in Congress especially those who have long enjoyed wealth and affluence by exploiting the countryside of its resources. Those who have known power and wealth for so long would never accept such a concept as federalism that would allow other regions, especially the impoverished ones, to chart their own destinies through self-determination. This is simply anathema to their present lifestyle.
In fact, here in the Cordillera region where we have long clamored for autonomy, a distant cousin of federalism, but the opportunity for charting our own course of development and growth has been stymied time and again while our vital natural resources continue to be raped and plundered by those already wallowing in wealth and power.
The continued failure of autonomy for the Cordillera, like the death of Federalism, is but an indication of our continued apathy to real change that would have redounded to the benefit of a majority of the people.
We can only commiserate with President Duterte for believing that federalism can be achieved in the country during his administration. He can only do so much.