MANY members of the League of Municipalities in the Philippines (LMP) in Cebu will support calls for a shift to a federal government, an official said.

Tuburan Mayor Democrito “Aljun” Diamante, who heads the LMP’s Cebu chapter, told reporters that majority of town leaders in Cebu support the proposed shift to federalism because it would be advantageous.

Diamante attended yesterday a forum in Cebu City on federalism in which former senator Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel Jr., one of the proponents of federalism, was a speaker.

Diamante believes that majority of the executives who lead the 44 towns, along with the three component cities of Naga, Carcar and Bogo, will support the idea because it empowers local governments and could make them less dependent on the national government.

For his part, Pimentel thanked Cebuanos for being supportive of the cause of pushing for federalism.

He told reporters that Cebuanos could further support the campaign by forming a group that would gather the opinions of the general populace on the issue.

Pimentel said that with President-elect Rodrigo Duterte supporting federalism, he believes that the campaign to change the form of government could be done within six years.

The first two years will be devoted to the process of adopting a federal system, while the next four years can be dedicated to the implementation, he explained. Pimentel and Duterte are allies in the PDP-Laban party, whose president is Pimentel’s son and namesake.

During the forum, Pimentel said that the country will benefit from federalism because it can speed up development through competition among the federal states and “dissipate the causes of the long-standing rebellion” that hounds Muslim Mindanao.

Under a federal system of government, he said, local government units will get a larger share of resources than the national government.

But he also emphasized that even with a federal system of government, there are some things in the unitary system that will have to retained and federally supervised, such as the Armed Forces and the public education system.

In the 14th Congress (2007 to 2010), Pimentel proposed a resolution for Congress to convene as a constituent assembly so that it could revise the 1987 Constitution and establish a federal government.

Interviewed separately, Cebu Gov. Hilario Davide III said he is not entirely sold to the idea of federalism and believes its advantages and disadvantages need to be studied.

“Kung mao na gyud na ang direksyon gyud sa atong bag-ong presidente, ang federalism, ang una anang kuanon ang Constitution (If that is indeed the new president’s direction, the first thing we need to attend to is the Constitution),” he said.

He said, though, that the forum with Pimentel was a good opportunity for people to listen to the idea. He believes the shift should not be rushed.

“If people are convinced that this is really for the good of everybody, ang ako lang nga ang local government should have autonomy (my hope would be for local governments to have autonomy),” he said.

The governor said that while federalism has advantages in terms of local autonomy and lawmaking, its disadvantages would include division. One of the areas that will need to be studied, he added, is how federalism would affect provinces that are less progressive or developed than others.

In an interview with Sun.Star Media Group editors last May 18, the president-elect said that one of the immediate steps his administration would take would be to send teams all over the country to raise people’s awareness about the advantages of federalism. (With Sweety Detz Conejos, CNU Intern)