Admin to step up info drive on charter change, federalism
Malacañang on Monday promised to double down on an information campaign to counter worsening public rejection of its proposal to amend the Constitution for a shift to federalism.
Refusing to be disheartened by the Pulse Asia poll finding that 67 percent of Filipinos opposed moves to amend the Constitution, the Palace picked through the survey results and settled on the awareness figures to defend the proposal.
“We would like to point out that 55 percent of respondents have heard, read or watched anything about the proposals to change the 1987 Constitution before the survey was conducted or only during the time the survey was held,” presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said in a statement.
He pointed out that 69 percent of the respondents “admitted little awareness” of the federalism proposal.
“For this reason, we cannot expect our people to support an initiative, which they know only little about,” Roque said.
He admitted the need for “much work . . . in terms of spreading awareness and knowledge” on the amendment proposal.
“We will therefore exert even more effort to inform and educate our citizens about federalism since the approval of the proposed changes in our current Charter ultimately lies in the hands of the Filipino people,” he said.
The Duterte administration is pressing the change to federalism to speed development and progress in the countryside.
But economists from the University of Asia and the Pacific (UA&P) believe a shift to federalism can only spell disaster for the Philippines, possibly stoking hyperinflation and choking local governments with more devolved powers than they can handle.
“I think it will be a disaster. I won’t go as far as [retired] Chief Justice Hilario Davide saying it’s going to be hell but it’s not necessary and it’s counterproductive,” UA&P economist Bernardo Villegas said on Monday.
“Imagine the duplication of all expenses of all levels and the completely arbitrary way of putting together provinces for the so-called federal states,” he said.
The Philippines, he said, should learn that other nations that have been successful with federalism have had strong local government structures from the beginning.
Otherwise, he said, a spending binge that would arise from the shift could trigger hyperinflation, a situation where consumer prices are skyrocketing, sharply eroding the value of the local currency.
1,000 percent inflation
In a hyperinflationary situation, consumer prices could surge up to 1,000 percent, which, according to Victor Abola, another UA&P economist, has happened in some Latin American countries and Western European nations that broke away from communism.
Citing his regression study on middle-income countries, Abola said federalism did not boost economic growth.
He also expressed concern about the quality of administration at the local government level.
“At the national level, it’s getting professional. But at the local level, we usually have political appointees,” Abola said.
“And then the other thing, of course, is that they are not very transparent. You don’t know how the money in your city and municipality is being spent,” he added.
Abola said the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao had been “given practically everything they want and they have not managed to do it well.”
Catapulting Philippine regions into federal states, he said, “is like going from grade school to doctorate in physics.”
“It’s going to be a disaster,” he said. —With a report from Doris Dumlao-Abadilla