Local officials mull federal form of govt to speed up countryside development
DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Some local government officials have started talking about pursuing a federal form of government, especially in the wake of the controversy over the Aquino administration’s Disbursement Acceleration Program and the scandal over the pork barrel scam, which they think have only highlighted the unequal distribution of funds among the regions.
“Have you ever been to the Don Marcelino town of Davao del Sur at the height of the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) and Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scandal?” Bohol’s Maribojoc town mayor Leoncio Evasco curiously replied when asked about Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte pushing for the federal form of government in Cebu over the weekend.
“If only you’ve been to the national highway of the Don Marcelino town on the way to Jose Abad Santos town at the height of the discussions of the DAP, then, you’d understand why Mindanao leaders are pushing for the federal form of government,” said Evasco, who had served as a trusted aide of Duterte and has remained his close ally since.
“The roads are so difficult and yet in Manila, you keep hearing about the DAP and the PDAF. They are stealing all the money, and then you ask what are they doing with all the money when we still have a national road like this?” Evasco asked.
Duterte, who guested in the event sponsored by the Federal Movement for a Better Philippines, has been pushing for federalism as one of the solutions to the problems besetting Mindanao, but Evasco said this had nothing to do with the reported move to make him run for President in the 2016 elections.
“Those are two different things,” Evasco said, adding that Duterte has consistently denied having an interest in running for president.
Evasco acknowledged that the proposals for federalism usually cropped up when election season was near, only to fade when officials had won their electoral mandates. He, however, emphasized that a federal form of government would be much more responsive to the peculiar problems of Mindanao than a centralized government could ever be.
In a Cebu forum, Duterte raised the possibility of creating a federal state called BangsaTausug to appease the group of Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) chair Nur Misuari, who he said could not sit side by side with the other ethnic groups who would govern the Bangsamoro, after the current political settlement with the government.
Evasco said Duterte has been pushing for the federal form of government, hoping it would catch fire.
“We all know that Mindanao produces as much as 60 per cent of the gross domestic product but only about 40 per cent returns to it in terms of services,” Evasco said.
“It’s high time for us to push for the federal form of government so that the resources of Mindanao will directly go to the people of Mindanao,” he added.
“It’s still very unpopular right now, but who knows, Mayor Duterte pushing for it will eventually catch fire?” Evasco said.
He added that the proposal to adopt the federal form of government did not push through for a long time because it went against powerful vested interests.
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