Press Release
September 22, 2016

Excerpts from Media Conference at "Decentralization to Federalism: The next stage of Philippine Democracy?"
International Conference

SP Koko: Let me thank first of all our foreign visitors, because the have taken the time and spent the energy and resources in coming here in order to help us. They are already very knowledgeable about federalism, and they know that that Philippines is very interested in shifting to a federal system of government, so they are here to help us, so pasalamatan po natin sila. And this event this morning is only one of the series of events organized not only by the PDP-Laban, but a lot of organizations in order to educate the Filipino populace about the concept of federalism. We are at this stage where we encourage everybody to keep an open mind. Just be like sponges and learn everything we can learn, and listen to every input that have been given to us. The decision time will be by next year, where at this same time next year, we will need to fix the specific model, which we will adopt for our country.

Q: Do you think Filipinos are ready for federalism?

SP: I can only use the phrase "federalism fever." We have a federalism fever in our country. There are many online groups, discussion groups spontaneously formed in order to discuss and propagate federalism. And now many people listen, before people were dismissive. Now they listen, "What is this federalism?" So they really want to know, they are open.

Before President Duterte ran or formally filed a certificate of candidacy, he went around the country talking about federalism. Maybe it played a secondary role during the campaign, but still the people were introduced about the concept of federalism. Now that he is president, people want to know, "What is this federalism mentioned once before?"

And now people want to know, and I am optimistic. That is why I said in my speech that I believe that the time is right for us to seriously propose the shift to a federal system of government, because 1.) the Filipino people are now open to change, and 2.) are now more receptive to federalism.

Q: Can this shift to federalism be done within the term of President Duterte?

SP: That is the plan, that is why we have to start early in the term of the president, we have to start this constitutional process of amending the constitution and adopting the federal system of government. There are many advantages to starting early - 1.) he and his supporters cannot be accused of having a political agenda, because this is in no way will be connected to extending his terms, we are starting very early, and 2.) it's a hot topic and people are talking about federalism, and it is now time to go for it.

Q: On possible timelines for shift to federalism

SP: I am hesitant about giving timelines because all previous timelines given to the media have all proven to be wrong. Let us just finish this budget, and Congress will shift its concentration now to charter change, sitting as a constituent assembly, in order to adopt first and foremost a federal system of government.

So we will start this in January, so we will have to share the work week with legislative work, and work as a constituent assembly. We will now have sessions from Monday to Friday, I will suggest three days as a constituent assembly and two days as a legislative body. That is how we will divide the workweek so we can work faster. Hindi na muna ako magbibigay ng timeline.

But the overall target is that in the 2019 elections, we should already have the new plebiscite for the new Constitution. We would have to time it, we hold one election and plebiscite, one exercise.

Q: On possible model for a federal government in Philippines

SP: The main idea is to break up the one and only center of power, in a unitary form of government. Let us have a multipolar Philippines with many centers of power, so that hopefully, being a center a power, there will be economic progress in that center of power. That's the main idea, if we can go from one federal government and after the federal government to regional governments, then hopefully now with regional governments there will be areas of development in the regions because there is power real power- to be given to the regional centers.

But insofar as the Senate and the senators, we are still at a stage where I told my party to be like sponges, just listen but at the same time, but behind the scenes we are already now firming up the particular model and particular constitution that we will propose. But these are the guiding principles, if we choose to remain with unitary then we will have to shift to a parliamentary government. If we go to federal, then most likely we will have presidential. Those are the guiding principles that the party have. Thank you.

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