More effort needed to enlighten public on federalism: ConCom

MANILA — The lone female in President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s Consultative Committee (ConCom) to review the 1987 Constitution said Thursday that “a little more effort” is needed to explain to the public the benefits a shift to federalism would bring to the country.

ConCom member and lawyer, Susan Ubalde-Ordinario, was reacting to the Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey that found that “one out of four (25 percent) Filipino adults nationwide said they know about the federal system of government, while 75 percent learned about it only during the survey.”

The survey, conducted last March 23-27, also showed that 37 percent agree with the federal system of government, 29 percent disagree, and 34 percent were undecided about the matter. According to the SWS, this gives a net agreement score of +7, classified “as neutral.”

However, Ubalde-Ordinario, who joined regional presentations and consultations to explain federalism, said it is also “encouraging” to talk to the public and try to convince them that federalism is the solution to the over-concentration of power in the national government.

“I find it very encouraging to go out and talk to these people because from the reactions of the beginning of a Q&A is slightly skeptical, but at the end of the forum it usually comes out to this, ‘Ganun pala ‘yun e, pwede pala ‘yun (That’s what it’s like? It can be that way)?’” she said in a press conference in Pasay City.

“It’s like an enlightenment for all of them and it’s very encouraging for all of us because we now know that with a little more effort on our part to reach out to the public, I think we will be able to really convey the message and the importance and their responsibility in this whole thing,” she added.

Ubalde-Ordinario also emphasized that the ConCom and the public have to “work together” to understand the reason for efforts to change the current system of government.

“We keep on telling them that we, as a committee, are merely recommendatory but at the end of the day, the power lies in their hands. So what is important now is for them and for us to work together to understand what benefits it will bring to the country,” she added.

ConCom senior technical assistant and spokesperson Ding Generoso, meanwhile, expressed confidence that those who are still “undecided” about federalism would change their minds.

“The number of undecided is very high at 34 percent, which means that really, if we go out there and tell the remaining 34 percent of the people, I’m very sure they’ll be convinced that this is the way forward in this country,” Generoso said.

“So, at least we are in a stage where people are neutral, according to the result of the survey, which means they are open to hearing what we are proposing and they are open to changing their mind and that is what we are counting on when we go out there and tell the people about this,” he added.

Media needed

ConCom member and professor Eddie Alih, for his part, described the survey results as “understandable,” noting that very few Filipinos have even read the current 1987 Constitution.

“The result of the survey, to us, is understandable. How many Filipinos have read our 1987 Constitution? Very few. Maybe only those who have studied law,” Alih said.

He also stressed the “critical” role of media in reporting about federalism.

“I think the press plays a very critical role in the promotion of federalism because your reach is beyond our reach,” he added.

Federalism info drive

To further educate the public on federalism, Generoso said that aside from holding regional consultations and press conferences, the ConCom is also crafting a nationwide information education program that will involve not only the mass media but the Internet and social media.

“We are now crafting a nationwide information education program, which will be carried out in the next few months in order to let our people know what is being proposed, how it will benefit them. This will be conducted over several months so that our people may be made aware of the need for change and why, and how, and what it will bring to them,” he said.

“In a few days, the (ConCom) social media page will be up. We’re contemplating (on) putting up a webpage apart from the social media page so that we will increase our presence in the internet,” he added.

Like Alih, Generoso also noted the importance of media in spreading the word on federalism.

“We need media’s help in this. Media remains the most potent source of information in this country,” he said.