When the lockdown due to the Coronavirus disease (Covid-19) started, among the first few instructions of the Philippine President is to transfer the work to the local government units. These include ensuring that the community quarantine is implemented, and that the people are rationed with food. This is just consistent with his advocacy of federalizing the country and granting more autonomy to the local government units (LGUs).
When the “Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-asa” (BP2) program was instituted, discussions on federalism surfaced. In Polevu’s Facebook Page, a number of commenters claim that the BP2 will only succeed with federalism. This is consistent with the sales pitch of Secretary of the Interior and Local Government (SILG) Eduardo Año who said that
“The DILG welcomes the institutionalization of the BP2 program since this has always been our battle cry in our campaign for constitutional reform (Core) which is equal opportunities for growth and progress for all. It has been a fact that development is lopsided in favor of Metro Manila.”
Since federalism will not happen without charter change (cha-cha), the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) used Año’s pronouncement as a basis to direct its regional offices and supporters to gather up to 2 million signatures over the next two months in support of amending the Constitution, with the campaign shifting online to meet a July deadline. Año, though, was said to have distanced from the move.
But while we agree that a constitutional review is long overdue, gathering signatures to support a constitutional reform in the time of a pandemic is quite insensitive. The people are suffering and there are things that the government needs to prioritize — among them reading the Covid-19 statistics properly. Just look at the blunder of the Secretary of Health who claimed that the Philippines is already in the second wave.
Worse, the suffering is also due to the government’s inefficiency in handling the pandemic both in terms of the delivery of health and social services. That does not include yet how the country’s resources and the economy are being managed.
Or, it could also be that the DILG is trying to use the pandemic to hostage the distribution of financial assistance to the people. Remember that the Social Amelioration Program (SAP) is just being distributed and the second round of the financial assistance distribution is already up for implementation. With SAP as a carrot, gathering pro-Charter change signatures will be easier, right?