Info drive sought amid doubts over federal shift

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EXPERTS are calling on the government to continue the information campaign on federalism even if the shift to a federal type of government faces uncertainty.

Cleve Arguelles, chairman of the political science program at the University of the Philippines, said the information drive should not depend on the likelihood of success of the proposed constitution.

“Whether the likelihood is high or low, an info drive would be beneficial for all citizens in the long-run. It’s a form of political education: the debates, the discussion groups and other similar initiatives,” he told the Varsitarian.

For Consultative Committee (Con-com) spokesman Ding Generoso, the people have the right to be informed and educated about the different aspects of the proposed federal constitution.

“Why would such an information drive be unnecessary when the very nature of democracy requires that the people are made aware and properly educated of any proposals that affect them and the country so that that can make an informed decision?” he said.

“The citizens themselves are the ones who will pass judgment on any proposal to revise the constitution. So why shouldn’t they be informed?” Generoso added.

In August, critics such as former ACT Teachers representative Antonio Tinio, and Senators Loren Legarda and Francis Escudero, questioned the allotment of P100 million for the Department of the Interior and Local Government’s (DILG) federalism campaign, as there was no guarantee that the proposed constitution would be passed.

Jonathan Malaya, executive director of the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan Federalism Institute, said the information campaign would involve Filipinos in the process of the changing the charter.

Malaya, who is also the DILG spokesman, said citizen involvement was important in the campaign for a working democracy.

“People need to know what exactly is being pushed by the administration for them to make an informed opinion about the matter,” he said.

“To really gauge the true support of the people, we need to inform the people first of what federalism is so that they can make that decision for themselves,” he added.

The Social Weather Stations survey for the first quarter of 2018 showed that only 25 percent of Filipino adults were aware of the federal system, while 75 percent learned what it was upon answering the survey.

The survey prompted the DILG and the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) to mount an information campaign on federalism.

‘No personalities should be involved’

For Dennis Coronacion, UST Political Science department chairman, the federalism information drive could be a medium for political awareness, but no personalities should be involved in the campaign.

Coronacion said it was important to educate the citizens about federalism to improve the quality of political discourse in the country as well as increase their political awareness.

“I noticed that the Filipinos tend to assess various political issues based on the personalities involved,” he said.

Days after Margaux “Mocha” Uson, assistant secretary of the PCOO, was tapped by the Con-Com to campaign for federalism, a video of Uson with blogger Drew Olivar emerged, purporting to support the federalism campaign. In the video, Olivar sang and danced to a jingle with the lyrics: “I-pepe, i-pepe, i-dede, i-dede, i-pepe-pepe-pepederalismo.”

“A good number of [Filipinos] have shunned federalism because they associate it with Mocha Uson and President Duterte and not based on its merits,” Coronacion said.

For Arguelles, the critics of the information drive should scrutinize the means or forms of the campaign instead of the amount of the budget to be used.

“How well would the types of info drive activities proposed include marginalized and silenced voices? Would these activities allow free authentic education and discussion?” he said.

‘Involve students, youth’

Malaya said DILG would partner with the Commission on Higher Education in initiating a series of activities for college students.

Coronacion said the government should exert an earnest effort in convincing the youth who have shown little to no support to the idea of federalism.

“Among the sectors of our society, the youth have shown an intense aversion to the idea of shifting to a federal form of government. Given this, the government should exert an earnest effort to convince them,” he said.

In May, the DILG announced that the information drive would involve the youth in the campaign to pique the interest of young people.

“Our own information drive in private capacity includes going to campuses and encouraging students and school officials to hold forums to discuss the proposed federalism shift,” Generoso said. with reports from JOB ANTHONY R. MANAHAN

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