By Michael Aaron Gomez
The Ateneo de Davao University (AdDU) held a Pakighinabi on Federalism titled “Pakighinabi: Usapang Pederalismo” (#BakitPederal) last 20 September 2018 at the Finster Auditorium, 7th Floor of the Finster Hall, Jacinto campus, which event was also simulcast at the 4th Floor of the Martin Hall; the Arrupe Hall; Room F213 of the Finster Building; and Rooms F711-712 of the same building. Acting as lead discussants at the session were Member of the Consultative Committee to Review the 1987 Philippine Constitution (ConCom) Atty. Antonio B. Arellano and Head of the ConCom Technical Working Group Mr. Wendell Adrian Tamayo. The event was moderated by Atty. Romeo T. Cabarde, Jr.
After the press conference with local media preceding the Pakighinabi, moderated by AdDU Assistant to the President for Research and Advocacy Atty. January Faye R. Bello, the lead discussants proceeded to explain the technical aspects and possible benefits of a prospective shift to a federal form of government. Specifically, they spoke at length about the particular salient points written into the new proposed federal constitution, dubbed “Bayanihan Federalism,” emphasizing the cooperative nature of the document. Atty. Arellano related the history of constitution-making in the Philippines, noting that not one of the constitutions have been drafted in a truly democratic situation—all of them have been borne of conflict or colonialism. Shifting to federalism now will be the first time, it is a truly historic chance, he said.
He also clarified the contention that federalism will only create new states and foster division. “We are not creating states,” Atty. Arellano said. “We are merely adapting a different form of government for the Philippine state.” Mr. Tamayo also noted that federalism will enable the Filipino people to interact more closely with their politicians, especially when they are caught doing wrong, saying, “[With federalism], you give power to the people so they can extract accountability on all levels.” He also added, “We have given so much to so few in this government.” Also addressing the possibility of federalism spurring development in the regions, Mr. Tamayo said, “If you give power to the regions, the regions will grow faster.”
Another highlight of the event were the Twitter polls conducted before and during the Pakighinabi. Hashtagged “#BakitPederal,” these polls tackled the many issues and contentions surrounding federalism, and they hoped to track the opinions of AdDU students on the topic. The first poll was conducted on 17 September, which poll asked the question, “Do you agree with adopting a federal government?” There were 255 total respondents in the daylong poll, which resulted in 81% answering “Yes” and 19% answering “No.”
The second poll was conducted on the same day, and it asked, “Do we need federalism now?” There were 323 total respondents to this poll, and it resulted in 61% answering “Yes;” 33% answering “Maybe in the future;” and only 6% answering “No.”
For the third poll, conducted on 18 September, students were asked, “Do you think federalism can solve inequality between the regions?” This time 250 people voted, and their votes resulted in 32% answering “Yes;” 50% answering “Yes—but more is needed;” 8% answering “No;” and finally, 10% answering “No—shift men, not government.”
The fourth poll, also conducted on the 18th, yielded 332 respondents to the question, “Do you think federalism can address the problems of the country, especially its regions?” Upon tallying, 28% of the voters answered “Yes;” 55% answered “Yes—but not all issues;” only 5% answered “No;” while 12% answered “No—change people first.”
There were eight more polls done during the event itself, whose full results are attached below.
The “Pakighinabi: Usapang Pederalismo” (#BakitPederal) is an initiative of the Ateneo de Davao University, planned and executed through its constituent offices: the University Community Engagement and Advocacy Council (UCEAC), the Office of Student Affairs (OSA), the Office of the Assistant to the President for Community Center and Martin Hall Operations, the Office of the Assistant to the President for Research and Advocacy, and the Institutional Communications and Promotions Office (ICOMMP).
Also, the Pakighinabi is a conversation series initiated by the Office of the President of Ateneo de Davao University to provide members of the University community a platform to discuss multidisciplinary issues and concerns in a more informal and conversational manner. Its goal is to create a structure for conversations in the frame of social justice and the common good in the pursuit of forming AdDU sui generis leaders.
In this context, this Pakighinabi hopes to guide our future AdDU sui generis leaders to make well-thought-out and informed choices as they decide on the next direction for the Philippines, which will affect all future generations. This discussion hopes to lead them to truly exercise their right to vote—that voting means voting through one’s conscience and through one’s own volition, and not for various vested interests.