Solons: Yes to charter change, mixed reactions to federalism

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Congressmen Danilo Suarez and Lito Atienza agree that charter change is necessary, but federalism comes with downsides like less voting power, unsustainable regional income, and the loss of national language.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — For the first time in decades, both the President and Congress are aggressively pushing for charter change but federalism draws mixed views.

Two solons from the House of Representatives clarify that the two do not come in one package. While they agree on charter change, Minority Floor Leader Danilo Suarez and BUHAY Party-list representative Lito Atienza have qualms about a federal form of government.

"No one can assure that federalism will be good for us," Atienza told CNN Philippines' The Source, adding that the current system can still accommodate local government empowerment. "(It's all) theoretical, but I have not seen any study (saying) that Philippines is ready for federalism."

President Rodrigo Duterte has actively campaigned for federalism, a system of government that grants fiscal and state autonomy to regions under a national government. Some countries that practice a federal form of government include Australia, Malaysia, and the United States of America.

WATCH: What is federalism?

Implications of federalism

In all models of federalism, Suarez said bureaucracy will only grow bigger due to the local and national split. In another model, the vice presidential position may be removed in favor of a prime minister. It is also possible that members of the parliament--not the people-- would be the ones to vote a President into office.

Given the additional bureaucracy, Atienza said the expense in federalism is a gamble. "If we federalize, we will have a Congress in every region," Atienza added. "Can we afford a Congress in every region?"

But for capable regions, the proposal may allow more local growth. Suarez shared that at present, his home region only gets about 32 to 33 billion of its 98 billion earnings since the rest goes to national government. "If we are a federal (state)... we'll get 80 (percent) and then we will remit 20 in the national government," he said. However, he added that only three regions can sustain themselves at present.

"Sasabihin ng system, bahala na kayo, eh. Ay, hindi pwede (yan)," said Atienza. "We are now a unitary government, we are able to help the locals... if we provide them with the money that they are entitled to, they can develop themselves faster."

[Translation: The system says, you're on your own. That can't be.]