Based on historical accounts, the federalization of the Philippine islands is an idea opined since centuries back by Jose P. Rizal, the Philippine national hero, when he wrote in an essay published in La Solidaridad in 1889-1890, “[Once liberated] the Islands will probably declare themselves a federal republic.” This idea has been presented, proffered and proposed by individuals and groups alike under different administrations hence though has yet to prosper.
During his first State of the Nation Address in 2016, President Duterte committed to supporting the federalism process, adding that a referendum can be held in 2019. He also directed the undertaking of a nationwide information campaign on federalism by the government in partnership with civil society, grassroots and faith-based organizations.
In support of the Philippine government's information campaign on federalism and thrust towards a shift to a federal form of government, the Hanns Seidel Foundation, in cooperation with the Pimentel Institute for Leadership and Governance (PILG) is supporting education and information activities on federalism. The main objective is to provide broader and deeper knowledge of the philosophy and the principles of federalism as a form of government and help key representatives of government and members of society gain a better and more comprehensive understanding of federalism.
Joint activities held in 2016 included a public forum, a youth camp and, with the support of the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF), a seven-member Philippine delegation to Germany as part of the “Information Exchange and Study Visit on Federalism.” The delegates now comprise the pool of core group members/experts who, equipped with increased knowledge on federalism, help in the further dissemination of salient features and principles on federalism, promoting public awareness and understanding on the topic and help in the creation of a unique form of federalism that is best suited to the Philippine context.
In 2017, information activities on federalism were conducted in Luzon, in Visayas and in Mindanao for the further dissemination of information on the federal system of government. Amongst these were two series of fora and conferences in which an international expert on federalism was invited to the Philippines to speak.
The activities were held in partnership with the PILG, with the support of various government and non-government entities, including the Office of the Governor of the Province of Quezon, Office of the City of Cagayan de Oro, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office (PLLO), and the Hon. Raul M. Gonzales, Sr. Foundation, Inc., as well as the academe, such as: the PhinMA Cagayan de Oro College (COC), the University of the Philippines Law Centre, the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) and the University of Makati (UMak). Participants comprised local elective officials, representatives of non-government organisations, members of the academe, and students alike.
With the help of the PILG, the Foundation also supported the attendance of two participants to the two-week program on federalism of the EURAC Research Winter School of Federalism 2017, during which they gained broader and deeper analyses of the phenomena of federalism, regionalism and multi-level governance from a legal and a political science perspective, particularly on the aspect of power sharing, and thereby help them gain a better and more comprehensive understanding of federalism. The Hanns Seidel Foundation also funded the printing of a limited number of copies of Former Senator Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr.’s book, “Federalizing the Philippines: A Primer,” which embodies Sen. Pimentel’s proposal for the Philippines adoption of the federal system and which was distributed to the participants during some of the major activities.
This 2018, the HSF and the PILG held a forum for representatives of media to provide a venue for their discussion of critical points of federalism. Meanwhile, the EURAC Research Winter School of Federalism 2018 had for a consecutive year, two participants whose attendance was supported by the Foundation, in cooperation with the PILG.
The information drive on federalism in the country is intensifying and the HSF and the PILG have planned a line-up of information activities to help increase the awareness of the general public about federalism, contribute to deepening their understanding thereof and assist them in making informed decisions when the time for the referendum comes in 2019.