LEGAZPI CITY, Dec. 10 (PNA) -- Bicolanos who warmly welcomed President Rodrigo Duterte during his visit to Albay on Thursday for the seventh year anniversary of Federalismo Alyansa ng Bikol (FAB) said they see some promise in the federal system of government.
Among them was Benjamin F. Santiago, provincial convenor of FAB in Albay, who said the President’s visit showed he was sincere in pursuing reforms in government.
Convenors of the FAB movement in each of the six provinces of the Bicol region were presented by anti-crime crusader Dante Jimenez to nearly 3,000 local government officials in the region and representatives from various sectors who gathered at the Legazpi City Convention Center to listen to the President explain the merits of the new form of government.
The president emphasized that federalism would be advantageous for Bicol “so you could operate your own resources... so that these are not lost to corruption …with the bulk of money collected going down to your own pockets.”
Santiago said FAB was formally launched as the Bicol Autonomy Movement on Dec. 8, 2009 in Daet, Camarines Norte. He said, however, that in January 2015 when the President was still mayor of Davao City, the latter had suggested the change in name to FAB.
Aside from Santiago, the other convenors in the Bicol region, who pledged to sustain the advocacy for federalism during FAB’S founding anniversary celebration, were Dorothy Neil B. Doroin, Luis San Ramos, Susan Ordinario, Hamilcar Arregadas and Godofredo Ditan for the provinces of Camarines Sur, Camarines Norte, Catanduanes, Masbate and Sorsogon, respectively.
“Bicol is the only region which has a structure of federalism,” said Santiago.
At present, FAB is governed by an organizational structure with a Jimenez as its regional convenor and the six provincial convenors. The movement is expected to expand towards having district, municipal and barangay coordinators working as volunteers.
As part of its advocacy FAB is pushing for constitutional amendments to pave the way for the establishment of a federal system of government that it believes would help hasten development in the regions.
According to Raul Lambino, an official of PDP-Laban, the political party that helped Mr. Duterte win the presidency, the “creation of autonomous regions would serve as the transition for the federal” set-up from the prevailing unitary system of government.
Some Bicolano congressmen like Albay third district Rep. Fernando Gonzalez expect the federal form of government “to happen soon.”
He said federalism would be “for the good of the country, especially for the Bicol region.”
“Bicol has six provinces and it is perfectly set up to become a (Bicol Federal) state because it has its own congressional districts, cities, municipalities, barangays and local government units,” he added.
Gonzales is optimistic that the federal system of government can be realized in the next three years.
He said there were certain models in the world to follow but he was inclined towards the French government’s system, which is composed of a parliament and a president who is given strong powers.
“The Philippines needs a president equipped with certain powers so the country could be united and a parliament which also has powers to govern the states,” said Gonzales.
He believes in adopting the French model but said there should be room for “innovation” depending on what could be “applicable for the federal states.”
Gonzales said in Congress, where the deliberations on the constitutional amendments would occur, there would be some “adjustments” on how to distribute the resources and income of the country.
He cited that “there are regions and provinces which cannot stand alone” and those “poor and with no resources at all.”
AKO Bicol Partylist Rep. Alfredo Garbin, one of the members of the constitutional committee in Congress, said he was in favor of the federal form of government.
He said, however, that we should "determine first what kind of model suits the history, culture and experiences of the Filipino people."
"Hindi naman pwedeng basta na lang mag a-adopt tayo ng model ng sistema ng gobyerno ng ibang bansa na hindi naman bagay sa ating mga Pilipino at mismong sa ating bansa," (We should not just adopt any model or system of government in other countries that is not suitable for Filipinos and for our country) said Garbin.
Deo Eldiocada, 22, a resident of Sorsogon City and a political science student of the Divine Word College in Legazpi City, who was present in Thursday’s FAB convention, said he favored Bicol becoming a federal state.
"We will benefit directly from our own resources and wealth,” he said.
Albay Governor Al Francis Bichara said it was still unclear what specific laws would be amended in the Constitution.
"We still have to wait for the committee,” he said.
During the FAB convention, President Duterte announced that he has issued an executive order creating a committee that will conduct a consultative study of the 1987 Constitution.
He was in Bicol on Thursday, also for the groundbreaking ceremony for the Php 4.8-billion Bicol International Airport in Barangay Alobo, Daraga, Albay. (PNA) RMA/JORGE HALLARE/RSM