Presidential daughter Sara Duterte’s take on federalism was a surprising bold repudiation of her father’s own advocacy to shift to a parliamentary form of government. In a campaign speech in Tawi-Tawi this week, the influential presidential daughter warned that the current push to federalism will only worsen “warlordism” in Mindanao.
“I am not for federalism but decision ‘yan ng Congress, decision ‘yan ng President natin,” she said.
This wasn’t the first time the young Duterte has diverged from her own father’s agenda and his so-called political “diskarte”. She had previously engineered the ouster of House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez to pave the way for Gloria Macapagal Arroyo while his father merely watched from the sidelines – or at least that was what had appeared in public. Her initiative to form Hugpong ng Pagbabago and its senatorial slate took the wind from the sail of the PDP-Laban, the party that became the ruling coalition ushered by her own father’s ascension to the presidency.
That she has been able to get away from contradicting her own father without suffering from his trademark tantrums shows the influence of this particular player in the national political debate and marks her off as a potential presidential contender, regardless of her erstwhile statements to the contrary. But this digresses from the subject of this editorial.
Sara Duterte’s stance against federalism was spoken a few days after she came to Palawan where she expressed the same sentiment but worded in the local context. She expressed indifference to the plans to divide Palawan into three provinces by pointing out its implication on having reduced budgets for the newly formed local government units.
Central to the push to divide Palawan is to anticipate the shift to federalism. It was the rallying banner that was waved by the proponents of the division bill to get Congress and the president himself into passing the legislation successfully.
The creation of a political dynasty is one of the main arguments being raised by civil society groups opposing the division of Palawan, pointing out the pervasive control and influence of current governor Jose Alvarez on the province’s political landscape. Sara Duterte did not say that much in Palawan but such seems to be the drift of her personal conviction.
Sara Duterte raised two important points of debate in Palawan’s venture to geographical division – the financing and practical implications of the division and the threat of creating political dynasties. There is ample time to better understand these issues at hand before next year’s scheduled plebiscite.