CLARK FREEPORT – More than 2,000 Mabalaqueños trooped to the Royce Hotel here on Monday for the Federalism Forum organized by Mabalacat City Mayor Marino “Boking” Morales and the PDU30 CoRe (Constitutional Reformers).
The forum, the fourth in the province, was the biggest federalism gathering in the country so far, according to actress Vivian Velez who is the speaker, ways and means chairperson, and media liaison officer of the PDU30 CoRe which has helped organized about 50 forums since June 10.
Lawyer Raul Lambino, lead convenor of PDU30 CoRe and one of the principal speakers, said the forum is important because it is meant to let the people understand the change in the system of our government.
He said this is not an easy thing to do that is why the forum is meant to educate the people on what federalism is all about so that they can make the right decision.
“This the reason why our countrymen in Mabalacat like city offi cials, barangay offi cials, leaders of diff erent organizations as well ordinary folks are here to learn about federalism,” he said.
From his own observation, Lambino said, federalism is well accepted by the people because they realize that it empowers them and gives them much faster access on their needs unlike the present system which has been in place for more than a century since the time of the Americans and in the beginning of our government.
Lambino said the change in the system of government has become more vital in the light of our growing population which has now exceeded 100 million.
He explained that in the 1920s, there were only 15 million Filipinos but now we have 30 million poor Filipinos. “We need to address the needs the growing number of poor Filipinos and allow them faster access to basic services,” he said.
Filipinos can now realize that they have a choice for a better future and this is federalism, he pointed out.
But Lambino said it will take another two to three years before the change in our Constitution can be implemented. “And as soon as we have achieved the change in our Constitution we will now have a new onen, and we now have to contend with a long transition period which could last for another three years,” he noted.
According to Lambino, Senate President Koko Pimentel and House Speaker Bebot Alvarez told him that by March next year, Congress will begin talking about forming a constituent assembly who will outline a new Constitution. They will be assisted by a constitutional commission whose members will be appointed by President Duterte.
He said they will take about six to nine months to outline a new Constitution and whatever they created will be presented to the Filipino people who will then ratify it through a plebiscite.
For his part, Mayor Morales said federalism will strengthen the local government units. “This will certainly promote genuine local autonomy that is why we support this to encourage the development of the countryside,” he said. “This is also one way to decongest Metro Manila,” he added.
Mabalacat City Vice Mayor Christian C. Halili, who made the welcome remarks, described the forum as a good opportunity for Mabalaqueños, especially barangay officials, to learn and understand what federalism is all about which is being pushed by President Duterte.
“This is a good opportunity for our people to be equipped with knowledge so that they could understand better what federalism is all about,” he said.
Meanwhile, former Senator Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel, the main speaker in the forum, said he has been advocating for a shift to a federal form of government since some 30 years ago.
But he said it was hard to even call for a charter change “unlike now that we have a supportive president that also advocates a federal form of government. The time is now for a genuine change.”
But he stressed that the ultimate responsibility for adopting a federal system belongs to the people.
“It is important for the people to know about federalism so that they can have a basis for wisely deciding in favor or against the proposal,” he said.
Other speakers were Atty. Larry Garon who spoke on “Introduction to Parliamentary” and Office of the Court Administrator Atty. Jose Midas Marquez who articulated on the “Court in a Federal System of Government: A Proposed Perspective for the Philippines.”
The forum, hosted by former Rep. Kim Bernardo- Lokim, began at 1 p.m. and lasted until 6 p.m.