Federalism: the Filipino view by Fil V. Elefante

Federalism? What is that?

That was the apparent sentiment of most Filipinos, according to a recent survey released by Pulse Asia Research, Inc.

Put more bluntly, a big majority of Filipinos knew little or almost nothing at all about the federal system of government that is being proposed by the Duterte administration and its allies. In contrast, only a very small minority of Filipinos claimed to understand the issue completely.

These were among the results of the March 2018 Survey on Charter Change conducted by Pulse Asia.

The said findings were part of Pulse Asia’s Ulat ng Bayan survey.

According to Pulse Asia, this survey was based on a sample of 1,200 representative adults 18 years old and older. The survey has a 3% margin of error at a 95% confidence level.

Pulse Asia explained that subnational estimates for each of the geographic areas covered in the survey such as Metro Manila, the rest of Luzon, the Visayas region and Mindanao, have a 6% error margin at 95% confidence level.


The survey showed that 71% of its respondents knew little or were almost ignorant about the proposed federal form of government. Of the 71%, 43% have little knowledge while 27% have almost no knowledge or knew nothing at all about the proposed system of government. (See Table 6)

“Lack or absence of awareness is reported by most Filipinos across geographic areas and socio-economic classes (62% to 79% and 64% to 75%, respectively),” the Pulse Asia survey said.

“Big pluralities in most geographic areas and all socio-economic groupings (41% to 45% and 42% to 50%, respectively) have little knowledge while nearly the same percentages in the rest of Luzon have either little knowledge or almost no/no knowledge at all about the proposed federal system (45% versus 34%),” survey found.

The survey also showed that about a third of its respondents believed they have a “great deal or sufficient amount of knowledge about the issue.” Another 22% told Pulse Asia that they had enough knowledge about the subject while only 7% claim “to know a great deal about the proposed federal system.

Based on geographic areas and socio-economic groupings, “sufficient knowledge levels vary from 14% to 34% and 21% and 32%, respectively.”

Those survey respondents who claimed to know a great deal about federalism ranged from as low as 1% to 18% and 4% and 8% respectively.


The Pulse Asia March 2018 Ulat ng Bayan Survey on Charter Change also showed that a sizable number of Filipinos were not in favor of changing the present system of government to a federal form.

The survey found that the “prevailing sentiment among Filipinos is one of opposition to replacing the present unitary system of government with a federal one.” About 66% of the survey respondents supported this view.

“Majority levels of opposition are posted in each geographic area and socio-economic class (54% to 75% and 60% to 71%, respectively),” the survey reported. (See Table 7)

More than a third of survey respondents in Metro Manila and 40% of those in Mindanao were against the change of government “whether now or in the future.”

A similar percentage was reported for the rest of Luzon and the Visayas region.


The survey found that those supportive of federalism accounted for 27% while 6% were ambivalent.

“Levels of support range from 17% to 42% across geographic areas and from 25% to 36% in the different socio-economic classes,” the survey reported.

More survey respondents in Metro Manila, the Visayas region and Mindanao (33% to 42%) were found to be supportive of federalism “than in the rest of Luzon (17%).”

Those ambivalent or undecided were found to range from 25 to 9% and from 4% to 7% across geographic areas and socio-economic groupings, the Pulse Asia survey on the matter said.


The same survey also found that almost half (49%) of Filipinos who answered the survey were aware of proposals to change the 1987 Constitution while about one out of four survey respondents were in favor of changing the charter now.

The survey also reported that “majority levels of awareness” were posted in Metro Manila (52%), the rest of Luzon (56%), Class ABC (60%) and Class D (51%).

“In contrast, most of those in the Visayas (66%), Mindanao (53%), and Class E (65%) have not read, or watched anything about the recent charter change proposals in the country,” the Pulse Asia survey said. (See Table 1)

Pulse Asia found this significant because it showed that more Filipinos were more aware of the issue of charter change compared to a similar Pulse Asia survey which was conduced in July 2016. The 2016 survey reported only 41% of survey respondents were aware of what charter change was all about.

However, Pulse Asia added in its analysis, its survey for September and November 2014 on the charter change issue showed the highest level of awareness on the said issue was at 61%.

According to Pulse Asia, public support for charter change had declined during the period from July 2016 to March 2018 (minus 14 percentage points) while opposition became more pronounced (plus 20 percentage points).


Another significant finding of the survey was that three out of every four Filipinos or 75% of the survey respondents have little or no knowledge at all about the Philippine Constitution. Pulse Asia found that these numbers have remained constant since July 2016 to March 2018.

“Sizable to big majority figures are registered across geographic areas and economic classes (70% to 82% and 63% to 82%, respectively),” the survey reported.

“Of the total figure (75%), 42% report having little knowledge and 34% have almost none or no knowledge at all. Nearly to exactly half of Metro Manila (50%), Mindanawons (49%), and those in Class D (44%) have little knowledge while about the same percentages of those in the rest of Luzon, the Visayas, and Classes ABC and D have either little or almost none/no knowledge at all (31% to 44% versus 31% to 39%),” the survey said. (See Table 4).


As for the level of support for changing the Constitution, the Pulse Asia survey found that “public support for charter change now eases during the period July 2016 to March 2018 (minus 14 percentage points) while opposition becomes more pronounced (plus 20 percentage points).”

Pusle Asia said in its analysis that “similar movements occur in Metro Manila (minus 13 percentage points), the rest of Luzon (minus 15 percentage points), Mindanao (minus 23 percentage points), Class D (minus 15 percentage points), and Class E (minus 11 percentage points).”

“Opposition to charter change becomes more notable during tis period not only at the national level (plus 20 percentage points) but also in Metro Manila (plus 17 percentage points), the rest of Luzon (plus 29 percentage points), Mindanao (plus 22 percentage points), and Class D (plus 24 percentage points),” the survey added.

“In particular the percentage of Filipinos who are absolutely opposed to charter change (i.e., those against charter change now or at any other time), increases by 17 percentage points with similar movements occurring in Metro Manila (plus 17 percentage points), the rest of Luzon (plus 27 percentage point), Mindanao (plus 14 percentage points), Class D (plus 19 percentage points), and Class E (plus 16 percentage points). With respect to indecision, the only notable change between July 2016 to March 2018 occurs in the rest of Luzon (minus 13 percentage points). (See Table 3)





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