Manila: Sixty-seven per cent of Filipino voters will likely vote against charter change if presented with the choice now, an independent survey said.
According to a survey conducted in June by Pulse Asia Research, “the prevailing sentiment among Filipinos (on charter change) is one of opposition”. It added that the latest poll showed that resistance to the idea of changing the constitution was even more in June, than when the same choice was posed in March.
The respondents were posed with the question: “In your opinion, should the 1987 Constitution be amended/not amended at this time.”
“Between March and June 2018, public support for changing the 1987 Philippine Constitution eases (-5 percentage points) while opposition to charter change now and in the future becomes more pronounced (+5 percentage points), it said.
The poll solicited the responses of 1,800 registered voters, 18 years old and above.
The survey was aimed at gauging the public sentiment on current efforts by the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte to replace the 1987 Constitution with a new one that would include a transition towards a federal form of government in lieu of the current unitary system.
Reacting to the poll results, Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said this meant that the government needed to intensify its information drive on charter change and federalism.
It had been proposed that the country be broken up into several regions, each with its own set of law and policymaking bodies (parliament) and having fiscal independence.
“We will therefore exert even more effort to inform and educate our citizens about federalism since the approval of the proposed changes in our current charter ultimately lies in the hands of the Filipino people,” said in a statement.
For his part, Senator Franklin Drilon said the poll already portends what could happen if Filipinos are given the choice on deciding for charter change and adopting federalism.
“The fact that opposition to charter change increased in the last quarter despite the aggressive campaign and information drive on charter change for the past months speaks of the people’s strong opposition towards amending our Constitution,” Drilon, the Senate Minority Leader said.
“The survey only confirms that even if Congress rushes the procedure and passes a new charter that will pave the way for a federal form of government, people will reject it,” he said.
Senator Grace Poe said Filipinos were being forced to decide on an issue that they do not fully understand at this point.
“The people are caught in a tug-of-war between two extremes. One demanding that we approve it without thinking. The other to reject it outright. I take the centrist view of giving it a thorough study, subject it to intense debate, so that we can all make an informed choice,” she said.
There had been several attempts by past administrations to amend the charter, but none had gone to the extent of floating the idea before the people and subjecting the issue to a plebiscite.