TWO OUT of three Filipinos are against charter change, despite seven out of 10 Filipinos having little awareness towards the proposed shift to federalism, the latest survey by Pulse Asia showed.
Amid the survey findings, congressional allies of President Rodrigo R. Duterte will proceed with this program stemming from his 2016 election campaign. But the leader of the Senate said he will hold a caucus “before I speak about the matter at hand.”
Pulse Asia’s June 2018 National Survey on Charter Change, conducted June 15 to 21, showed that 67% or two out of three Filipinos are opposed to charter change. Of that percentage, 37% are against changing the 1987 Constitution “now and in the future,” while 30% “may be open to it sometime in the future.”
Other respondents either support charter change now (18%) or are undecided on the matter (14%).
“During the period March to June 2018, the overall level of support for charter change now declines (-5 percentage points) while public opposition against it now and in the future becomes more notable (+5 percentage points),” Pulse Asia said.
In terms of areas and socio-economic groupings, the polling group found big pluralities in Metro Manila (40%), the rest of Luzon (40%), the Visayas (43%), and Class D (38%) opposed to charter change now and in the future.
“About the same percentages of those in Class E either reject it now and in the future (32%) or oppose it now but may be supportive of its in the future (30%). In Mindanao and Class ABC, nearly the same percentages oppose charter change now but may be open to it in the future (34% and 30%, respectively), support it now (28% and 25%, respectively), or reject it now and in the future (26% and 38%, respectively),” Pulse Asia said.

The polling group also found majority of Filipinos (62%) rejecting the shift to federalism, with 34% opposing it now and in the future and 28% being against it now but may be open to it in the future.
With the exception of Mindanao (45%), majority levels of opposition to federalism are shown across geographical areas (56% to 72%) and socio-economic classes (54% to 68%), Pulse Asia said.
The survey pointed out further: “While a bare majority of Mindanawons (51%) back moves to shift to a federal government now, a big plurality of those in the rest of Luzon (41%) are against such a change now and in the future.”
“About the same percentages in Metro Manila, the Visayas, and Class ABC are in favor of federalism now (23% to 34%), oppose it now but may be open to it in the future (24% to 43%), or reject it now and in the future (25% to 34%). In Class D, basically the same percentages either reject federalism now and in the future (35%) or oppose it now but may be open to it in the future (28%). And in Class E, nearly the same percentages either support a shift to a federal government now (36%) or oppose such a move now and in the future (33%).”
The poll also noted a “few changes” in Metro Manila and Mindanao:”Support for shifting from a unitary system to a federal one eases in Metro Manila (-19 percentage points) while it becomes more pronounced in Mindanao (+18 percentage points). Also in Mindanao, the level of opposition to such a shift taking place now goes down (-20 percentage points). More specifically, opposition to changing the system of government to a federal one now and in the future becomes less manifest (-19 percentage points).”
The survey also noted that opposition to charter change “opposition becomes more pronounced in the Visayas (+15 percentage points) and Class E (+12 percentage points). More specifically, opposition to changing the country’s charter now and in the future becomes more manifest among Visayans (+15 percentage points).”
On the other hand, “Almost seven (7) out of 10 Filipinos (69%) have at best a low level of knowledge about the federal system of government that is being proposed by charter change advocates,” the survey said. “From March to June 2018, the only significant change is the increase in the percentage of Metro Manilans with little/almost no/no knowledge at all about the proposed federal system (+15 percentage points) and the consequent decline in the percentage of Metro Manilans with at least enough knowledge about it (-15 percentage points).”
“A small majority of Filipinos (55%) report awareness of proposals to change the country’s charter. This overall level of awareness is higher than the March 2018 figure (49%),” Pulse Asia said.
The non-commissioned survey is based on a multistage probability sample of 1,800 registered voters 18 years old and above, with a +2% error margin at the 95% confidence level, + 6% for Metro Manila, + 3% for the rest of Luzon and + 5% for each of Visayas and Mindanao.
Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III said in a phone message to reporters: “I will listen to what my colleagues have to say before I speak about the matter at hand. The Senate was created to be independent, impartial and fair but courageous. We are supposed to withstand Presidential power and the waves of public opinion.”
In her statement, Senator Grace Poe-Llamanzares said: ““As it stands now, the man on the street is perplexed on how Cha-cha can be the answer to the problems he grapples with daily, like the rising prices of food, poor infrastructure, the lack of jobs, pollution and a health system that can barely take care of the sick.”
She said she will take a “centrist view” on the matter, noting the lack of “palpable popular clamor” to amend the Constitution and the lack of “proof” that a new Constitution would be the “magical cure-all” to the country’s problems.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon said in his statement: “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. So, why rush it when the resources and efforts that Congress — and the government — put into this Charter change movement can be channeled to other urgent matters affecting our countrymen, such as inflation, unemployment, and rising criminality.”
For his part, Senator Francis N. Pangilinan, who heads the Senate committee on constitutional amendments and revision of codes, said ordinary citizens “will throw up” if the government will “force-(feed) no-el (no-election) and Chacha (charter change).”
“This is because the people don’t see the benefit of these in their everyday struggle against higher prices of goods, lower value of their earnings, traffic, and the continuing violence in the streets,” he said in a statement.
In her press briefing on Monday, Deputy Speaker Gwendolyn F. Garcia said, “The House of Representatives, while it takes into consideration public opinion, we have to focus on our work and we do not base our direction purely on survey.”
She added: “That is a challenge to the House to translate the benefits of… a federal system in more understandable and more relatable ways to the Filipinos.”
For his part, Presidential Spokesperson Harry L. Roque, Jr. said in a statement: ““There is clearly much work to be done in terms of spreading awareness and knowledge on the aforementioned issue.”
He pointed out that “only 55% of respondents have heard, read, or watched anything about the proposals to change the 1987 Constitution before the survey was conducted or only during the time the survey was held.”
“Also, 69% of respondents admitted little awareness of the proposed federal system of government. For this reason, we cannot expect our people to support an initiative, which they know only little about.” —reports by Gillian M. Cortez, Camille A. Aguinaldo, Arjay L. Balinbin, and Charmaine A. Tadalan