Visayas media on federalism: there must be strong public awareness

Journalists from the Visayas recognized the challenges they face when it comes to informing the public about the proposed federalism by President Rodrigo Duterte because of the insufficient information they are getting from the government on it.

In a seminar-workshop in Cebu City, the participants from various regions in the Visayas called on the government to have a strong public engagement and information campaign if it seriously wants federalism in public consciousness.

The journalists who attended the last leg of the seminar-workshop on Understanding Federalism in the Philippine Context  conducted by the Philippine Press Institute (PPI) with support from Hanns Seidel Foundation (HSF) and in partnership with the Pimentel Institute of Local Governance (PILG) last November 12-13, admitted that they have limited information about federalism.

Wala akong masyadong maisulat about federalism. Uninformed media is an uninformed public. Kaya kung wala kaming nalalaman paano kaya ang publiko?” said Rachel Arnaiz, a correspondent of the Philippine Daily Inquirer in Northern Samar.

While it is the role of the journalists to make any topic such as federalism interesting for the readers, it is imperative for the  government, especially the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) to strengthen its efforts for massive information dissemination up to the grassroots.

They challenged President Duterte to take a definitive stand and endorse a draft on federalism which he thinks will be good  for the country.  “Every provision in the draft charter that he is supposed to endorse matters a lot to every citizen in this country,” said Jon Amio from Iloilo-based Panay News.
The participants proposed that every barangay must conduct a forum on federalism and not sugarcoat the pros and cons of various issues surrounding it in order for the public to have an informed vote during the plebiscite.

They noted that the seminar provided them the basic concepts on federalism that included decentralization of powers, judicial structures, equalization of funds, and taxation, to name a few.

Secretary Jesus G. Dureza, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process  highlighted the importance of knowledge of the journalists on federalism as are duty-bound to inform the public on national affairs and matters involving governance.

“If you are a real journalist, you go for the truth. If what you are quoting is accurate but your interviewee is not telling the truth, kaya may responsibility din tayo na alamin ang katotohanan,” Dureza said. “You also have to check the other side as much as possible. Yung expertise natin is something we have to work on.” Dureza.

PPI executive director Ariel Sebellino emphasized again that PPI is in no way promoting or campaigning against federalism.  “This is our way of educating our colleagues on the matter.  We find it important to bring this matter to the public since there are already efforts to disseminate information about this,” he said.

The PPI, PILG, and HSF will conduct a short version of the program for the academic and communications sectors on December 10 at the Philippine Information Agency (PIA) in cooperation with the Philippines Communication Society (PCS).