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Here's What Mocha Uson Talking Seriously About Federalism Sounds Like

Even when she tries.
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It’s been quite a day for our busy PCOO Asst. Secretary Mocha Uson. First there was that video, then the inevitable backlash from concerned citizens, followed by a somewhat pleasantly surprising set of reactions from our own politicians decrying the vulgarization of a serious topic.

Asec Uson then busied herself with lashing out at her critics—first implying that we were all dirty-minded pervs for even thinking that “pepe-dede-ralismo” was anything less than completely godly—then pointing to her co-host as the real perv, not her; and then finally saying that she is “not the ambassador for federalism.”

This latest controversy has occupied today’s news cycle so much that you might’ve missed the fact that this isn’t the first time the Asec—tasked to help disseminate information about the proposed shift to a federal form of government—has actually shared her thoughts on the complex matter.

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Speculative memes aside, the Asec has, on at least two occasions over the past few months, spoken about federalism in non-dance terms.

Just two weeks ago, Uson wrote an article for her column in the Philippine Star titled "Manila is Not the Philippines"; the title alone encapsulates Uson's One Big Idea about federalism—that it's supposed to decentralize power and spread progress throughout the land:

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I’ve already said before that sometimes we, who are from Manila or those who grew up in Manila, feel that the Philippines is composed only of Manila. But Manila is a just a small chunk compared to the rest of the Philippines. 

In the column (always worth a read, btw, if only for the entertainment value of imagining the good Asec actually composing her essay with the diligence of a high school valedictorian), Uson also makes a tenuous connection between national government and terrorism, and, later on, asserts that the country has been "left behind" by all the other countries who have switched to a federal form of government: 

Terrorism is an ideology that stems from the belief of a single person and amplified by the imprudence of government leaders. Thus, while there is still time, it is important for federalism to be put into place. This is because through federalism, governance is no longer concentrated in the center, i.e. Manila. There will be a greater capacity for local governments to run their respective territories through federalism in various aspects, such as taxation. A region may pass its own taxation system based on their context of living. 
...

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We are being left behind by our neighbors in terms of governance, as we are the only nation in Southeast Asia that is under a unitary form of government, which places the country’s problems to be solved only by the hands of a few leaders, and manipulated by Manila-based oligarchs.

That last claim, fact-checking website Vera Files pointed out, was wildly inaccurate, as "Almost all of Southeast Asia have been described as unitary countries with government power concentrated at the center," with the exception of Singapore, which is a city-state with no local government, and of Malaysia, the sole country with a federal form of government. (Uson issued an erratum a week and a half after the publication of the column.)

Besides that, Uson has also apparently been on the stump campaigning for federalism among the grassroots. In this video posted on January 28, 2017, Mocha Uson, then still a private citizen, addresses a gathering of Filipino citizens to talk about federalism:

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If you can get past the delivery, in which Uson speaks to her audience as if they were all children on a very political episode of Batibot, you'll find that her messaging seems to be clear and simple, and, if nothing else, consistent throughout the past year or so. 

Alam niyo, pare-pareho po tayo na hindi pa gaanong maintindihan kung ano yung pederalismo na tinatawag. Kaya ang maganda po ang sabay-sabay nating pag-aralan ito.

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Ito yung gusting isulong ni Pangulong Duterte, yung tinatawag na pederalismo na isang uri ng pamahalaan ng ating bansa. Ngayon po, ang mayroon po tayo ay tinatawag na unitary. Unitary form of government. Ibig sabihin, nasa Maynila po, Luzon, sa Malacañang—nasaan po ang Malacañang? D’yan sa Maynila po, ‘di ba? Andoon daw po yung gobyerno ng buong Pilipinas.

Kayo po ang seguridad, ang kaunlaran, ang progresibo [sic], ang trabaho, ang business, nasaan? Nasaan daw po? MAYNILA! Ang gusto po ni Pangulong Duterte, magkaroon ng Malacañang sa bawat rehiyon ng Pilipinas. Para mas matutukan ang bawat probinsiya, bawat lungsod, ng Luzon, Visayas, at Mindanao at magkaroon pa ng mas maunlad pang mga probinsiya.

At pangalawang tanong po, sa tingin ninyo ba, masyadong maraming tao dito sa Metro Manila? Meron ba kayong mga kamag-anak sa probinsiya? Meron pa bang galing sa probinsiya dito? O ako po galing akong Pangasinan. Sinong tiga Northern Luzon, meron ba? Saan pong probinsiya tayo galing, 'yung mga kamag-anak…Visayas, Mindanao? Okay.

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Bakit maraming nagpupunta na ating mga kababayan dito sa Maynila? Kasi gusto nilang —? Magtrabaho. Gusto nilang mas mataas ang—? Sweldo!

Pero sana ayaw na sana niyang bumiyahe pa ang ating mga kababayan at magsiksikan tayo dito sa Manila. Yun ang gusto ng pederalismo: Bawat lungsod ng Luzon-Visayas-Mindanao ay magkaroon ng mga trabaho para hindi na lumipat ang taga doon dito sa Manila para magkatrabaho at mawalay pa sa mga mahal nila sa buhay. 'Di ba po maganda ang pederalismo?

Pangalawa po, yung gusto ni Pangulong Duterte na pederalismo ay...'di ba po dito sa Maynila ay ang pinakamagagandang ospital, tama po ba? Andito 'yung tinatawag natin na Lung Center of the Philippines, at ano pa ba? Heart Center of the Philippines! Ano pa? National Kidney Institute, 'di po ba? Lahat ng parte ng katawan, lahat ng magagandang ospital, nasaan po? Nasa Maynila. Ang gusto ni President Duterte, sa bawat rehiyon, sa bawat lungsod, probinsiya ng Pilipinas, Luzon-Visayas-Mindanao, mayroon sariling mga magagandang ospital para kung nagkasakit 'yung mga nasa Visayas, nagkasakit 'yung mga nasa Mindanao, o kaya nagkasakit 'yung mga nasa Pangasinan, hindi na pupunta ng Maynila, doon na po, 'di po ba? Kaya maganda ang pederalismo.

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At maganda din po sa pederalismo, ang kayamanan ng Luzon-Visayas-Mindanao, at ang buwis ng Luzon-Visayas-Mindanao, malaking porsyento, gagastusin para sakanilang mga lungsod, hindi lahat nabibigay sa Metro Manila.

Ako din po, hindi ko rin lubos na maintindihan kung ano talaga yung pederalismo. Pero yun po yung tinatawag na BUOD kung ano talaga yung pederalismo. Kaya nga po, sinasabi kanina ni sir—wow bakit nasa pader na si sir—na laging sinasabi ni Pangulo Duterte, na malamang hindi na matatapos ang termino ko. At sinasabi niya, kapag naisulong ko na ang pederalismo, kapag naging maunlad na Luzon-Visayas-Mindanao, kapag may kanya-kanya nang Malacañang, may kanya-kanya nang magandang ospital, mga paaralan, at magagandang trabaho saLuzon-Visayas-Mindanao, sabi ni Pangulong Duterte, kahit hindi na niya matapos ang termino niya. Bakit po, dahil mas magiging maayos na ang bawat rehiyon ngLuzon-Visayas-Mindanao. Tama po ba 'yun?

Siyempre po, mahabang proceso po iyon, pero importante, naiintindihan po natin at alam natin na Makabuti po ito para sa lahat ng ating mga Pilipino.

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At! Eto po, sa darating na eleksyon, dito ipapasok yung tinatawag nating referendum o plebisito.

...

Para po magkaroon ng pederalismo ang ating bayan, kailangan pong magkaroon ng pagbabago sa batas, para ma-amiendahan yung ating Konstitusyon. Kaya po importante na maintindihan natin kung ano yung pederalismo. Kaya po sa 2019, pipili po tayo. Gusto ba natin ng pederalismo, oo o hindi.

Eto po, survey lang, gusto ba natin ng pe-de-ra-lis-mo? Oo. Kaya po, pag tinanong doon ay kung gusto nating amiendahan an gating konstitusyon, pag-oo sa pederalismo, mag-o-oo tayo sa pag-amienda ng Konstitusyon. Tama po ba yun sir?

Kaya tuloy lang po natin pag-aralan ang federalism. Ako po si Mocha Uson, at sinusuportahan ko ang Kilusang Pagbabago, ang movement po para sa federalism.

 

As Uson herself emphasizes, she herself is only learning about federalism. That hasn't stopped her from presenting an overly simplified and sanitized version of it, painting federalism as a dreamy form of government that will bring prosperity out of Metro Manila and spread it across the land. 

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The truth, of course, is that federalism is far more complex than that, and voters deserve to know what it truly means for them, warts and all, in order to make an informed and responsible decision. Despite the Asec's insistence that she is not the ambassadress for federalism, she has been acting as one for quite a while now—and it's not an acting job that she's been able to ace.

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