Federalism media campaign stumbles at starting gate

MANILA – It’s a joke. Its chief proponent should go on leave. It’s downright vulgar. The campaign is dead and awaiting cremation.

These are just some of the reactions to the Duterte administration’s campaign to convince the Filipino people to go for federalism. The negative comments and more came from an unexpected source – the president’s closest allies in the Senate.

The government’s information campaign got off to a rocky start this week thanks to the controversial Mocha Uson, a former bold starlet turned Presidential communications assistant secretary.

In Uson’s first foray into social media to promote the merits of federalism, she opted to convince an unknown blogger to sing and dance to a jingle filled with double entendres that few found amusing.

The worst lines in the jingle were “i-pepei-dedepederalismo.” In Tagalog, pepe is slang for vagina, while dede is a common term for breast. (Note: the most acceptable term for the male or female breast or chest is dibdib.)

Blogger Drew Olivar performed the song and dance while touching his crotch, ala-Michael Jackson.

Uson denied that she was the official government spokesperson on federalism.

The failed attempt at humor got the thumbs down from Senate President Vicente ‘Tito’ Sotto, himself a popular TV-movie comedian adept at sophomoric jokes. Sotto described the Uson video as a lame joke that was “beyond comical.”

Former Senate president Koko Pimentel strongly suggested that the administration drop the campaign immediately and force Uson to go on leave. Pimentel and his father Nene Pimentel have long batted for the government to switch to a federal form, with the older Pimentel even being part of the consultative committee formed by President Duterte to draft of a new constitution to be submitted to the people for approval. The switch to federalism is among the major changes in the draft charter.

Senior Senator PanfiloLacson said the switch to federalism is already dead and should now be cremated. “With Mocha Uson, the ashes should be thrown far, far away,” he said.

For his part, Senator ChizEscudero said the vulgar Uson video “has no place in the public discourse on such an important issue.”

Uson defended her video, saying, “we just want people to talk about federalism.”

Even before the furor began due to the Uson video, convincing the people to vote for federalism and charter change had already been considered an uphill climb for the government, based in surveys showing that the overwhelming majority of Filipinos were opposed to both.

While President Duterte has not publicly reacted to the issue, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea was irritated not only by the video, but moreso by the controversy that it spawned, according to Uson’s boss, Communications Secretary Martin Andanar.

For the administration, at the very least, it’s back to the drawing board.