VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Mocha Uson wrong about federalism in Southeast Asia

(UPDATED) Presidential Communications Assistant Secretary Margaux “Mocha” Uson, earlier tapped to lead the information campaign on federalism, made a false claim about federalism and the systems of government in Southeast Asia.


As flagged by a VERA Files Fact Check reader in an email, Uson in her July 24 Philippine Star column argued about the merits of federalism and claimed the Philippines is the lone country with a unitary form of government in Southeast Asia:

“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.”

Source: The Philippine Star, Manila is not the Philippines, July 24, 2018


Uson’s claim is inaccurate.

Almost all of Southeast Asia have been described as unitary countries with government power concentrated at the center:

Only Malaysia has a federal form of government, where power is shared by the states Johore, Kedah, Kelantan, Malacca, Negeri Sembilan, Pahang, Penang, Perak, Perlis, Sabah, Sarawak, Selangor and Terengganu.

Singapore, a city-state, has no local government.

UPDATE: Uson, in an Aug. 4 Facebook post, issued an erratum.

“Re-checking on my sources, I agree that the statement is in error, and I apologize to all readers for the same,” she said.


Unesco, Certified English translation of the constitution of Indonesia

OECD Country Profiles: Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam

SIDA, Changing Mindsets and Developing Institutions in Lao PDR

ADB, Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste: Emergency Infrastructure Rehabilitation Project, Phases 1 and 2

FAOLEX Database, Brunei Darussalam

Judicial Appointments Commission, Federal Constitution of Malaysia

Commonwealth Local Government Forum, The Local Government System in Singapore

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Federalism

(Guided by the code of principles of the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter, VERA Files tracks the false claims, flip-flops, misleading statements of public officials and figures, and debunks them with factual evidence. Find out more about this initiative and our methodology.)

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