The concept of a federal government for the Philippines was first suggested by José Rizal. He outlined his vision of federalist governance on his essay Filipinas dentro de cien años ("The Philippines a Century Hence") that was published by the Barcelona-based propaganda paper La Solidaridad in 1889.
In 1899, Filipino revolutionaries Emilio Aguinaldo and Apolinario Mabini also suggested dividing the islands into three federal states.
One of the first proponents of federalism in the Philippines in the 21st century is professor Jose Abueva from the University of the Philippines who argued that a federal form of government is necessary to more efficiently cater to the needs of the country despite its diversity. The primary goals of a constitutional amendment is to increase decentralization, greater local power and access to resources most especially among regions outside Metro Manila which has long been dubbed as rather imperial.
Aside from Abueva, senator Aquilino Pimentel Jr. was a prominent supporter of federalism who, beginning in 2001, advocated for federalism. He saw the proposed system as a key component in alleviating the Mindanao crisis and appeasing Moro insurgents. According to Pimentel, even though federalism was never intended to appease any followers of any specific ideology of religion, it will also hasten economic development, since resource and financial mobilization is upon each state's or province's discretion without significant constraint from the central government.
However, in 2009, after Senate and House resolutions supporting charter change were released, an estimated 13,000 to 15,000 people gathered in Makati to protest against these executive department-deriving proposals for constitutional reform. This was due to speculations that Philippine president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo would use such amendments to extend her hold in office. In addition, Pulse Asia published in the same year their survey regarding public support for the proposed charter change; the survey reported that four out of ten Filipino adults, or 42% of all respondents, opposed the amendment, with 25% still undecided and 33% in favor. Pulse Asia furthered that from 2006 to 2009 there was no significant change of sentiment against the charter change proposal, although indecision increased by 6%.
In late 2014, then-Davao City mayor Rodrigo Duterte launched a nationwide campaign calling for a charter change for federalism. During his visit to Cebu City in October of the same year, Duterte stated that federalism will facilitate better delivery of services to the people. He also saw the current system as "antiquated" where distribution of public funds is disproportionately biased towards Metro Manila. Aside from the economic aspect, federalism is also seen as the best means to address problems in Mindanao which suffers the most from ethno-religious conflicts. Duterte added that the current unitary form of government has not worked well given the ethnic diversity in the country. In spite of initially rejecting several calls for his candidacy for the 2016 presidential elections, he cited his organizational reforms if he were to become president. Parallel to his campaign for federalism, Duterte planned to privatize tax collection and abolish the Congress to make way for a unicameral legislature, contrary to the originally proposed Joint Resolution No. 10.
Movements for federalism further intensified from when the draft of the Bangsamoro Basic Law was submitted by Philippine president Benigno Aquino III to the 16th Congress on September 10, 2014. From approval, this law establishes the Bangsamoro as an autonomous region with its own parliamentary government and police force. Approval of the Bangsamoro structure would provide federalism proponents and supporters added confidence to clamor for the national government to enact reforms towards a more decentralized system for the rest of the country.
In May 2016, President-elect Rodrigo Duterte stated that a plebiscite on the proposed replacement of the unitary state with a federal one will be held in two years. On December 7, 2016, Duterte signed Executive Order No. 10 creating a consultative committee to review the 1987 Constitution.[