Breaking or Broken: Are Filipinos ready and willing for a Federal Republic of the Philippines?

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FEDERALISM IS the theory or advocacy of federal political orders, where final authority is divided between sub-units and a center. Unlike a unitary state, sovereignty is constitutionally split between at least two territorial levels so that units at each level have final authority and can act independently of the others in some area. Citizens thus have political obligations to two authorities. The allocation of authority between the sub-unit and center may vary, typically the center has powers regarding defense and foreign policy, but sub-units may also have international roles. The sub-units may also participate in central decision-making bodies. Much recent philosophical attention is spurred by renewed political interest in federalism, coupled with empirical findings concerning the requisite and legitimate basis for stability and trust among citizens in federations. Philosophical contributions have addressed the dilemmas and opportunities facing Canada, Australia and Europe, to mention just a few areas where federal arrangements are seen as interesting solutions to accommodating differences among populations divided by ethnic or cultural cleavages yet seeking a common political order. (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

Written Constitution. First, the federal relationship must be established or confirmed through a perpetual covenant of union, usually embodied in a written constitution that outlines the terms by which power is divided or shared; the constitution can be altered only by extraordinary procedures. These constitutions are distinctive in being not simply compacts between rulers and ruled but involving the people, the general government, and the states constituting the federal union. The constituent states, moreover, often retain constitution-making rights of their own. (Encyclopedia Britannica)

The Federal Republic of the Philippines. Dr. Jose V. Abueva, UP Professor Emeritus of Political Science and Public Administration, Chairman of the Citizens’ Movement for a Federal Philippines (CMFP) Advisory Board, and President of Kalayaan College, lays down several advantages of the proposed Federal Republic:

(1) The Federal Republic will build a just and enduring framework for peace through unity in our ethnic, religious, and cultural diversity, especially in relation to Bangsa Moro or Muslim Filipinos and our lumad/indigenous peoples.

Responsive Federalism will accommodate their legitimate interests, end the war in Mindanao, and discourage secessionism. Leaders of Moro rebel organizations have said so on various occasions.

(2) Decentralization and devolution cannot move further under the old unitary system despite avowed goals expressed in the 1987 Constitution and the Local Government Code.

The basis for Federalism is that the Philippines has achieved a measure of national unity, and democratization, and some decentralization. Since the Philippines regained its independence in 1946, local autonomy has been gradually extended through the following laws: R.A. 2264 (1959), Local Autonomy Act; R.A. 2370 (1959), the Barrio Charter Act; R.A. 5185, Decentralization Act of 1967; Batas Pambansa 337 (1983), Local Government Code; the 1987 Constitution has provisions on local autonomy and autonomous regions; and the Local Government Code of 1991.

But further devolution has reached a deadend. The Local Government Code’s principal author, Senator Aquilino Q. Pimentel, is also the nation’s foremost champion of federalism.

Federalism would be the logical and practical realization of the avowed decentralization and local autonomy issues that have been blocked by legislators who want to maintain their dominance over local leaders, governments, and communities.

(3) The Federal Republic will empower our citizens by enabling them to raise their standard of living and enhance their political awareness through their participation and efficacy in elections and the making and carrying out of government decisions at the regional and local levels.

Governance will be improved and corruption will be reduced by the new division of powers and functions between the Federal Government and the States, and by the transparency of governance and its accessibility to the people in the regions, cities, provinces, and municipalities. It will bring a greater part of the government and decision-making closer to the people in the proposed States or regional governments and their cities and municipalities. With more power, authority and resources managed by the leaders in the States and their local governments which will be more visible and accessible to the people all over the country, the people will be more aware of the importance of electing good leaders. Corruption will be easier to detect and expose and punish.

(4) The Federal Republic will improve governance by challenging and energizing State and local leaders, entrepreneurs, and citizens around the country to take hold of their destiny. Federalism will release them from the costly, time-consuming, stifling, and demoralizing effects of excessive central government controls and regulation in our traditional Unitary System.

It will encourage them to assume greater responsibility for leadership in making decisions and delivering services, and for doing business. It will spur creativity and innovation, initiative and resourcefulness, and reduce local dependence on the national government.

As the people will be more involved in government decisions, they will demand superior performance and public accountability of their political leaders and officials. At the same time, the people will be more willing to pay taxes that will finance government programs and services for their direct benefit.

(5) The Federal Republic will thus stimulate and hasten the country’s political, economic, social, and cultural development.

There will also be inter-State and regional competition in attracting domestic and foreign investments and industries, professionals and skilled workers, good teachers and scholars, artists, and tourists.

A renaissance of regional languages, arts and cultures will enrich the national language and culture, and instill a deeper sense of both regional and national identities.

The Federal Government and the more developed States will help support the less endowed and developed regions, and the poor and the needy people across the land, thus promoting a more equitable development and social justice.

(6) Federalism, together with parliamentary government, will improve governance by promoting the development of strong, united, disciplined, and program-oriented political parties that are responsible and accountable to the people for their conduct and performance in and out of power.

Because of the strategic role that political parties must play in a constitutional democracy, the CMFP is proposing a special article on political parties in the CMFP Draft Constitution: Article IX. Political Parties.

(7) Metro Manila State will have a unified political structure that will integrate its various cities and municipalities under the State Assembly that combines legislative and executive powers and authority. Unlike the State Assemblies of the other States, the mayors in Metro Manila will constitute the Metro Manila State Assembly. The Metro Manila Governor and State Cabinet will direct and coordinate the various metropolitan functions and services.

This will reduce the conflicts and stalemate now experienced by the Metro Manila Development Authority and its appointed chairman in relation to the elected mayors of Metro Manila.

(8) Gradually, the Federal Republic and its Parliamentary Government will broaden and deepen democracy.

In the long run it should enable the government, the political parties, the private sector, and the organizations and institutions of civil society to deliver on the constitutional promise of human rights, a better life for all, a just and humane society, and responsible and accountable political leadership and governance.

Federal Philippines, an advocacy forum that promotes structural change in the Philippines to address the over-centralization of power and development and pave the way for countryside development, autonomy and equity, cited the book of Dr. Jose V. Abueva titled, “Charter Change for Good Governance” published by CMFP, eleven States has been proposed. These are:

1. Bangsamoro (ARMM) with 5 provinces;

2. Davao Region and Central Mindanao with 8 provinces;

3. Western and Northern Mindanao with 12 provinces;

4. Central-Eastern Visayas with 10 provinces;

5. Western Visayas and Palawan with 7 provinces;

6. Bicol with 7 provinces;

7. Southern Luzon with 8 provinces;

8. Metro Manila (NCR) with 6 provinces;

9. Central Luzon with 7 provinces;

10. Cordillera (CAR) with 6 provinces; and

11. Northern Luzon with 9 provinces.

***

Now, breaking readers, are you in favor or do you think Filipinos are now ready to embrace the proposed FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES?

The Virtues of Federalism by Dr. Jose V. Abueva is broken from here.

Map of the Philippines image is broken from here.

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