EGALITARIAN| Federalism 101

LAST week was a blast; PDuterte ordered the creation of 24-man commissioners to draft a Constitution for the shift towards federalism.  It was music to the ears to the federalists. It is the first big step, a clear realization of the long-held dream of a federal republic. Then again, there are those who are confused why the need to become federal. Here let me explain them again.

Federalism refers to the determination and assignment of powers and responsibilities between the tiers of the government. Concerns that are affectively handled by the regional or state governments are assigned to them, while other powers are handled by the national or federal government. The functions and powers are usually contained in the state list for the regional governments, while primary functions of the federal/national government are enumerated in the federal list, and some shared functions are found in the concurrent list.

In federal system, governments are small and thus can effectively carry their functions and roles. The state or regional governments are formed according to the criteria of geographic contiguity, cultural homogeneity, and economic viability. It is possible that the state/regional governments are composed of many local governments within its boundary. Hence, one additional criterion in the determination of the states is the preservation of the local governmental setup.

In federal system, there are tiers of government known as federal/national government and the regional/state government each carrying defined functions and exercising assigned powers. In effect, the government is prevented from becoming all too powerful which comes as the case in a unitary government. In federal system, the state/regional governments have freedom to manage local affairs, in a unitary government, all laws, policies and finances are controlled by the central government.

In a unitary government, the central government enjoys full control over smaller local government entities. All power and responsibilities are vested in the central government while the local governments exercise powers that are granted by the central government.

In federal, powers are divided between national/central government the state or regional governments. The state/regional governments can pursue a law or policies that suits to their economic needs, resources, and local beliefs and traditions.

In a unitary system, the policies are created at the central government and implemented across the country which may result to haphazard implementation of the law.  Example of this is the seatbelt law which requires the use of seatbelt for the passenger and driver, such intention of the law is logically beneficial, however, in the countryside, the kind of vehicles used to travel cannot meet requirements of the seatbelt law. To begin with, the roads in the countryside cannot even meet ability to make a good travel. Hence, seatbelt law can only be used in places where convenience of the road use is possible. Why again federal? Because we badly need it, the political and institutional setup of our country needs to address the changing requirements of public service of the modern world.

Posted in Opinion