EGALITARIAN| Pre-conditions for Federal Philippines

AS THE smoke of the chugging train of federalism is already evident in the horizon, it is important to ready the basic requirements for this unusual but promising social journey. Lito Monico Lorenzana, one of the forerunners of Centrist Democracy in the Philippines enumerated four pre-conditions for of federalism which include freedom of information, political party reform, electoral reform and the anti – dynasty law. I would force for one on the list — agreement for the juridical entity of the Bangsamoros.

These, along with all other features of federalism in the country, need to be given keen attention. The pre-conditions are like the foundations of a building. If these are study, the building can withstand earthquakes, if it is pale and weak, then a quick shutter will cause the building to collapse. Let me explain their importance.

First, the Freedom of Information (FOI). In a country with too huge bureaucracy working for a weak State on the one hand, while the private interests are too strong on the other, hideous acts in the government become a norm. Though there are already efforts to reduce this, the impact of the policies needs still to see the day. The freedom of information can address this. The sentiment of the ordinary citizen is that the government cannot be fully trusted. There are lurkers in the bureaus set to undermine system, services and trust of the public. FOI can restore the trust in the government. It will also ensure that the people in the government are truly working for the government to work.

Second, political party reforms. Empirical evidence prove that the quality of society depend largely on the political party. Take the case of the United States. When democrats are in power, there is massive improvement in the social welfare. When the republicans are at the helm, there is a wide employment opportunity; the effective real wage is high.

In this country, political parties do not act as college of politicians. By itself, the political parties are supposedly kernel of ideologies and vision for a society. The politicians are the technocrats, leaders who will endeavor to make the vision of the party evident in the country.

However, the nature of political party in the country is acutely different from the rest of the world. Political parties in the country are hugely party for convenience; a vehicle to gain position and power. Such that politicians can readily quip the famous one-liner of Pres. Manuel L. Quezon “my loyalty to my party ends where my loyalty to my country starts”. Fundamentally, loyalty to country and loyalty to party aren’t opposites. In fact, the country’s growth relied on the maturity and credibility of the party.

A critical formula in the party reform is the institution of party funding. Just like other countries, major political parties are funded by the government. This eliminates rent-seeking behavior of the oligarch, addresses patronage politics, pushes the political party to work harder for their ideology. In effect, politicians and their party members are accountable to the government and to the public.

In relation to this, the third pre-condition is the electoral reform. This exercise of democratic rights is solely good in theory but never in practice. In our country, selecting a leader is never a case of best selection. The electoral system discourages best people from joining the competitive exercise. Monopoly of the warlords, oligarch and few technocrats rule the day. If we are to treat election as a market where the politicians are the suppliers of services and the people as buyers, people will be at the advantage. Yet, even the free market competition maintains a stable condition which would prohibit anyone from joining the market. That very prohibition though market set is practically common sense yet bears moral eminence. In a competitive market, anyone that maintains a lower average cost than the marginal cost must get out from the market. In the same vein, politicians who lack the competence and character must be denied from becoming part of the options. Thus, therefore, the qualification for elective positions must be treated like a corporation, the minimum requirements must not be ability to read and write. Some companies require advanced studies, industry experience, and in some instance, age requirement. These are set in order to ensure productivity and positive workplace atmosphere. But why are we not securing our future by ensuring that our politicians whom we come to vote are the la crème de la crème, the best of the best. No wonder we are over taken by our neighboring countries already over the last half of the century. They are choosing their best people to join the government, ours, we allow the worse people to join the government. I can remember my good friend Ryan Maboloc saying, “some politicians are acting like thieves, and some thieves are acting like politicians”.

Fourth pre-condition is the promulgation of the anti-dynasty law. It is never good for a government’s affairs be discussed over family dinner. Political dynasty denies equal opportunities to public, as the very tenor of the 1987 Constitution. Members of the political families have the advantage of winning hence they rely on political networks established by their family rather than on competence, reputation and academic qualification, much like anyone who would run for a position. A resultant behavior among the dynastic is the tendency not to pursue long-term development objectives because they expect to hold power longer. Development might alter people’s perspectives and might change the political arena. Political dynasty herald underdevelopment and poverty, but I must admit exceptions.

Fifth pre-condition is the agreement for the juridical entity of the Bangsamoros for Mindanao. This will ensure that the Mindanao problem of land dispossession, identity and lack of economic opportunities are placed in the main wagon. The most recent forum attended by the MNLF and MILF in Davao City offered a venue of hope and unity among the peoples of Mindanao as Federal advocates Chito Gavino and Corrie Requiza describe.

The MN and the MI agree that it is unnecessary to divide Mindanao into many States when Federal Philippines is implemented. To them, excluding the bangsamoros from the rest of the people by territorial limits will deny them and the rest the opportunity for peaceful interchange of views, culture, and economic benefits. To them, the way forward is to agree on one State for the whole of Mindanao, Sulu and Palawan. At any rate, this is the defined Sultanate territory of the 15th century. Given this development, Mindanao can stand tall as an island that can govern its own. This historic agreement also addresses radicalism that is emerging in Central Mindanao and in the fringes of the island.

Political parties are supposedly again at the frontlines to ensure that the country is using its best foot. The Centrist Democratic Party of the Philippines is in the forefront in advocating the mentioned ingredients. The Party wants these to be in place. As Mr. Lorenzana used to joke around, I am already at the pre-departure area; I will spend my next 40 years to enjoy the benefits of the investments done today. Yet, we will enjoy the benefits of federal Philippines earlier than expected.

When all the mentioned in place, we say then, full speed ahead!

Posted in Opinion