EGALITARIAN| Some Details in Federalization

AGAIN, and let this be stated very clearly, the Philippine Federalism process is never a quick transformation. Spain even just started to shift from a unitary government to form their own unique federalism in the last 35 years. Some of its region went ahead of the rest when they gained competences of administration such as the Basque country and Catalonia for tax administration, healthcare and prison management. Interestingly, upon proof of the ability to manage their own, the central power allowed these regions to administer their affairs.

We expect the Philippines to also have longer learning curve. For a country hounded by poverty, hunger, insecurity, and distrust in the government, it will take us, as a nation, to believe that we can manage our own. Well for the Mindanawons, we already know that we can administer our own affairs, and we are very certain of it. History can prove this since 15th century.

There are important milestones that need to be marked. In my previous article I have enumerated these. These are the freedom of information law, electoral reform, political party reform, anti-dynasty law, and the promulgation of the bangsamoro juridical definition for Mindanao. When these are cooked well, then we have right ingredients for federalism that will usher us towards nationhood, development and prosperity.

Meantime, the PRRD administration can also make sure that the change of the constitution is safeguarded. This is the part of the voyage where a maelstrom may appear. It is easy to hijack the reform; it is by plainly looking at all the details in order to lose sight of the horizon.

The science of change management will guide us on this. The process of change will always cause “off the balance”. The best way to keep people on the platform is by sending the compelling message that the current state of affairs cannot continue.

We must be able to create the intention to change in the broad segment of the society before we start the change. This will make the change identifiable and familiar with the public. Their cries, stories and dreams must be made part of the intention to change. We do not federalize the country for the purpose of federalizing. We make this country federal to address insurgency, wealth concentration, hunger, and unsecured future.

This country cannot continue to lose development due to capital flight resulting from inefficient bureaucracy. This country is losing foreign direct investments (FDI) because of corruption that breeds in a unitary government, the current government setup. Our talents and best people are going out; contribute to growth of other countries because they cannot find opportunities within the country. This country cannot continue with 20 million hungry Filipinos, 40 million maintaining unstable jobs that can hardly support decent living, while 3% of the population enjoying the 94% of the wealth of the country.

The Kilos Pideral sa Pagbabago (KPP) enumerated steps in starting the federalism in the country. Arch Chito Gavino and Atty. Aries Albay of KPP prepared a primer in federalizing the country. And these are the steps.

First, there is the need to determine the form of government that maximizes federalism. History and science agree that the best form of government is a fusion of executive and legislature, and we call it parliamentary form.

Second, determine the approach to federalize. This is a fundamental requisite for an emerging federalism. The approach would need to unite the different nations then make them work together to form a State with considerations of the proposals that include juridical entity for bangsamoro and lumads, ancestral domains, regional governments, business and economic viabilities. With this, we make shift to federal a common call even of the ordinary Juan and Maria.

Third, there is the need to identify the kind of federalism that we will pursue. This will have implications in the length of federalization, budget and the support of the public. Advanced and stable federal countries either take competitive or cooperative federalism. The first one means more power given to the Federal States which means bigger budget, and a requirement for bigger States to be formed. The latter, cooperative federalism is suggestive of the shared responsibilities on determined government services. Key concepts here include exclusive competence, supporting competence and share competence. Meaning, those that the State government can efficiently carry must be exclusively carried by it. Supporting competence happen if neither the Central government nor the State government can solely carry out a service efficiently, but by resource or some other incidence, one can take lead over the other. It is also incumbent in determining the type of federalism in outlining the powers for the Central government, for the State government and the local government.

Fourth step is determining the number of States that can achieve social optimum criteria. The rule is “do not make States that are poor”. Too many States is very costly because people and investors can move from place to place in response to attractive measures put up by the States, in such case; tax revenue may not be enough to support the operation of the government.

Fifth, decide on the manner to change the Constitution. However, before changing the constitution, a roadmap must be designed. A constitutional committee must be formed. Very recently, Retired Chief Justice Puno was recommended by Speaker Alvarez to head a committee for constitutional amendments. Again, let us go back to the mode of changing the constitution. There are two basic ways: constitutional convention (concon) and constitutional assembly (conass). The concon is known because of its safeguards as members of the convention are experts with characters beyond doubt. However, this is costly and takes time. ConAss is quicker and efficient but may be hijacked by some congressmen. The safeguard to this is we have a strong president.

Finally, much like with the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, there is also the need to create a transition commission in Philippine Federalism after the new Constitution is ratified. The commission will look on the weak and resistance areas, to manage and mitigate conflict as well as define the milestones, and eliminate the millstones towards a Federal Republic of the Philippines.

Adrian M. Tamayo is a professor of Economics at University of Mindanao and also a Research Director of the same institution. He is a member of Lihok Pideral Davao and Centrist Democratic Party of the Philippines, a party of the centrist democrats. He can be engaged thru a_tamayo@umindanao.edu.ph

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