Random Thoughts | No to weak federal regions!

Attention: Members of Congress and Consultative Committee

“We are living in the time of parenthesis, the time between eras… It is a time of change and questioning.” (John Naisbitt)

-do-

We are now undertaking Constitutional Reform mainly to shift from a Unitary System of government to a Federal System of government. We must be extra careful in this task because if we do not do it right, we might create more problems than what we intend to solve.

Based on the many fora on Federalism I’ve participated in since the late 90s, almost all the participants expressed their preference for strong Federal Regions (States). This means that more governmental powers and resources be totally allocated to the different Federal Regions that will be created. This means an honest-to-goodness self-rule short of independence. I see this as the aspirations of our people particularly Mindanaoans.

It is for this reason that the Kilos Pederal sa Pagbabago (KPP) proposed the adoption of the Incremented Strategy and the INITIAL creation of Five Big and Rich Federal Regions in the country. This will also assure the financial viability of the first five Federal Regions. And in this connection, Congress will be given the authority to create new Federal Regions in the future following established criteria.

Atty. Michael Henry L. Yusingco, LLM wrote: “The shift to a federal system will be a huge challenge for all Filipinos. It stands to reason therefore that the drawing of territorial boundaries must not result to drastic and immediate disruption to the public. The people’s deep familiarity to the current geographical organization of the Philippines must be seriously considered in naming the constituent units of the federal state “Ostensibly, the regional administrative infrastructure currently existing could be the basis for defining the territorial boundaries of the constituent states of the new federal republic.”

We fully agree with Atty. Yusingco on this. That why clusters of three to five existing administrative regions in the country should compose our different strong Federal Regions, Existing Administrative Regions within Federal Regions will still be maintained. But to convert each existing Administrative Region to Federal Regions is to gerrymander our country to weak Federal Regions.

Lately, we received information that the Consultative Commission that is now drafting the new Federal Constitution is more inclined of proposing 17 weak Federal Regions in the Philippines. This means less governmental powers and resources will be totally devolved to these 17 Federal Regions. That many of the governmental powers and resources will still be shared by the Federal National and Federal Regional governments.

Some of the negative consequences of this Con-Com’s proposal are 1) This will promote “political fiefdom,” warlordism and mendicancy; This will tremendously bloat our bureaucracy thus tremendously reduce government funds for development programs and projects; and this runs counter to the self-determination aspirations of our people.

Furthermore, with more shared powers between the Federal National Government and Federal Regional Governments, expect more messy constitutional cases in our Federal Republic.

What we heard is that the Con-Com as a whole is working on a “DOABILITY THEORY” which seems taking “relatively easier and perfunctory (done merely as a routine)” road to federalism at the expense of more substantial one. “Financial Viability and higher degree of self-determination theory” should have been the Con-Com’s “North Star.” Perhaps most members of Con-Com are being overly concerned of Congress approval of their draft Federal Constitution and/or in a hurry due to time constraint and for convenience.

But per info, House of Representative sub-committee on Constitutional Amendment’s report dated Jan. 16, 2018 states: “Federal Republic shall be composed of constituent units, namely the states (Regions) of: Luzon, Visayas, Mindanao, the Bangsamoro and Metro Manila.” So what gives with the Con-Com?
Our group, the People’s RevGov for Real Democracy (PRRD) Alliance, strongly anticipates that Congress sitting as a Constituent Assembly cannot get the needed three-fourth votes in the Senate to pass a draft Federal Constitution. Thus, the next viable option for an honest-to-goodness Constitutional Reform is thru a Revolutionary Government in a democratic way. Thus, we can afford to be more radical (from the root) in our proposal. Let’s then be more idealistic and go for stronger Federal Regions. As Senate President Tito Sotto rightly pointed out recently: “The Bangsamoro Basic Law will be a good template for our Federal Regions. “That is if sufficient governmental powers and resources will be totally given to the Bangsamoro entity that will make it a strong Federal Region. If Congress can do this to our Moro Region, why cannot we do the same to our other Federal Regions for the sake of fairness.

Let’s adopt a Competitive Federalism with strong Federal Regions for our nation to be globally competitive. Strong Federal Regions with their LGU’s will make a solid foundation for a strong Federal Republic. Weak Federal Regions will spell disaster to our new Federal Republic. We hope and pray that the Con-Com members will rethink their proposal on this challenging issue.

Posted in Opinion