After the SONA last Monday, friends were already asking what happens to federalism now. Series of quick meetings were held. The big question which resonated in the session was, “Is there still hope for federalism within the term of the President?” This question caused a divide in the group: “malabo na group” and the “never say die group”.
The “malabo na” was dismayed because it would have been different if even a single line on federalism was dedicated in the SONA. Their narrative is simple, it will be difficult but still possibility. Before the SONA, there were already expressions that federalism will be challenging to pursue.
Perhaps, it already lost its steam. But with 85% popularity, the President can muster it to advance federalism.
The “never say die group” contended that the President emphasized in his post-SONA media conference that he is not giving up federalism. There are just some things to be ironed out before making everything public. The President, with all his talents and political tactics, always rise from the ashes of confusions. He is on top of the situation.
The President had always been on to federalism. He issued EO 10 to review the 1987 Constitution. He issued MC 52, which tasked the DILG to lead the information and dissemination campaign on federalism. He hinted on a having a strong President, the liberalization of economic provisions with safety nets, and the powers to be devolved with limits in order to avoid dynasties and concentration of powers in the few.
The MC 52 also created the task force on federalism. Series of regional roadshows were conducted, forums in universities, of course, there is the need to hype the campaign. I must recognize the DILG 11 for doing its best to explain federalism. The agency is also successful in bringing together federalists such as the Kilos Pideral sa Pagbabago (KPP) of Atty. Aris Albay, the Kilusan ng Kabataan Para sa Pideralismo of Prof. Roen Cardinal, the National Anti-Poverty Commission, the PCUP, and many others.
The President knows the urgent need of systemic shift to federalism but perhaps, he wants it systematic as well. Changing everything will be very messy and chaotic; some things need be done slowly. The best way is to convince with numbers and real experiences.
The most elementary evidence is economic experience. If the President can usher the country from a financial quagmire to an economic miracle, there is no point that the shift to federalism won’t appeal to the public.
The campaign for federalism is never easy. It is one abstract concept that does not directly connect with food, wages, protection and security, housing, health service, corruption reduction.
That is why the President has to address drugs, crimes, corruption first. If the country becomes federal and hounded with drugs, crimes remain all-time high, and corruption is still pervasive, federalism will come very dangerously.
So, is it still federalism? Yes, for as long as we dream of a future that is prosperous, united, and peaceful, then the federal advocates will continue to profess federalism. Federalists are not to be swayed by the musings of no need for federalism. The worst form remains to be unitary because it breeds monopoly. Monopoly by its natural character will always be inefficient, ineffective, and costly and will ever miss opportunities to bring about positive and meaningful change to the life of Filipinos.
*Views, opinions, thoughts expressed in this column are those of the author and do not reflect the views, opinions, and ideas of his organization.