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Random Thoughts | The right way to federalism: Attention, People of the Philippines

“Aristotle said that there are many ways to do the wrong thing, and only one way to do the right thing.” (Remmon E. Barbaza, “Six Points concerning honesty,” Commentary, Philippine Daily Inquirer, March 17, 2019)


The above quotation certainly applies to the federalization of the Philippines. We must do this right or else we might create more problems than what we intend to solve in our country. The right thing to do in federalizing the Philippines is to be very cautious or prudent or prudent in our decisions concerning three major Federalism issues namely:

1. Determination of the type of Federalism which is most responsive to the ideals and aspirations of the Filipino people

2. Identification of the different governmental powers that will be under the jurisdiction of the National Federal Government, Regional Federal Governments and those that will be shared by both Governments based on number one above.

3. Decision, with well-studied criteria, on the number of Federal Regions to be established in the Philippines.

The Kilos Pederal sa Pagbabago (KPP) in 2017, published a manual titled “How to Federalize the Philippines” to guide whatever body that will revise our present unresponsive Constitution and adopt a new Federal Constitution. It is a handy reference book that clearly shows the step by step procedure of the right way to federalize our country. This manual addresses the three Federalism major issues stated above, among others things.

On issue number 1, KPP proposed the Competitive Federalism type. Based on the many public consultations on Federalism undertaken for many years, and in the light of the overwhelming mandate of the President, whose platform of government espoused during the campaign included the shift to a Federal setup of government, it can be inferred that majority of our people believe that more governmental powers and resources be devolved to the different regions for real self-determination.

This was also validated last 2018 in a Mindanao-wide Federalism Forum held in Davao City that a Competitive Federalism such as in Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada and USA be adopted in the Philippines. Its characteristic are: 1) The role of National Federal Government in regional affairs is limited; and 2) Regulatory functions are vested in the Regional Federal Governments.

It connotes strong Federal Regional Governments. The Federalism model to be adopted in the Philippines must be connected to the aspirations of our people so that they can own and support it.

The Federalism model to be adopted in the Philippines must be connected to the ideals and aspirations of our people so that they can own and support it. Yes, the surest way to establish a sense of ownership among your constituency is to involve them in the creative process all along the way. What they want, not what you want, should be the guiding star. That is the right way to federalism.

On issue number 2, KPP proposed that 27 government powers be under the jurisdiction of the National Fedeal Government; 35 shall be under the jurisdiction of the Regional Federal Government; and 23 shall be shared by both Governments. Enumeration of these powers was made in the KPP’s Manual.

On issue number 3, KPP propose that we must be extra prudent in confronting this crucial question. We must have some degree of workable understanding of the intricacies of Federalism to arrive at the appropriate number of Federal Regions in the country.

KPP adopted 5 criteria or standards in the creation of Federal Regions. The first three were taken from the Citizens Movement for a Federal Philippines (CMFP) namely: 1) Some common ethnic, linguistic, and cultural features, 2) Geographic contiguity or proximity, and 3) Economic potential and viability of the proposed Federal Regional governments. The other two criteria or standards are: 1) Historical consideration, and 2) Non-abolition of provinces, cities, municipalities and barangays to be less disruptive.

KPP also took note of former (DILG Director Gaudioso Sosmeña, Jr.’s informed statement that “it will cost approximately P202,973,184,000.00 to organize and manage a federal region for a period of one year. Realities, do not allow eleven viable federal regions, as some quarters are proposing.”

Aware also of the merits of “incremental strategy” in the creation of Federal Regions, logic dictates that we must limit the number of Federal Regions we create in the country to economically viable ones. Let’s avoid the establishment of poor Federal Regions. Let’s not allow the fragmentation of our country into “political fiefdoms”, neither shall we allow all types of warlordism and mendicancy!

KPP believes that strong Federal Regions will lead to a Competitive Federalism model and ultimately to a Competitive Nation. Hence, KPP recommended to initially establishing five big and rich Federal Regions in the Philippines namely:

1) North Luzon Federal Regional 2) National Capital Federal Region; 3) South Luzon Federal Region 4) Visayas Federal Region 5) MINSUPALA or Mindanao, Sulu and Palawan Federal Region

These big and rich with sufficient governmental powers and resources five Federal Regions are undoubtedly strong ones as desired by our people. With the exception of the National Capital Federal Regions, the rest will be composed of several existing Administrative Regions or Sub-Regions, to minimize disruption and promote better governance.

In the new Federal Constitution, the Legislative Body is authorize to create additional Federal Regions provided that these are financially viable to shoulder their responsibilities to their constituencies.

What about the other Federalism models being proposed by other groups”? Well if these were merely based on the ideals and aspirations of the drafters and not of the people, then these should not be seriously considered at all. The Consultative Committee’s (Con-Com’s) draft Constitution has many good recommendations that we should adopt except its federalism proposal of creating 18 weaks federal regions that will fragmentalize our country to say the least.

In our latest discussion with our friend Atty. Antonio Arellano, a Davaonon Con-Com member, he clarified that Con-Com is still open to any reasonable suggestion vis-à-vis Con-Com’s draft Federal Constitution Atty. Arellano, we know, is an honorable man. Thus, consider this article as our humble feedback for Con-Com’s consideration.

There are many pseudo federalists now in the Philippines. “Yong iba riyan pinabili lang ng suka, pagbalik Federalism experts na raw sila! Thus, beware of these pretenders. Sad to say, many of them, now occupy top government positions in this administration.

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