Posts Tagged ‘federalism’

More exchanges on federalism

November 12, 2008


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carlomasajo Says:
May 12, 2008 at 10:24 pm

sir rey, carlo masajo here. kaDEKADA. i strongly believe that federalism is a viable political system for the country in terms of administration. unitary government we have today is too centralized and constricts the development potential of other regions of the country.

but the pimentel proposal needs further fine tuning, and this is where the relevance of public debates enter. now, we all can divulge into the federalism plans and become an active participant in changing this nation.

http://akosijcmasajo.wordpress.com

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Tax Joven Says:
August 14, 2008 at 7:32 am

The road to federalism is fraught with danger. One is a cliff leading to beyond 2010 for Gloria. Is it worth it? No! Sen. Pimentel was well on the right track until derailed by I know not what. I think if reminded of his Local Autonomy he would retrace his steps. What is there in federalism which LA cannot do? Let’s get away from the clutches of Gloria and Imperial Manila. Let’s decentralize NOW. Not through federalism but through greater local autonomy for our LGU’s.

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Juanito Delgado Says:
August 14, 2008 at 11:40 am

We are now talking of federalism to resolve the so-called Problem in Mindanao.

As proposed by Senator Pimentel there will be three states for Mindanao.

The Bangsamoro, Northern Mindanao and Southern Mindanao.

We doubt if the Bangsamoro State will persist for long because of tribal animosities between those from the Sulu Archipelago (Tausogs, Samals and Yakans) and those from Central Mindanao (Maranaos and Maguindanaos) Just look at how the leaderships in the ARMM sways from leaders in the Sulu Archipelago and Central Mindanao.

In which case, in addition to the two states, Southern Mindanao and Northern Mindanao, let us create a separate state for the Sulu Archipelago (Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi) and another state for Central Mindanao for the Maranaos and the Maguindanaos)

We now have enought leaders from these two proposed regions and states to lead the people out of poverty and bondage from the central government in Manila.

Under the Pimentel proposal, Luzon will have four states, Viasayas will have four states but why should the second biggest island in the archipelago with all its resources and its people be divided into only three States.

Is this to deny Mindanao equal voices in the central government?

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reytrillana Says:
August 14, 2008 at 1:10 pm

I understand Tax Joven’s point when he asked, “what federalism can do that autonomy cannot achieve?” In theory, both autonomy and federalism (as well as decentralization, devolution and deconcentration) are intended to do the same thing: disperse powers from the center to the periphery; from the national to the local units. Seen this way, there seems to be no need for federalism. But as I explained in another blog entry (The Dilemma of Federalists), there is an important distinction between the two. While the mandate to provide autonomy was provided for in the 1987 Constitution, its implementing legislation was crafted by Congress. In the case of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, it was through RA 6734 and later the 1996 Peace Agreement with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and EO 125. The point I am making is this: the extent to which autonomy did not work is caused by the inability and unwillingness to the central government to let go of its powers. Autonomy in a centralized set-up such as ours is bound to fail. The virtue of federalism in this regard is that the power arrangements are enshrined in the constitution. Local units acquire their powers not from the central government (through decentralization) but from the basic law itself. It will truly make the national government irrelevant!

I also share the distrust expressed by many over the recent overtures of GMA for charter change by riding on Sen. Pimentel’s proposal. I agree, and I urge everyone to be very cautious in dealing with this recent move by the palace. Simply put, GMA cannot be trusted. But I also believe that federalism is an important political reform for our nation. It is possible, I think, to continue our national discourse on the merits of federalism culminating in a Constitutional Convention (not Con Ass), even with the opportunistic GMA and her lackeys lurking in the background. We should not allow GMA to hijack an excellent idea in federalism. We should not allow her to paralyze us.

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reytrillana Says:
August 14, 2008 at 1:54 pm

The comments of Mr Delgado illustrates why the proposed shift to federalism has to be done through a Constitutional Convention. The people’s representatives must be given the opportunity to design the kind of federalism we need in this country (how many states, how it will be divided politically, geographically, fiscal divisions, etc). Sen Pimentel’s proposal should be seen as just that, a proposal that hopefully sets the course for a reasoned debate. Federalism is a sort of consensual agreement among the many components of a nation regarding the distribution of power between them and the federal/central government.

Mr. Delgado also asks whether Muslim Mindanao will have an equal voice in the central government. In a federal structure, that wouldn’t really matter because decisions that concern a particular state will have to be made by the state itself. Under a unitary system, we always look to Congress or the Palace for decisions; not in a federal structure. States are left alone (rightly so!) to deal with their own problems (including tribal divisions and the like).

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Tax Joven Says:
August 15, 2008 at 2:19 am

reytrillana, “…the extent to which autonomy did not work is caused by the inability and unwillingness to the central government to let go of its powers.” I agree. But let us be more specific, please. Congress, of which Sen. Pimentel has been almost a permanent fixture, is the culprit. Was the good Senator ever as passionate in pushing for more Local Autonomy as he is now with federalism?

As I see it he had been too busy with mundane things to be able to attend to a very important piece of legislation. Now he wants to make up for lost time, and comes up with a proposal that would eventually be beyond his control. Yet, even if a con-ass or a con-con, it would still be not as good as LA. In fact, it would just be like jumping from the fire pan into the fire.

But since I am not one who would cry over spilled milk, let me join the debate. Mr. Delgado proposes 12 States as opposed to the Senator’s 11. I say let us have as many “States” as there are Provinces and Cities. Why not? Anything a proposed State can do, Provinces and Cities can do better! For this, we do not need a cha-cha. We need a revolution, no less. And the best person to lead this is Sen. Nene Pimentel himself.

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Tax Joven Says:
August 15, 2008 at 3:01 am

Juanito Delgado: We doubt if the Bangsamoro State will persist for long because of tribal animosities between those from the Sulu Archipelago (Tausogs, Samals and Yakans) and those from Central Mindanao (Maranaos and Maguindanaos) Just look at how the leaderships in the ARMM sways from leaders in the Sulu Archipelago and Central Mindanao.
x-x-x-x-x-x-x

A very astute observation indeed. But you failed to consider that there are also Christians in the area! My point is this: howsoever you divide the country into states, intra-regional regional conflict will always arise. You think the Bicol region is cohesive and cordial enough? Try making it a State, and see them fight among themselves for favors from the State! Same thing will happen in all other Regions. Think about it.

Amendment to previous post: A sentence in paragraph two should read, Yet, even if a con-ass or a con-con goes for federalism, it would still be not as good as plain and simple LA.

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rey trillana Says:
August 18, 2008 at 12:11 am

Tax Joven: Congress, of which Sen. Pimentel has been almost a permanent fixture, is the culprit. Was the good Senator ever as passionate in pushing for more Local Autonomy as he is now with federalism?
========
Well, blame Sen. Pimentel, blame everybody if you like but that simply proves the point that local autonomy can never genuinely succeed in a governmental structure that is patently centralized. The system, its culture, simply resists autonomy. You have the IRA for example that is supposed to be the lifeblood of autonomous units but is instead being used by the cnetral government to guarantee subservience. If one has some beef with the messenger don’t shoot down the message.

And I agree that we need a revolution. The kind that federalism can potentially usher in.

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rey trillana Says:
August 18, 2008 at 12:13 am

if it is true that intra-regional conflict is a permanent fixture in the Philippines, then really is a need for a political arrangement that can best mitigate that. You think the unitary system can accommodate competing claims within regions?

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Tax Joven Says:
August 18, 2008 at 3:03 am

How is it that the central government can withhold the IRA at will? Isn’t its release supposed to be automatic or mandatory? A law is apparently being violated. Instead of exacting compliance or strenghtening it, what do you propose? A change in the System!

It is not the fault of the Charter that we are highly centralized. It is a problem of legislation. Congress simply doesn’t wasnt to give more powers to LGU’s. What makes you think it will have a change of heart if constituted as a con-ass?

There is virtually no conflict within regions now. There will be serious ones if funds are released through it. What’s wrong with giving funds directly to the LGU’s? Why amend the Constitution just to create new offices and sources of red tape? And, a State can and may secede. An LGU can’t.

I certainly would not hesitate to shoot down a pigeon that bears a message of destruction to our country. We can hardly move because of a bloated bureaucracy, yet Sen. Pimentel wants to create more of it! I would rather vote for zero Senators and Congressmen than vote for more of them!

I have no beef with a man who holds the vital formula and the expertise that can bring us out of the mess we are in now. He alone can lead us towards decentralization NOW, not after a cha-cha.

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Tax Joven Says:
August 18, 2008 at 8:44 am

I am tired of Gloria bashing. It does nothing but fan hatred against her. Hatred for her will not lead to a rebellion, not because we are a nation of cowards, but simply because a change in leadership will not necessarily bring relief. EDSA 1 and 2 taught us that this is so. Unfortunately, this is also true with elections no matter how clean and credible it may be. However, we need not bury our heads in despair. I see a solution at hand.

The formula is held by Sen. Nene Pimentel, numerically expressed as 20/80. If used to decentralize our country NOW, it could lead to our salvation. However, if used in federalism as envisioned by him, it would be disastrous for our country. I cannot understand why he wants to go through a circuitous and dangerous route when all he has to do is introduce amendments that would incorporate the formula to his Local Government Code.

It may be argued that Congress is not inclined to pass such a proposal or bill. But what makes him think that it would have a change of heart if convened as a con-ass? It would take a revolution, no less, for Congress to grant that much power to LGU’s! Sen. Pimentel goes around the Country pushing for federalism. This is an exercise in futility. Cha-cha is dead for now. Instead he should instigate a revolt or people power lead by the LGU’s to force Congress to decentralize NOW. It’s our way out.

This sentiment does not reflect my judgment on the performance of most LGU’s. But then that is another story

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reytrillana Says:
August 22, 2008 at 2:26 pm

I guess we both want the same thing Tax Joven; just different routes to be taken. IF you’re kind of revolution is possible under this set-up can happen then I pose no objection. Spain is not technically a federal country but nit operates as one through a successful policy of autonomy. I just don’t think it will happen in our country. I guess you have the same sentiment with regard to federalism.

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reytrillana Says:
August 22, 2008 at 2:29 pm

If you are tired of Gloria-bashing; I think we don’t have enough of it! Really. Not enough rage out there, I think.

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Tax Joven Says:
August 28, 2008 at 9:02 am

Rage will bring us nowhere, as in EDSA 1 & 2. The most difficult bar to hurdle is a question. For whom shall we fill the streets this time? This is why no coup would ever gain mass support, despite the massive discontent. Elections keep our hopes alive. False ones, mostly. Decentralization could keep Gloria in check. Also her successors.

Yours is a circuitous and uncertain route. Federalism is a senseless idea. It would free us of Imperial Manila, by strangling us with several States! I see decentralization as doable, compared to federalism. If only my idol, Senator Nene Pimentel, would regain his senses! The country needs him now.

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reytrillana Says:
September 21, 2008 at 11:12 pm

“Rage will bring us nowhere, as in EDSA 1 & 2. The most difficult bar to hurdle is a question. For whom shall we fill the streets this time? This is why no coup would ever gain mass support, despite the massive discontent. Elections keep our hopes alive. False ones, mostly. Decentralization could keep Gloria in check. Also her successors.”

The problem with many people is that they look at EDSA 1 and 2 as simply people going to the streets. This is wrong. Rallies, demonstrations, etc are just expressions. EDSA 1 in particular is an expression of the soul of a nation, an expression of its rage. The absence of rage simply shows a resigned and disempowered people.

Yours is a circuitous and uncertain route. Federalism is a senseless idea. It would free us of Imperial Manila, by strangling us with several States! I see decentralization as doable, compared to federalism. If only my idol, Senator Nene Pimentel, would regain his senses! The country needs him now. Circuitous and uncertain..yeah…but as opposed to what we have now? Why are people so afraid of sweeping changes? Strangling us with several states? As I wrote in my other reply, federalsim will make imperial Manila irrelevant. and even assuming your state (for example) become imperious then mechanisms for resistance are readily accessible. You fight your state then in an arena that you know.

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Tax Joven Says:
September 30, 2008 at 5:03 am

EDSA 1 was an expression of the soul of a nation, an expression of rage. So is silence. In EDSA 1 & 2 we leaped from the frying pan into the fire. Why should we leap again?

Our system is working despite flaws in implementation. It can be dramatically improved under the present charter, but nobody is making any move to do it. Congress promises to give it through a cha-cha powers that it withholds now. It’s senseless. If we have funds for Pangasinan, why don’t we give it directly to the province? Why do we have to course it through Tuguegarao? Why can’t you just allows lgu’s to operate without states hovering over their heads?

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Tax Joven Says:
October 1, 2008 at 8:36 pm

“You fight your state then in an arena you know.” Would an Ilocano or Igorot consider Northern Luzon as an area he knows? All I am asking for are amendments to the local government code which even federalist Dr. Jose Abueva proposes. Why go for sweeping changes when we can’t even fully implement and amend a simple law?

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In-house corruption and apathy; mortal cure

November 8, 2008

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Archbishop Oscar Cruz said, “When a government is corrupt from top to bottom; when an administration is deceitful left and right; and when a national leadership is questionable in legitimacy, integrity and competency, there would be nothing more desirable and agreeable to these mighty and influential ones than to have a constituency basically composed of blind, deaf and dumb citizens with the added social liability of apathy and indifference, fear and fright.” We agree with this statement, but he might just as well be describing CBCP as typical of the kind of constituency he describes. The lack of support from the main body itself spells certain death for the drastic moves he, aolong with a handful of fellow-mavericks, espouses. Only if they can convince their group may they expect success.

Paradoxically enough, the Church has always acted as the most powerful vanguard of the evil regime, wittingly or unwittingly. When the Hello Garci tapes issue was hottest CBCP called for communal action, instead of joining the ranks. Widely viewed as a timid and dubious stand, it served to muffle burning passions by absorbing some of the heat, until the furor died a natural death. Again, when the ZTE-NBN controversy elicited an obvious rage for action, the bishops created a diversion: an endless search for the truth that is already obvious to everybody, except those who chose to be blind, deaf and dumb. Now the renegade handful joins other groups to create a repeat of Jun Lozada out of Joc-joc Bolante. Perhaps they enjoy an endless drama or misery. Fr. Robert Reyes himself suggested that corruption is not the sole prerogative of Gloria and the laity. Include masochism.

Instead of galvanizing them towards another EDSA, failed expectations on Church-led EDSA 1 and 2 kept people glued to their seats. Since only the faces of the oppressors changed, not the plight of the poor who made up the bulwark of the movement, a hurting question prevails, “For whom shall we fill up the streets this time?” Indeed, with what do the leaders propose to change this evil government? Chaos, confusion, or bloodshed is suggested. Besides, what can we expect of a people who had been reduced to the ignominy of a stray dog that is concerned only with finding relief from a gnawing hunger? Hordes of human scavengers has spilled out into towns and cities, a phenomenon that passed unnoticed by a Church that is exceedingly obsessed with a fight against the RH bill as though it is the biggest evil of all.

Believe it or not, we see the call of CBCP for communal action as God-inspired. Faced with so much divisiveness, it seemed to us as the best course of action as opposed to rages that die down as soon as the immediate goal is attained as in the case of EDSA 1 & 2. Indeed, if we must make a change, it’s only logical and sensible to first agree on what we want. We therefore, somehow, expected to see CBCP lead the search. We expected teach-ins, workshops, debates, etc. under the guidance of Church leaders until some kind of consensus is reached.

Alas, we never saw even a serious head start. Apparently the bishops chose to put asunder something which God has inspired. We did not. Most writers focused on the ills of the country: Gloria, corruption and hunger. Only federalists found the real culprit: a set-up that allowed a handful of men and women to rule our lives as it tie down the hands of officials throughout the country who wanted to contribute to the task of improving our lives. They correctly pointed out that unless this flaw is corrected, no change in leadership in any form shall bring any relief. Unfortunately, they prescribed a pseudo medicine that is more destructive than cyclone Gloria herself: federalism. At the helm of this deadly communal action is the author of the flawed set-up. Absence of good is evil.

LGU’s vs. States on food security by Taxj and FedMan

November 2, 2008


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Taxj: I believe that food security can be addressed better at the provincial and city levels than in the proposed states. A typical province will contain only one ethno-linguistic group. Its territory will likely be naturally interrelated by watershed continuum and shared coastal areas ideal for integrated management for optimum productivity. An elected provincial or city government would very likely have a well-articulated agricultural development platform when its candidates run for office given that a large portion of the voters are farmers. This means that the needs of the provinces or city would have been well studied and that plans would more likely involved key leaders and groups that stand to benefit from it. It would make a world of difference if the intended beneficiaries have a hand in the planning and implementation process.

Furthermore, from a governance point of view the provinces can set standards for local agricultural officers and extension workers so that the right persons will be hired for the right jobs, considering their familiarity with the conditions obtaining in the field. Cities and provinces can design and implement training programs for these officials to make them more effective for the particular thrusts and opportunities for agriculture in the province. Now, with a more coordinated and integrated hardware (infra) and software (training, consultations, and management systems) we can expect a much better over-all management of the farming sector. This will redound to the improvement of both productivity and farmer incomes.

Another important point is that cities and provinces can play an important role against any attempt to control prices of farm commodities through a cartel. Rice, corn, vegetables, and livestock will be in the hands of a well-knit and cohesive group that cannot be easily swayed by scheming merchants. Province based cooperatives can simplify the trading system so that its members can get the best price for their products without necessarily raising prices at the stalls or the end-consumer. Cartels can operate only when no such effective structures exist. A province can more effectively run price support programs and install infrastructure that gives farmers options to simply selling newly harvested produce at bargain prices to their financiers and well-funded traders.

FedMan: Thank you Taxj for your comment on preserving the management of food security programs (agricultural development) with the provincial and city governments. Actually, that is the existing situation with the devolution of agriculture to the LGUs.

I agree entirely with you that the lower the level of government for planning and implementing agriculture development projects, the better. Farming is one such activity that requires insight from the people who actually farm and these insights need to be incorporated in the planning and budgetting.

Under our unitary system that planning and budgetting is done in Manila.

Under a Federal system, that will be done by the States/Regions based on inputs from the Local Governments which must really get it by consolidating the view of real farmers at the village level. The advantage here is that the Regions can now supervise the implementation of the agreed plans as Provincial and City Local Governments have a tendency to lose focus when no one is watching. A Regional Government can also better hold them accountable for using taxpayers’ money.

Taxj: I’m sorry if I have not made myself clear. The devolution of agriculture to lgu’s was done in name only. Yes, under our unitary system planning and budgeting is done in Manila because there was no accompanying fiscal federalism in the local government code. But, nothing bars Congress except itself, from giving it to the provinces and cities. No need for states. No need for a cha-cha.

“Under a Federal system, that will be done by the States/Regions based on inputs from the Local Governments which must really get it by consolidating the view of real farmers at the village level.”  This is crazy. Why require Pangasinan or Ilocos Sur to submit data to Tuguegarao who shall finalize plans for them? Also Romblon and Masbate… Why make it go to the Bicol region’s capital simply for planning purposes? I say make the provinces and cities make their own plans and implement them themselves.

“The advantage here is that the Regions can now supervise the implementation of the agreed plans as Provincial and City Local Governments have a tendency to lose focus when no one is watching. A Regional Government can also better hold them accountable for using taxpayers’ money.” Are you sure this is an advantage? Why do you have to create a state who shall supervise the provinces and cities? Don’t you trust them enough? The lgu’s can do the job better without anyone peering over their shoulders.

If you must insist on federalism, then let me suggest that there be as many states as there are provinces and cities. Only, don’t call it federalism or states. So we can do it without a cha-cha. I think my advocacy may be best understood if we call it, a highly decentralized unitary system or hdus. This is similar to the federalism of Austria, India, Malaysia, Mexico and the Russian Federation where the the states derive powers from the congress, not the constitution.

FedMan: I think I understood your comment. In this Forum the defined way to Federalize is to convert existing Regional Centers (we have 17, not 11 per the Pimentel version). That means we have at least 40 years experience of Regional Centers and that transitioning would be smoother. Meaning to say all those areas you cited having their aggie dev plans reviewed at the current regional center already happen (in some inefficient and ineffective manner due to the unitary system con devolution) but if the State Government is an ELECTED government and their FISCAL resources directly come from the state citizens the whole aggie dev supervision and dynamic changes.

Make provinces the states? Hmmm..that would make it just like our current system where corruption is as rampant there as it is in the Palace. Give these guys more resources from their taxing their constituents? A provincial government has not been able to raise local resources in the past 16 years of the Local Government Code (devolution) because it will be political suicide for those parochial executives and is the reason why their IRA dependency is 88%!

That’s why transforming existing regional centers into sovereign states solves the problem of being far enough to tax yet near enough to supervise those provinces and towns.

Furthermore, there are irrigation, watershed, biodiversity, land best use issues that are best tacked at an inter-province level and that’s why we need a state government. Why over produce okra or onions or something of a certain variety when it will spell financial disaster for farmers when a state government can give it the “big eye” and plan accordingly.

Taxj: Pimentel wants 11 states, you want 17, Misuari has his own number. I’m sure a lot more have other ideas. I have my own. Who gets to decide. And at what cost? And this is just one aspect of the proposed cha-cha! Have you ever considered the battle royale that would ensue?

I’m not aware of any provincial aggie dev plan submitted for review at the any regional center even before the devolution. I can’t imagine a Governor doing it now, or even under the proposed federalism. Are you saying that the state would be more knowledgeable than any of its component political subdivisions? At least as far as food security is concerned!

“…if the State Government is an ELECTED government and their FISCAL resources directly come from the state citizens the whole aggie dev supervision and dynamic changes.” You must be kidding! The regional set-up could never be as conducive to citizen participation and official accountability than LGU level. Would a wave at Pangasinan or Ilocos Sur ever make a ripple at Tuguegarao?

Now the cat is out of the bag. You don’t want to give more autonomy to LGU’s because you don’t trust them enough. Granting, without conceding that LG officials are as you say corrupt, would they behave better when supervised by elected states officials? Based on your less than trusting attitude, is it not possible that the states would be another area of corruption? Rather than spend on another layer of useless bureaucracy why not just strengthen the existing mode of discipline and accountability for local officials?

I cannot understand your obsession with state taxes as though taxpayers would be so willing and able to shoulder the cost of more bureaucracy 80% of the national taxes? Why? Because the central government is now and lawmaking bodies! Is not Senator Pimentel promising to give to states awash with funds that LGU’s could handle better. Congress devolved the health, social welfare and aggie services, but not the funds therefor!  We need a simple legislative act to remedy a flaw or weakness in our existing law, not charter change!

I wonder where you got your assertion that local executives are shy with their taxing powers. Assuming that this is true, this cannot be remedied by raising it at a distance or through states. Jose V. Abueva Jr., a federalist suggest that the local government code be amended, and that local officials be trained on how to discharge their duties. Taxation could be one subject.

LG executives do not need the supervision of elected state officials. What they need are more power and funds. Is not the battle cry of federalists, “let the people manage their own affairs?” How can they do it with state supervisors perched on their shoulders?

We do not need a state government to carry out regional cooperation or projects. This is provided for in the local government code. It it is not enough, then simply amend those provisions. Furthermore, PGMA herself directed the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) to conduct a strategic review on the continuing decentralization and devolution of services and functions of all departments, agencies and bureaus, including corporation, boards, task forces, councils and commissions of the Executive Branch. http://www.lawphil.net/executive/execord/eo2005/eo_444_2005.html. Whether this gained ground is another story!

October 6, 2008

Is it possible to pursue the benefits promised by federalism within the confines of the 1987 Charter? Yes, if Congress wills it. In fact, it may be the more practical approach. For this purpose, there is no need for a cha-cha, only a simple amendment to the local government code. For purposes of this discussion, I shall call this scheme, a highly decentralized unitary system or hdus.

This hdus is just like federalism, except that, instead of states, we will use local government units (lgu’s): provinces and cities. It would be similar to a type of federalism called permissive federalism, under which the state/local governments have only those powers and authorities permitted to them by the federal government. Examples of countries with this type of federalism are Austria, India, Malaysia, Mexico and the Russian Federation.

The question therefore is, shall we divide the country into states or shall we simply give more powers and authorities to our lgu’s? Let us take a look at how federalist justify the move towards federalism.

In a research report of the Center for Social Policy and Governance of the Kalayaan College, Abueva enumerated the theory behind Philippine federalization. The following are the hypotheses for the proposed shift from a unitary system to a federal system quoted from the research report with editing.

Let me respond to it point by point.

1. “The basis for establishing a federal system is that the Philippines has already achieved sufficient national unity and democratization, including a measure of decentralization and local autonomy. The latter will follow about a decade’s transition of “regionalization” and increased local autonomy involving both the national government and the local governments.”

If the Philippines has already achieved sufficient national unity, including a measure of local autonomy, why disturb it? Why not simply enhance it? “Regionalization” will only negate all  our gains at decentralization.

2. “Specifically, the 1987 Constitution’s design for the development of participatory democracy, local autonomy, and an active role for civil society in governance was a result of the growing difficulties and frustration with the country’s highly centralized unitary system during the authoritarian regime that started in September 1972.”

Yes. I agree with this statement. But has federalism got to do with this? If Congress failed to cope with the Charter’s design, shouldn’t its composition be changed, and not the document? Why blame the instrument, not the user?

3. “Federalism will respond to the demands of local leaders for their release from the costly, time-consuming, stifling, and demoralizing effects of excessive centralization and controls by the national government in the present unitary system.”

Yes. Federalism will do this. But it will do much more. It will replace central government with another governing body called states. Why not simply grant the more powers and authority to the lgu’s?

4. “The structures, processes, and responsibilities of the federation will challenge and energize the people and their state and local governments. Such further democratization will encourage creativity, initiative and innovation, spur inter-state competition, and foster state and local self-reliance instead of continued dependency.”

The reverse will happen. The unfamiliar structures, processes, and responsibilities of the federation will cause chaos and confusion. The people will be challenged and energized only if they are further democratized. This will take place at the local level only if there is no state that controls their movements.

5. “A federal system will greatly increase the capacity of the people and the government to deal with the country’s problems because the removal of the centralized structure that impose and sustain local dependence and stifle local initiative and resourcefulness will provide greater freedom and home rule. Therefore, they will be more interested in state and local governance because it is closer to them and will deal with under-development – local poverty, unemployment, injustice, inadequate social services and infrastructure, and low productivity.”

This scenario can only be possible if the lgu’s are allowed to operate with greater autonomy or without state control.

6. “In a federal structure that will consolidate the 80 provinces of the Philippines into 8 to 10 larger, integrated and more efficient and viable regions called states, substantial, faster and equitable development for the whole country is more likely to be achieved.”

There is no way by which any of the proposed states could be more efficient and viable than lgu’s.

7. “By participating in meaningful and challenging politics and governance at the state and local levels that impact directly the lives of the constituents, the people will be more empowered than if they continued to be alienated from their weak local governments and spectators in the affairs of far away national government institutions in the nation’s capital. Moreover, the people’s liberty will be protected by the further dispersion of power in the government and the society.”

In the proposed regions, leaders will have to start from scratch. Getting to know each other alone would be a big challenge. How long will it take for a state to be cohesive and operational? How can it make politics more meaningful and challenging?

8. “By governing the nation through interdependence and interaction with the states as regional governments, using the national language and a global language (such as English), the federal government will be better able to achieve and sustain national unity and identity. At the same time the states will be able to nurture, protect and enhance their regional cultures institutions and also contribute to national cultural development. Together the federal government and the states will be able to develop and sustain the nation’s cultural diversity and social pluralism.”

Judging from the proposed composition of states, the state governments would be hard-pressed just trying to deal with the varied concerns of its constituent provinces to be able to attend to state or national matters.

9. “A federal system will also be better able to respond to the external threats to national security and the challenges of globalization by strengthening the nation-state’s capacity to deal with its critical internal problems and development.”

The country can cope better with national security and globalization if its political subdivisions are cohesive and self-reliant. Lgu’s are, or can be. States will tend to be unwieldy and therefore unstable, Unless, perhaps, it is united by a strong urge to secede!

Conclusion: The above mentioned hypotheses for federalism seem to be not so rational. It will make Philippine governance more complex and expensive. The structure of a federal government will not empower the people nor accelerate the country’s development. A highly decentralized unitary system (huds) will.

Other issues and concerns:

1. “Senator Pimentel believes the federal system will dissipate the recurrent Moro Armed uprisings by giving them a federal state of their own which will develop and promote their unique culture.” A Muslim state will naturally adopt Muslim laws. Would the good Senator, perhaps, agree to the creation of a Christian state? Do we want to have a theocratic state in our country? Of anywhere else for that matter?

2. “A renaissance of regional languages, arts and cultures will enrich the national language and culture, and instill a deeper sense of both regional and national identities.”

The kindest thing I can say about this statement is that it was probably made without looking at the proposed provincial composition of states. The more appropriate thing to say is that states will destroy everything that we so dearly love and cherish in our regions, including our regional identities.

A kind of federalism, as an alternative to federalism

September 29, 2008

What’s in a name? If this were the case I’d also go for federalism: shared powers between central government and its constituent political subdivisions. Only, I won’t call it federalism. Also, I won’t refer to the political subdivisions as states. Instead I’d call them as they are: provinces and chartered cities. It may not be constitutionally mandated, but it is allowed. Sharing powers with lgu’s rather than states is not just about working within the parameters of the 1987 Constitution. It has its intrinsic merits. It is doable now or anytime, it is less expensive and disruptive, and it can go for the fruits promised by federalism while deflecting the dangers poised upon our poor country be federalists. Senator Nene Pimentel says that his federalism will cause the speedy development of the entire country by unleashing the forces of competitiveness among the States. Nothing is farther from the truth. The real competition is between and among cities and municipalities, not even among provinces. Most businesses are either city or town based. It is there where businesses get their permits. States cannot and should not alter this arrangement. Val Abelgas disputes the Senator’s claim in his article entitled The Folly of Federalism, thusly: “It will create additional layers of bureaucracy that will lead to even more red tape, corruption and confusion. Businessmen and investors will be the most adversely affected as they will have to contend with conflicting and confusing laws from various states/regions. Can you imagine 11 states with their own agencies on commerce and industry, housing, health, transportation, education, etc. and the federal government having its own, too, all with their own sets of rules?” Another claim by Senator Pimentel is that his federalism will dissipate the causes of rebellion in the country, Mindanao in particular. The opposite is true. His kind of federalism will enhance the causes of rebellion in the country: poverty through failed governance. The shift towards federalism is so expensive and disruptive that it will aggravate the sufferings of our people leading to further destabilization. It will eat up resources that otherwise could be used for poverty alleviation. In an article entitled Financing Federalism Leonor Magtolis-Briones wrote: “Students of public finance have been pointing out that the creation of an additional layer of government—namely the state—will inevitably lead to higher levels of expenditures. This is because the machinery of the states has to be maintained, along with that of the federal government and the local government units. Pressure for higher levels of expenditures will inevitably lead to pressure for increased levels of taxes.” This concern does not even mention the added cost of maintaining 75 Senators and 350 Congressmen. Senator Nene Pimentel probably thinks that we are overjoyed with the antics of our do nothing Senators and Congressmen that he wants to create and create more and more of them! It not just federal financing that will aggravate the causes of rebellion. Mere creation of states also will. It will create diversity and conflict where there is none. I believe in unity in diversity. But creating a union to create diversity is another thing. This is what happens when provinces are formed into a state. To be able to understand this point better, please take a look at the proposed State of Northern Luzon. It shall comprise the provinces of llocos Norte, llocos Sur, La Union, Pangasinan, Batanes, Cagayan, Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya, Quirino, Abra, Apayao, Benguet, Ifugao, Kalinga and Mountain Province, and all the cities, municipalities and barangays therein. Until provided otherwise by the State Legislature, Tuguegarao City shall be the capital of the State. Even the seemingly homogeneous Bicol region would experience one form of inter-provincial conflict or another. Wait ‘til they start defining the rules. Wait ‘til Masbate and Catanduanes start fighting it out for the state’s attention! But nothing so bad will happen in Luzon and in the Visayas compared to what Mindanao would experience if it tries to organize and operate a Muslim state. I don’t know why anyone would promote the organization of a state based on religion, more so if it is done at gunpoint. I would not want theocracy for even the worst of my enemies. I would not will it for Muslims or Christians. I shudder at the specter of another MOA-AD, a version far more bloody than one can ever imagine. The Muslim problem sprung from years of government apathy and neglect. It is a condition shared by Christian settlers as well. It is neither political nor religious. It is economic, stupid! Senator Nene Pimentel succeeded in getting the support of ULAP and other local government organizations by using a bait called 20/80. They can see the figures, but not the hook! History will be repeating itself once more as when Congress devolved the functions of agriculture, social welfare and health services. It conveniently forgot to provide the necessary funds.  The curses of the aggrieved devolved personnel are still on the lead man, Senator Nene Pimentel. Now he wants to strike LGU’s a more lethal blow. Actually very little of the 80% state share would reach the LGU’s because its 30% share will likely be not be enough for its own maintenance and other operating expenditures. The result will be more confusion, wrangling and hardships. Federalists brag that opposition to federalism springs from ignorance. The contrary is true. Many people support federalism because of ignorance. They will reject federalism if they know what it is. One supporter thought that there will be a state for Ilocanos, Cebuanos, Bicolanos, etc. Alas it is not to be so. A blogger who posted at MLQ3 blog wrapped in a flag as justice league has this to say: “… just in case you want to pursue a federalist cause without the ability of defending it; you have my permission to use the battle cry below in its totality!” “Gusto nilang gawin! Kaya nilang gawin! Pero hindi nila ginagawa! KAYA ANG TANGING SOLUSYON AY PALITAN ANG SALIGANG BATAS!”

Decentralize Now!

August 25, 2008

Ninoy Aquino begat hope and courage. Hope and courage begat EDSA 1. EDSA 1 begat Cory, FVR, ERAP and EDSA 2. EDSA 2 begat Gloria. Gloria begat unprecedented corruption and poverty, then a MOA that led to war: Filipinos against Filipinos. The combination of these events begat the loss of Ninoy’s legacy.

The absence of his legacy begat poverty in mind and spirit as well. We dare not move against Gloria because of fear, not for life and limb, but for the uncertain scenario of an early PGMA exit. Even 2010 is viewed with much skepticism. Embedded in our hearts are the lessons of experience: no change in leadership ever brought any relief.

Senator Nene Pimentel correctly diagnosed the problem: too much wealth and power in the Presidency or Imperial Manila. Unfortunately the prescription he gave is seriously flawed. Federalism won’t solve the problem. It will only aggravate it. He is just complicating a simple solution: decentralization through legislation. This is allowed by the present Constitution.

Clip the powers of the presidency; distribute it to the local government units. This is the good Senator’s forte. He must have overlooked it in his haste to post another date in history: from the father of local autonomy to the champion of federalism! Unfortunately, it promises to be his undoing. Cha-cha is dead for now. And even if it reaches a plebiscite, a provision adding more people to the unpopular bodies would spell its doom. People would rather vote for the abolition of one of the two Chambers, or both!

Fortunately, it is not too late for Mr. Local Autonomy to be true to his calling. Instead of gunning for federalism he may rally the local government officials to persuade Congress to approve a legislation that incorporates his 20/80 formula in an invigorated Local Government Code. Who knows that, under intense pressure, its members might even come to their senses, get real and go for impeachment instead?