FEDERALISM: FOR A CHANGE
by: Camille N. De Pedro
Before having seated as the President, Duterte has already established that he will run as the standard bearer of his party—PDP-Laban Political Party not because of having an ambition to be the president, but to be the carrier of the torch of federalism, and build a nationwide consensus for it.
A video interview of Pres. Duterte before having elected as the President:
According to surveys, President Duterte won not only because of his strong advocacy against drugs and crime, nor mainly of his idiosyncrasy strong personality, but because of his proposed platform of having a federal system in his administration. Likewise, people got tired of hearing sugar-coated promises from other presidential candidates, and what made Duterte stood among them is because of being the face of Federalism which people sees as the answer to the need of the drastic change and transformation of the country. And this is what the Philippines needs now – change the way of managing and leading to certainly effect change thru Federalism.
Through Federal system, Philippines will have a transformation or the decentralization of regions to local states to become an independent state with its own federal government. Each region has their own problems when it comes to economic, geographic, cultural, and other situational contexts; relatively, in this country with an archipelagic feature with over 7,000 islands and 28 dominant ethnic groups. With Federalism, these unique problems encountered are assured to be addressed accurately by the local state such as the needs in health, education, employment, labor, trade, transportation, agricultural, and natural resources, and not the same as today’s national government where every decision is made and centered in Metro Manila making a lot of delays.
In contrast to the decentralization, others say that this may create rivalries between states promoting regionalism that may challenge the sense of unity of the country. But in fact, this should be seen as a healthy competition between the states since each will become self-reliant and responsible for their own development, relatively relating themselves to the progress that other states have done. With a Federal form of government, the people would have a sense of identity per region since the state is more focused on the necessities of its people, becoming more motivated to give a quality cultural, economic, and social needs. And it also makes the local leaders closer to the people because of the accountability it holds, for they will no longer have excuses of having delays in the services and projects, which is what is happening in our present situation.
Additionally, the national government with Federalism can be more focused on the nationwide concerns such as foreign policies and defense. As one of the former president of the University of the Philippines – Jose Abueva said, “Problems should be attended to at the lowest level in which they can be solved, by the people directly concerned, without elevating the problems for decision at higher levels”, decentralized governance as he has told is also related to subsidiarity. With subsidiarity, while the local governments are busy with their autonomy focused on their economic and other developments, the national government will be focused on these centralized functions – the National Defense, Justice and Foreign Affairs. This federal government ensures protection and security against rebellions and wars from internal and external threats, maintaining the peace and order under the its states.
In opposition to the said above, they say that this may cause confusing overlaps in jurisdiction, that it is not clearly stated in the amended Constitution to what are the responsibilities of the state ends and the national government’s responsibilities begins. There are more than 25 countries in the world that have the form of Federal government which means that 40 percent of the world are governed by this system including Switzerland which has a complex democracy but the most successful among the largest countries. Some unitary countries have also adopted the federal systems such as Spain and Africa; one also from Asia similar to our race and backgrounds is Malaysia which has also undergone the federal structure. Federal system keeps a central government while empowering its regional governments on purpose. Meaning, this kind of structure is working especially for the Philippines with diverse culture and societies. Certainly, with this drastic change in the form of government, the amendments will certainly be worked on by the administration to be clearly specified and defined in the Constitution.
The Federal structure works essentially in the Philippines because of its archipelagic feature containing diverse religion, ethnic groups and cultures. The decentralization provides greater proximity to the people under a state and to the local government to be more responsive on the specific needs of its constituents. Moreover, the central government will be focused on the macro political needs of the country such as national defense, justice and foreign affairs which also has a dire need of concentration.
We will never know what change can happen until this Federal system is being implemented, but one thing that is certain is that with the calculated risks and efforts of this new administration, this country will transform through a Federal Government. The Philippines under the administration President Rodgrigo Duterte will definitely be effecting change not only after the promised six months but rather, up to the next number of years and decades that this country will live.