CANDIDATE DU30’s federalism refrain wedded to his crude and brutal street lingo and earthy demeanor resonated among the voters tired of the “same old, same old.” Except for the imprecise but romantic idea of “freeing the periphery from imperial Manila,” nothing much has filtered down to those who could benefit from it the most—the long-suffering Filipino almost half of whom wallow in poverty. Federalism burst into social media propelled by bloggers, academics, pseudo-experts and plain enthusiasts attempting to fill the gaps between the slogan, its definitions and the pragmatic approaches. And the confusion and cacophony persisted as mainstream media, long perceived to be the bastion of the oligarchy and the entrenched elite, were not that keen, even outrightly antithetical, to a change in the status quo that federalism would provoke.
The idea of the regions or states having a greater say in running their lives and developing their areas is appealing and easily grasped, notably by those outside of the center. That the “powers and powerful” in Manila may no longer decide for “the powerless” is attractive to those who live in the margins.
“For much of its history, the Philippines has functioned under a unitary, presidential system of government. But it has failed to meet expectations for a government that could provide the effective and equitable delivery of public goods and services, maintain the rule of law, control corruption, and protect democratic and human rights, including the people’s right to take part in policymaking and to hold public officials accountable for their actions.” (Edilberto C. de Jesus, Philippine Daily Inquirer, January 6, 2018)
For the poor, the downtrodden and powerless who are purportedly the beneficiaries of these changes, they have eloquently framed the question: What’s in it for me?
Deliberations on the impact of federalism on the economy has not been as wide-ranging as discussions on the political constructs. These concerns have yet to be disseminated to the wider public reaching those that the internet has not ensnared. The traditional “pulong-pulong” and public fora are still a must but the content must be reformatted with a language that must include economic issues intimate to the lives of the target audience; health, employment, education and dwelling, or HEED, the CDP social market economy mantra.
Private groups, civic organizations, political parties and even the religious sectors are now staking their positions on this debate; not necessarily for federalism and its concomitant changes, but also in opposition to them. This is in fact what is needed, a clash of ideas – the better to refine issues and produce what could be good and acceptable to the greater majority of our people.
The Centrist proposals on the economy are lifted in toto from the Centrist Political Party’s (CDP) platform of government. These were submitted to both houses of Congress as part of their constituent assembly (Con-ass) proceedings. Falling under three major groupings, they form the backbone of the social market economy, the political party’s economic program (refer to the Manila Times series of articles on the economy, October 6,13, 20, 27 and November 3, 2016 or www.cdpi.asia).
Group A-Our first priority: Overcoming poverty and underdevelopment
The economy has to serve the people. Nearly half of the population is considered poor and one quarter lead miserable lives below the poverty line, in the fringes of society. This is an unacceptable condition. Human dignity embraces a people’s deep longing for freedom, for being responsible for themselves and their families and for being useful members of the community.
To address this stark condition, job creation through the lifting of restrictions to foreign direct investments and attracting foreign technology is a priority, as local capital has not been enough to create the jobs needed. Here, the role of the State is to provide a supportive framework, spurring inclusive growth and not be a direct participant competing with the private sector in an interplay of free market mechanisms. In the homegrown basic sectors, there needs to be a restructuring and modernization of the agriculture, fisheries and a rethinking of investments in the mining industry; and the reform of progressive taxation policies that shifts burden from income to consumption.
Group B -Our responsibility for the future of our children: Sustainable growth through clean energy and environmental protection
We believe that we are the stewards of the Earth and that we are dependent on its resources and are thus responsible for protecting and maintaining these for the human race. We uphold and shall enforce the 1987 Constitutional provision regarding the responsibility of the State, as the collective representative of the people, to “protect and advance the right of the people to a healthful and balanced ecology in accord with the rhythm and harmony of nature.” We believe that this right does not cover only the present generations but also the generations yet unborn, and that this principle of equity also applies across communities and nations within one generation.
Group C -Fighting for a humane society: Each and every citizen is entitled to live in dignity. This has to be ensured by the State.
Open markets and fair competition, protected by a strong state, are fundamental conditions for a productive economy, in which enough goods and services can be provided for the welfare of all citizens. But they have to be accompanied by effective policies and measures of a socially responsible state in order to create a humane society in which each and any citizen can live in dignity. The State has to ensure decent life for the weak and the disadvantaged members of society. It has to address the manifold present social problems in the Philippines.
In conclusion, these problems have persisted for decades and are consequences of the systemic anomalies perpetuated by the unitary-presidential system and protected through the perversion of the Philippine constitutions. The praetorian guards of the status quo, have always managed to suppress solutions that infringe upon their cherished prerogatives, thus, their vigorous opposition to change. The Centrist Groups (CDP/CDPI/CDA) submit that an alternative must now be put into play – through the revision of the 1987 Constitution towards a federal-parliamentary system underpinned by a social market economy.