• Federalism will give voters more power

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    Benigno Aquino 3rd has demonstrated the biggest reason for adopting a federal system of government. He has shown what the Philippine president can do with his immense powers and resources under our unitary presidential form of government.

    He trebled pork barrel and used it in inducing Congress to impeach perceived opponents and pass pet legislation. He has browbeaten the Judiciary, lambasting then Chief Justice Renato Corona after a unanimous Supreme Court decision to distribute his family’s Hacienda Luisita.

    Aquino repeated his dressing down of the High Court magistrates when in 2014 they unanimously declared illegal his Disbursement Acceleration Program usurping the budgeting powers of Congress. And he has interfered in cases, including the trial of a prospective Senate ally and the grant of bail to a political figure he wants to keep in jail.

    Meanwhile, having replaced the Ombudsman with his handpicked choice, Aquino defends and abets his coterie of ex-classmates, allies and shooting buddies (KKK by their Filipino initials), with no fear of an independent antigraft prosecutor taking his cronies down.

    Federalism can curb presidential abuse
    Despite or due to these excesses, most legislators and local officials don’t criticize Aquino, for fear of being denied state funds or other reprisals. Indeed, with Palace control of spending, politicians of every stripe invariably jump to its side and join the chorus praising supposed successes, and defending even glaring failings.

    Plainly, if the President has cowed two co-equal branches and co-opted a constitutionally independent anti-graft body, there is little to check his abuses, especially if even leading newspapers and broadcasters have falled under his media allies.

    Federalism can address excessive presidential clout and abuse by reducing his authority and control over resources. With more national power and purview given to regional goverments, the Chief Executive would then have less clout to abuse. And with fewer prerogatives and decision making, the presidency would be less difficult to watch.

    For instance, Metro Manila commuter trains would be under the National Capital Region government rather than the Department of Transportation and Communication. That would give NCR residents more clout to pressure their regional executive to stop graft-ridden contracts destroying the railways.

    Moreover, there would be less opportunity for the Interior and Local Government Secretary to pressure a typhoon-ravaged city. Its mayor would probably get more aid from his regional disaster agency than the national one, especially since the regional chief needs the city’s votes far more than the President.

    And with regional governments having control of bigger chunks of state spending, the underspending and lack of presidential drive and oversight on massively funded programa and projects would be avoided, as voters pressure their regional leaders to perform and deliver. That same pressure would prod them to make spending outlays more attuned to the needs of their constituents.

    In sum, the head of a national administration with far less power and resources would have much less clout to abuse, and would be easier to check and balance. And more money and power in regional govenrments would accelerate state initiatives and better tailor them to people’s needs and aspirations. That spreading out of state authority can be done through federalism.

    More powerful and informed federal voters
    The fear of federalism’s opponents is that regional leaders and the political patronage system would themselves be abusive, corrupt and inefficient. Indeed, the devolution of national programs to provincial, city and municipal govenrments under the Local Government Code, a quarter-century old this year, has been hit and miss in ensuring effective and honest governance.

    The Internal Revenue Allotment giving local government units 40 percent of national taxes collected in their areas, has led to IRA misuse or disuse, due to poor LGU leadership in various constituencies.

    Moreover, local political kingpins remain entrenched in many places, with no apparent end in sight for dynastic succession. Will federalism change that or make it worse?

    One thing it would do is increase the clout of every voter in choosing leaders with greatest impact on their lives. In current presidential elections, a citizen is just one among more than 50 million Filipinos trudging to the polls every six years. That’s one divided by more than 50 million.

    In a federal system, the voter’s choice is divided by just a few millions of regional citizens in choosing officials with the biggest say in many policies, programs and projects impacting on people’s everyday lives.

    For NCR, which has the biggest voting population, the total eligibles is 6 million. So even Metro Manilans choosing regional leaders would have a voting clout more than seven times their current clout in choosing the president.

    One possible result is that voters will care more about whom they choose, and less likely to sell their votes (though many still would). Leaders too would have more reason to serve constituents better, especially since the current strategy of massive media and grassroots spending by presidential candidates would have less effect in regional polls.

    Putting out feel-good ads, which also demands massive amounts of illicit cash, would be less convincing to regional voters who can see for themselves and check with fellow constituents how well or badly candidates have perfotmed. Not so for nationwide campaigns, which can hoodwink millions with media overspending.

    With less campaign cash and more tangible results demanded in regional polls, that would also enable bright and upright candidates with less resources to contest the positions that count in people’s lives. That should improve governance and lessen the grip of moneyed vested interests, on which today’s presidentiables hugely depend.

    With today’s provincial and city bosses contesting regional posts, there would be wider choice, and voters can elect based on candidates’ performance in their respective LGUs. Imagine, for instance, an NCR election with an Abalos, a Binay, an Estrada, and a Belmonte contesting. The leader of the best-run city, not the candidate spending the most, would likely win.

    Of course, regional voters may still elect bad leaders. But with greater electoral clout, the citizenry would then truly deserve the chiefs they choose.

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    10 Comments

    1. Mariano Patalinjug on

      Yonkers, New York
      26 January 2016

      Carefully weighing the “positives” and the “negatives” in this Proposal put forward by columnist Ricardo Saludo in the Manila Times of January 25th, it should be quite clear that the proposal for a Federal system of Government is fraught with serious risks to such an extent that the suggested “cure” could turn out to be worse than what is sought to be “cured,” the “disease.”

      If voters cannot now be relied upon to use their right to vote wisely for local, municipal, city, provincial and national officials, one has to wonder how all of a sudden, under a Federal system, they will change their traditional ways and do so, finally, wisely?

      From where I sit, they will continue to be open to selling their votes for as low as P350 and for as high as P3,500. Keep in mind that the critical mass of voters are out their in the boondocks, and these are people who are mostly dirt-poor and thus hopelessly vulnerable. Furthermore, there is no way, even under Federalism, for political dynasties to come up anew and for the old ones to entrench themselves.

      MARIANO PATALINJUG
      patalinjugmar@gmail.com

    2. I’m a federalist in every sense of the word too. And most of us (federalism-oriented voters, especially those from the South) are now using our advocacy to pick which presidential candidate tandems, senators and even congressmen to choose. A good number of us are also in favor of using the current regional setup (Northern Luzon, Central Luzon, Bicol, Central Visayas, Northern Mindanao, etc) with a few tweaks (e.g. Splitting the Bangsamore region into 2 regions. One regional government for those in mainland Mindanao and another for Basilan and the Sulu Archipelago) in breaking down central power into regional governments. Ex-senator Nene Pimentel had made similar suggestions. And I agree with @cris for the abolition of provincial government structures because it would be redundant and messy to keep them, not to mention quite expensive to maintain them. I would suggest, however, to use the current provincial boundaries in choosing unicameral regional assembly members instead of the current congressional districts. This is a good way of breaking up those small-fiefdom (districts) that congressmen of the same clan are ruling for the longest times, while at the same time lessening their numbers and the cost to maintain them. As for the federal legislature, I would favor a unicameral setup but with an equal apportioning of seats for all regions so no region can dominate over another by numerical default. Presidents and VPs should also be voted as one (a tandem ticket) like the 1935 Constitution setup because it is counter-productive to keep the current messy 1987 Constitution setup, which is akin to allowing a sports car owner getting a tractor tire as a spare tire in some instance or vice versa.

      I hope in framing the new federal constitution an anti-dynasty clause or provision should also be included already. For example. no members of the same family upto 2nd degree of consaguinity run/occupy th executive or legislative positions at the same time (e.g. Family A members cannot run/occupy for/as President and VP (Gov and VGov, Mayor and VMayor) at the same time, Family A members cannot also occupy more than 1 federal legislature seat at the same time, Family A members cannot occupy more than 1 regional assembly seat at the same time, Family A members cannot occupy more than 1 city/municipal seat at the same time.) I am of the opinion that we need to do something like this to breakup fiefdoms and deeply ingrained political patronage that have made our political landscape look like a joke, filled up with an ensemble of good-for-nothing wannabes, no-clues, clowns and charlatans.

      In our courts, I guess we can consider having a superior court and an appeals court for each region to speed up and spread dispensation of justice and thereby making the supreme court deal only with cases that are essentially constitutional.

      I wish we could have more of this types of conversation (issue and program driven) because what we are hearing nowadays from most candidates are the same garbage of motherhood statements that lead us nowhere but same cycle of personality-centered politics. A good number of them are not even worth the seat they are running for.

      • I would like also to add that in anti-dynasty clause or provision, family members who have been in power for their full-term limit allowed by law should be barred from having their relatives upto 2nd degree of consaguinity run for the same post the following election.

    3. Vote Duterte for President 2016!! He is the man that has the correct vision on how to make this country great..

    4. yes Federalism is the key. However Federal system will be too costly for the Philippines if we will stick in our current Political Geography. To minimize cost Philippine Political Geography must be reconstruct.

      1. 10 states and 1 Federal District

      1a – State Of Ilocandia – Regions 1, 2 and CAR. – Pop (2010) 9.5M; Area – 63,508 Sqkm
      1b – State of North Tagalog – Region 3 – Pop(2010) 10.1M; Area – 21,543 Sqkm
      1c – State of South Tagalog – Regions 4a & 4b – Pop(2010) 15.3M; Area – 45,989Sqkm
      1d – State of Bicolandia – Region 5 – Pop(2010) 5.4M; Area – 18,054 Sqkm
      1e – State of West Visayas – Regions 6 & 18 – Pop(2010) 8.2M; Area – 26,017 Sqkm
      1f – State of East Visayas – Regions 7 & 8 – Pop(2010) 9.6M; Area – 31,664
      1g – State of Northwest Min – Regions 9 & 10 except Prov of Bukidnon – Pop(2010) 5.453M; Area – 25,592
      1h – State of Central Mind – Region 12 including Prov of Bukidnon – Pop(2010) 5.4M; Area – 32,964 Sqkm
      1i – State of East Min – Regions 11 & 13 – Pop(2010) 6.8M; Area – 41715 Sqkm
      1j – Bangsamoro – ARMM – Pop(2010) 3.2M; Area – 29,974 Sqkm
      1k – Federal District – NCR – Pop(2010) 11.8M; Area – 638 Sqkm

      2. NCR as Federal district is not an State hence it should be directly under federal gov’t Supervise by the President.

      3. Abolished Provincial Gov’t – Provincial gov’t is just a redundancy to of State gov’t.

      4. Each State should have unicameral legislature only.

      Explanation for #’s 4 & 5 – this will minimize cost/expenses of State Gov’t and also the tax burden of our citizen. most importantly, get rid of unnecessary politicians and control its number. Politicians of this country are only making mess of Filipinos lives.

      5. 3 Senate seats for each State and Federal District (total Senators 33) – this is equal representation unlike the current system that almost all Senators came from Luzon Island.

      6. Abolish Party list Representation System – Representatives of these party list do not really represent the marginal sector of our society as the law intend and this system is being use as back door or alternative route to power and corruption by those unscrupulous politicians.

      • Judith Marasigan on

        i agree especially on the last part. The question is when will the politicians realize the need to go federal. Let’s face it, how many of them want to be elected just for pure power and money a.k.a. connection, kotong, korakot.

        I am 33 years old and I want to see a better Philippines, a better and efficient government system soon.

      • WeenaBusCompany on

        Wow this is good.. And I think this 10 Federal state will surely boom economically and are capable of their resources.

    5. Duterte IS for Federalism so let us vote for Duterte for President. This in itself is a MAJOR reason to VOTE FOR DUTERTE. !!!!!

      • Yeah I am sure that my vote will go to Duterte! He is FAIR and JUST leader if he wins on May 2016…Let’s support HIM!

    6. I agree 100% with you. You are one of the rare journalist that understand the Philippine problem. This is the reason why our country is not going anywhere. Sad to say I majority of journalists have no clue of how big is their responsibility to the country.