There is a need for change in governance to maintain the change brought about by the Duterte style of governance, and that is federalism. In this light there are questions that need to be addressed that may help us as a nation to have a successful and continuous change where services can reach the people fast. As the head of a Local Government Unit for many years, the President knows that service delayed is service denied, as well as justice delayed is justice denied. To do this, federalism as a form of government may be the best route. But as this change is very disruptive and does involve significant cost, let us clarify the questions that need to be answered.
I discussed the proposal for federalism with Dr. Ador Torneo and I agreed on three major points that need closer consideration. He raised important questions that have remained unanswered since 2005 when we were classmates at the University of Philippines National College of Public Administration and Governance.
1. Which form of federalism should the Philippines adopt? There are many forms of federalism including the US model, Malaysian model, German model, Swiss model, etc. and each is suited to a different set of circumstances. The basis for choosing one form over another should be clear.
2. How much will the government have to spend in adopting a federal form of government? This is bound to be costly because state/regional governments and administrative structures will have to be established and capacities have to be developed. Related to this is, how long is the transition?
3. How will state/regional governments support and sustain their operations given the large discrepancies in terms of resource base and resource generation capacity across regions? Addressing this is important because there are regions that currently have small resource base and resource generation capacity. It will not help the goal of federalism if regional/state governments are not fiscally sustainable and have to be subsidized by the national/federal government, because fiscal dependence will also have a bearing on their autonomy.
These questions need to be answered in the course of drafting proposals on federalism.
In light of achieving clarity for measurable and achievable results, we have to work hand in hand and keep an open mind.
I am reminded of a time I delivered a lecture to enforcement officers when I was a public servant, in a meeting in Palawan, emphasizing the need for them to take extra precautions in their manner of observation and the content of their reporting. I asked that they seriously consider the reality that you and the person next to you may be in the same place at the same time, looking at the same incident, your respective observations will never be the same. This is because the extent to which our critical mind can absorb and process reality is limited by the sum total of our individual life experiences. Not even identical twins are spared of this constraint. Thus, our interpretation of events, even with distinct parameters in place, can never be truly objective. Nothing then becomes absolute, and what is considered right today may be deemed wrong in the future, or vice-versa. Overcoming this necessitates a conscious effort toward open-mindedness and empathy.
Mary Rose Magsaysay served as Undersecretary of the Department of Energy, having taken her BS and MA DEGREES from the University of the Philippines, Diliman. She also completed the Exec Course on National Security from the National Defense College of the Philippines and the Strategic Management of Regulatory and Enforcement Agencies at the Harvard Kennedy School of Govermemt in Boston Massachusettes.