Puno pushes federalism


THEY’RE HERE Sarah Duterte (inset) and her brother Paolo (left) arrive in Manila for their father’s inauguration on June 30. Sarah’s mother, Elizabeth Zimmerman, will also witness the oathtaking of her ex-husband, President-elect Rodrigo Duterte. PHOTOS BY BENJIE VERGARA

FORMER Chief Justice Reynato Puno on Tuesday called for the junking of the unitary form of government, saying it is time to shift to a federal system which is “citizen-friendly.”
Speaking at a forum on federalism in Manila, Puno noted that a presidential form of government has not brought progress to the country.

“Too much power has been given to our national government and even within the national government there is an imbalance of power between and among executive, legislative and judicial branches of government. Too little power has been given to the local governments and this insufficient power has stunted their growth,” he said.

“In sum, I respectfully submit that our unitary form of government, Imperialist Manila, has failed us,” Puno added, drawing thunderous applause.

“Our unitary government is bad enough for its wrong allocation of the powers of government but what is worse is that our unitary government has been captured by vested interests. We are ruled by dynasties. We are run by economic elite. And we are threatened by criminal syndicates. It is far more difficult to capture powers of government in a federal state than a unitary state,” he said.

According to the former chief justice, the biggest abuse of power in a tripartite government has been committed by the executive department.

“That’s why almost all of our Presidents are being impeached. Why? [They have] all the powers,” he said.

“Federalism challenges the political norm that power is best when centralized, that sovereignty is indivisible and cannot be shared and posits the thesis that states can be bound together on the basis of responsible power-sharing, where the will of the majority of the people will reign but where the rights of the minority will be allowed to flourish,” Puno explained.

He noted that even the judiciary is affected by the “political virus.”

“Reality will reveal that the independence of the judiciary is sufficiently insulated in our Constitution. The appointment process in the judiciary is still infected by political virus.

Why is this happening? Wrong allocation of powers! In [a]federal government, we will correct this,” Puno told his audience.

Alex Brillantes, former University of the Philippines’ Dean of the College of Public Administration and Governance, however, said there is a need to change the people’s mindset before the country can make the shift from presidential to federal form of government.

Brillantes also noted that it is not easy to give up powers.

“That is why we need to change values,” he said at the same forum.

Eduardo Araral, vice dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore, said changing the system will take time.

He advised the PDP-Laban, the political party of President-elect Rodrigo Duterte, to start campaigning for federalism among millennials

Araral reminded the audience that the basic principle in federalism is that local public goods must be managed locally.

The PDP-Laban held a series of conferences on federalism and Charter change and invited experts as speakers.

Puno and Brillantes were the speakers on Tuesday.

Araral was the guest speaker on Monday.

The other speakers were Sen. Aquilino Pimentel 3rd and Dr. Jose Abueva, former president of the University of the Philippines.

All of them favor a presidential-federal system except for Abueva, who supports a parliamentary-federal form of government.

Duterte has planned to form a committee that will accept and document proposals for the shift to a federal form of government after which a Constitutional Convention will be called.

He said he wants to hold a plebiscite or referendum two years after the committee is formed.


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  1. Mariano Patalinjug on

    Yonkers, New York
    29 June 2016

    The present unitary presidential system of government has had more than enough chance to prove itself in the last sixty years or so–and the clear verdict should be that it has been a dismal failure, measured against LEE KWAN YEW’S following criterion:


    Let’s face it squarely: After all these years, the Philippines has only earned the pejorative distinction as “The sick man of Asia!” In sharp contrast, its neighbors Taiwan, Hong Kong, South Korea and Singapore have earned the laudatory distinction as “Asian economic tigers.!

    Why so?

    During all these years since 1946, the Philippines has been caught in the vise-like grip of a PLUTOCRATIC-POLITICO-CLERICO CONSPIRACY, whose overarching Agenda has been to manipulate and exploit the Filipino people.

    The solution, obviously a difficult one, is to break this vise-like grip of the Conspiracy; it could be akin to the difficulty of “breaking the Gordian Knot.”

    Perhaps the change-over to a FEDERAL SYSTEM OF GOVERNMENT could do the job.


  2. Jessee James on

    any possible defects or weakness of the federal form of gov’t, should be addressed or remedied by those who will author it. What is important for me is to pass/implement the anti dynasty bill.

  3. Tomas Tuason on

    I am for federalism but some skeptics say that this could give rise to feudalism instead since there will be more power to local politicians, not to mention more power to war lords.

    • Kapitan Kidlat on

      don’t worry….with the advent of advance tech like mass media…politicians is aware now that the people are watching their every move every minute….

    • Actually that’s what we have now. U see politicians with dynasties and private armies. Even oligarchs have private army and their own world. U don’t see this in federal republics like USA, Canada, Germany, Malaysia, etc. Do your research!

  4. I can’t disagree furthermore from the proposed Federal form of Government as recommended by Former SCJ Reynato Puno. It’s good for the Citizen, and will eliminate dynasties and level the Oligarchs.