A VIEW FROM THE CENTER

The unfinished Philippine Revolution

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Thirty years after EDSA 1 and indeed the revolution is still incomplete. One hundred fifteen years after the anti-colonial war loss to the US may find us independent but with a governance structure that bears all the hallmarks of a colonial government if viewed from by a Filipino outside Metro Manila.

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The 1987 Constitution declared the Filipino to be sovereign after a people-powered overthrow of the Marcos dictator. And yet today, the same highly centralized governance system prevails. (The Central Government collects over 85 percent of all taxes and controls the spending of over 80 percent of all government expenditures.)

Even after the 2010 National election that brought us President Benigno Simeon Aquino 3rd there was talk of how the government could harness the people. Why was no one asking how the people could harness the government? This would have been the better question.

But to understand the real political spectrum as far as people’s involvement in their own governance is concerned we need to see that the spectrum is actually the political principle of Subsidiarity on one hand and that of Superiority on the other.

Subsidiarity is the political principle first articulated in Europe in 1603 by Johan Althusius in his book Political Methodica Digesta, where be argued that the people are the owners of political power and the government merely its administrator.

Subsidiarity instructs that people-powered governance is a matter of proper organization of powers and functions always with a priority to the lowest possible level (the individual if possible and onwards to the household, the community, the town/city, the district, the province, the region, the state) that can better use such power and perform such function and always highlighting the importance of human dignity and the common good. It is “Demoskrasyang Pinatubo” of growth and nurturance.

Our nation having been organized by a colonial power installed the exact opposite: the governance principle of Superiority which I define as the centrality of power in the hands of the few who then dictate and arrange society to further better their position. This is often described as the “trickle down” system (Pinatulo), where the strong are strengthened in the hope benefits will trickle down to the bottom. It never really does in any sufficient degree and indignity becomes the lot of the poor. What with no decent homes, no toilets, no water, little income and the gross lack of security. Scandalously, we ask “how could the son of President Cory and Ninoy Aquino oversee the Liberal Party-controlled 2010-2016 government that gave us the most trickle-down administration and economic performance in recent history. From the poverty figures, even with the CCT program, we know that all of the much-ballyhooed growth mostly went to the top 45 families! The Philippines is in the grip of a Superiority Administration.

With political, economic, social and cultural oligarchs ruling our country today we can clearly see that the governance principle of Superiority is the one continued to be applied.

Yes, let us complete the People Power revolution by all means, starting with implementing faithfully the 1987 Constitution as a start. Article X, Section 14 of the 1987 Philippine Constitution, states that:

“The President shall provide for regional development councils, or other similar bodies composed of local government officials, regional heads of departments and other offices, and representatives from non-government organizations within the region for purposes of administrative decentralization to strengthen the autonomy of units therein and to accelerate the economic and social development of the units in the region.”

Regional Councils comprised of national line departments and local government units along with the private sector should be the starting point of strengthening local autonomy. Our powerful President has the power to delegate line government authority to each of the 17 Regional Development Councils to provide “convergence government” that will ensure that the Local Government Code is strictly enforced particularly provisions that allow for people’s participation in planning.

Planning, you see is useless without funds and therefore the President can delegate to the RDCs the monitoring and collection of all taxes within the region particularly the national ones and allow direct retention under the RDC of the duly allocated IRAs of the component LGUs and release in a manner conducive for maximum participation and effectivity. Excess amounts collected are remitted to the center for allocation as additional IRA to deficit regions and for National Government services. Deficits from programmed IRAs are supported by national transfers. Regional Line Agency programs are determined by the needs of the component LGUs and LGU programs are those that nurture the community’s capacities to develop itself. This is the start of applying the Subsidiarity principle in the Philippines.

Currently, Regional Offices of National Line Departments take their cue from the Central Government, making the Philippines one of the most centralized governments in the world in terms of collecting, spending government revenue.

This is the constitutional implementation of the phrase “administrative decentralization”: to delink the regional government offices from the center and attach it to the local so that the latter may be nurtured and nurturing or in other words play a subsidiary role to the lower more primary unit.

By such a simple but far reaching reform, our next President can unleash people power in governance and create a New Philippines, one that is just waiting to be born under the right organizing principle, the principle of Subsidiarity as applied in governance.

What are we waiting for?

Philip Camara is a co-Convenor of Subsidiarity Movement International, and Federalist Forum of the Philippines. He advocates for the bottom-up development model as well as proper decentralization; and the strengthening of regional governance. He served for 12 years in the Regional Development Council of Central Luzon as Chair of the Economic Committee. He was a consultant at Philippine Alternative Fuels Corp (PAFC) and was on the Board of Trustees of the HARIBON Foundation. He is currently a member of the Board of Advisors of CDPI.

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1 Comment

  1. Amnata Pundit on

    The barangay, which is the system that antedated the arrival of Magellan and the Catholic friars in this country, is the real “Pinatubo” system, and any political reforms must start here and all power must emanate from it, period. How many of these elected officials who live in gated villages can win as barangay officials in their own community? Those who want to serve in government must first gain the trust of their neighbors, this should be the first step in a politician’s ascension into power. Of course the present elite will never acquiesce to this, so this can only be accomplished through brute force, which is how, by the way, the elite has managed to stay in power all this time.