CLEARLY, the advocates of federalism have splintered into various groups pushing for their respective agendas. Still, there are no messages being done to respond to Juan dela Cruz’s questions: What’s in it for me? Would my life be better off? After all, it boils down to making the lives of Filipinos much better and this is where our politics will have to change because it is very destructive. The problem today is that the citizens have been set aside with the decision to have a constituent assembly and not a constitutional convention simply because the former is “fast and cheap.” Now, politicians are saying why we need the revision and when it will happen and probably, an extension of terms would from such revisions.
Nowhere in the debate do we hear the positions of citizens on the matter, as if politicians are the only ones who can discuss and debate on the matter. Drafts are flying from one camp to another and no one remains true to the urgent call re what is the problem we are trying to solve. One cannot find the right solutions if we are unable to agree on one coherent problem. Sadly, in the past administration no single political reform has passed Congress, the 15th and the 16th. No executive order has been signed pushing for political reform. PRRD now tries to do a political leapfrog with federalism but it has been captured by the politics and the politicians of the day. Books are launched left and right as if the golden key to federalism can be unlocked by such publications.
In my first and second columns for this year, I made clear that my first wish is for those individuals involved in the Dengvaxia scandal to be meted out punishment, regardless of previous positions. PRRD must stop talking about good faith because clearly there was malice, from the funding to the procurement and the roll-out of Dengvaxia. My second wish is for a third and fourth telco player to come in focusing on the last mile and connecting the same to the various grid options rolling out soon. Globe and Smart have been given enough chances to prove that they can service the Filipinos efficiently, effectively and economically. Spectrum audit must be done and re-farming considered so that the real owners of the spectrum can benefit from a patrimony resource of the nation, not some greedy duopoly or the inutile NTC.
My third wish for 2018 is for both the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) and the revision of the Constitution be made so that a plebiscite can be set in time for the midterm elections in 2019. Delay the BBL, we deal with the harshest reality of extremism growing and recruits increasing. A time bomb waiting for another deadly explosion.
In a Pahayag pilot survey of Publicis Asi last August 2017, Mindanao is very much ready to make the shift. The farther one is from NCR (or Imperial Manila), the more inequity is felt. So, the bright boys of the PDP-Laban will have to realize that Mindanao is different from the rest when you do messaging arcs. Convincing the whole country is not the way to go. Focus on Luzon where federalism traction is low. Talking to barangay captains and kagawad is not reaching the people. You are building your political base but merely talking to the choir, a waste of public monies.
Sixty-seven percent of respondents have not read, heard or watched anything about the proposal to change the present presidential form of government to federal. On the rating for the item “read, heard, watched” federalism, Mindanao was at 49% and only 51% have not. Forty-three percent in Mindanao understand the discussions about federalism while total Philippines was at 22 percent. Fifty-five percent of Mindanao wants the shift to a federal system right away while total Philippines was at 36 percent. Mindanao wants constitutional change to happen before 2019, under the term of PRRD—a high of 81 percent while total Philippines was at 66 percent. A transition is important for all at 64 percent, highest in South Luzon at 84 percent and lowest in Mindanao at 45 percent. What is the effective division of regions in a federal system? Forty-three percent of total PH wants the islands first: Luzon, Visayas, Mindanao and NCR so that it is financially viable, with Mindanao supporting it at 63 percent. Only North and Central Luzon want to follow the present regional division at 45 percent.
In the book, Why Nations Fail, authors Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson argue that when you combine rotten regimes, exploitative elites and self-serving institutions with frail, decentralized states, you have something close to a prescription for poverty, conflict and even outright failure. “Nations fail,” the authors write, “when they have extractive economic institutions, supported by extractive political institutions that impede and even block economic growth.”
Lessons learned from the enactments of the Local Government Code or LGC (RA7160 signed1991) as well as ARMM (RA 6734 signed 1989) and CAR (RA 8438 signed 1997): Laws are important in the proposed revision of the 1987 Constitution. We are shifting because the promises of these laws failed to deliver what they were supposed to do. Indeed, “man-made political and economic institutions that underlie economic success (or the lack of it)” determines why nations fail.
In the rush to federalism, no one has taken the route of why the aforementioned laws have led us nowhere. The LGC would have led to decentralization, or “the process of distributing or dispersing functions, powers, people or things away from a central location or authority.” Decentralization includes political, administrative, fiscal and market decentralization. Administrative decentralization involves de-concentration, delegation and devolution. The LGC offers us 27 years of experience while ARMM is 29 years old and CAR 21 years, and yet the narratives of these laws have not been revisited to learn what works and what does not. The Internal Revenue Allotment is not released fully and would members of Congress bother? No, because by nature, the local government officials are their natural enemies.
Filipinos should be cognizant of the fact that “audiences are shifting. Platforms are shifting. Ages are shifting. It’s better to be in charge of change than to have to react to change.”