OPINION: Why federalism is a formula for failure

Buddy Gomez -- Cyberbuddy

Posted at Mar 10 2018 09:08 AM | Updated as of Mar 10 2018 09:10 AM

The molestation of the 1987 Constitution continues. Common sense dictates that what is not broken, you do not fix! Indeed, why spend time and treasure over a non-essential pipedream of misguided demagogues? 

The delusional Duterte dispensation insists that the country move away from the  present and familiar unitary-presidential system towards a strange unfamiliar federal system that will break up our archipelagic republic into self-governing unequal regions. In other words, forsake the devil we know and replace it with a devil we do not know. That is what their federalization amounts to. “The country will…have individual states with their own legislatures and governments.” Imagine that!

What rabid federalization proponents refuse to accept is that the  lofty objective of  dispersing economic development opportunities away from  the national metropolis  as well as the conquest of corruption do not require a change in the form of government.    The existing constitutional  framework as well as  devolutionary legislation  enacted  already provide the nation with the politicial wherewithal to achieve such avowed and desirable objectives.   The ultimate existential need is therefore   not in a new Constitution but  in  profound  reform in the mindset, in the attitude,  in the  moral standards  and practices of  the  officials we elect. Federalization? Get thee to damnation!

Metro Manila  continues to host anachronistic, irrelevant and therefore irrational  occupancies that do not require  a Metro Manila presence to exist and pursue its respective missions.   Myriad government entities  that are high on the list of ‘relocatables’ are all of the military camps and headquarters, penitentiaries and national medical facilities, for starters.  Imperical experience all over the world:  where such entities are relocated, inevitable economic development ensues. Support and dependent populations logically follow and so does private commercial enterprise. A transfer of people, payroll and socio-economic services  make for self-contained economic units that are essential  in forming the nucleus of regional development. The country does not need a new Constitution to achieve that level of maturity!

President Duterte’s  constitutional Consultative Commission, headed by ex-Chief Justice  Reynato Puno,  has announced their preference for a “federal-presidential system.”  He touts their consensus as it is patterned after that of the US,   ”….the best form of federal government.”     There is an element of deception here.  I hope it is unintended for  simple lack  of comparative historical perspective.

First of all,  United States of America (USA) began as 13 separate and independent colonies and they formed a federation in order to unite, as one nation, achieving independence.  Duterte et al  are attempting to undertake  the reverse,  via  populist political legerdemain! 

In Duterte’s and his federalism cohorts’  nightmarish proposal, an already independent and united (unitary/presidential) nation will be broken up into regional fiefdoms.  Unless properly addressed under the present Constitution, federalism, if forcibly  resorted to,  will spawn the reinstitution of datuism and casiquism.  Regional  petty oligarchies will inevitably emerge and multiply.   Federalism  will surely  entrench  further the existing dynasties and their private armies.  A very scary prospect indeed!

The USA has been in existence, with all the trials and travails inherent in democratic governance but has survived and strengthened,  all these 242 years without a change in government, much less in her Constitution.   They have instead democratically experienced 27 amendments, each one wisely interpreted by a Supreme  Court that is respected by the people and  not subservient  to either the executive or the legislative.

In the Philippines, since 1987, we have had 10 opportunities (elections), during which incremental  and meaningful tweaking of  and amendments to  our Constitution   could have  been introduced and  passed,    to address perceived and proven inadequacies.  But alas, it seems that it is the Filipino political ethos  that must really be so klutzy!  Missed opportunities!   And the federalization proponents have the gall to blame the 1987 Constitution!

While there are wealthy and more progressive States  as well as  less fortunate ones in the American union, the fact is that all  exist with  and enjoy economic and political  viability.  Under the set-up in the  Duterte proposition, the fiscal sustainability of more than three quarters of the ensuing regions have not even been considered!  Can we afford federalization?  They seem  not to have bothered to ask and nobody cares to answer!

Have you not noticed, folks, that despite all the bluster and bombast, nobody but nobody has ever spoken of financial feasibility and  fiscal capability of    the evident unreasonably exorbitant  cost of unnecessary regional legislatures and governments?  There is an obvious and irresponsible  disregard for frugality. There is abundant foolhardiness in the very idea of changing our form of government, simply for the sake of  political caprice,  that no one among the proponents is prepared to countenance!

How much will this new form of government cost? Do we possess the financial resources to launch and maintain a strange, unfamiliar and untested  structure of government?  Do our current crop of politicians and the general run of the electorate that is easily manipulated possess  the required responsible maturity and the basic edification to assure the success of an untested and unfamiliar “devil we do not know?”  

Can the country afford the folly of the political extravagance even going by just the current numbers in Congress? Mention has already been made of increasing the number of senators and representatives. And to compound the burden,  we are confronted  by  the  additional costs of hiring (via elections) new representatives for the regional legislatures, for which there is no identifiable fiscal source!  Worse yet, for which there is no existing  justifiable need!  The nation cannot afford the added distraction of more politics and more politicking! 

The ratio of Congressional representation in the US is one for 710,000 +/- constituents. Ours stand at approximately 350,000 average population per Congressman.  For a country deepening in foreign debt, with a population of less than one-third compared to that of the United States  (105 million vs. 325 million),  our House of Representatives has a membership that is,  by ratio, double that of the United States!    I bet, you were not even aware of this unnecessary load,  an expense we unknowingly shouldered all these years for the enjoyment of the  elected politically privileged!    

Haven’t we gotten yet that  nagging  irritation that if there is in fact something wrong and amiss with our present Constitution, it has got  to be found in the halls of Congress?  Don’t you ever get that queasy feeling that Congress as it exists today is the very impediment to the nation’s well being?

Now, mark you well.   All federalism proposals, for that is what they all amount to--recommendations--emanating from the constitutional Consultative  Commission, will have to be submitted to  Congress’ Constituent Assembly lorded over by House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez.  He declares   that  these submissions will  be  “paguusapan at padedebatehan.”  (These will be discussed and debated.)  In no uncertain terms, the fate of the Philippines  will be in the hands of  a  Speaker Alvarez?

There can be no doubt that by their  arrogant  demeanor and statements we are witness to,  it is through this Constituent Assembly, that House Speaker Alvarez will  attempt,  by hook or by crook,  to ram   federalization down  our throats.

There is already more than sufficient knowledge  publicly available  to  guide Filipinos  in all walks of life to realize what could be in  store  should  we allow   this  tragic travesty upon  our democracy and our civil liberties  without effective resistance and ejection.  Therefore,  it has now  become incumbent upon the people to rise up and prevent the pestilence that awaits the country if we hand over the future of our children and their children’s children  to the  unprincipled,  the greedy,  the power-hungry and predatory who by accident of democracy have gained a momentary  advantage they hanker to make permanent!

We must resist. We must reject.  federalization is bereft of economic and moral sense. It is an unmitigated impertinence in the life of the nation!  Resist, we  must!  Reject,  we must!

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.