MANILA - Former Chief Justice and Philippine Constitution Association President Emeritus Reynato Puno strongly backs the plan of President-elect Rodrigo Duterte to shift to a federal form of government.
Puno, who was guest speaker in a federalism conference attended by members of Duterte's party PDP-Laban on Tuesday, said that throughout history, federalism has become the more acceptable form of government rather than the unitary form.
"Our unitary form of government, the imperialism of Manila, has failed us. 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 the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government. Worse is that too little power is given to local government, and this insufficient power stunted their growth," Puno said.
He said the idea of federalism started in 1899 with the country's national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal, but was shelved for centuries on the dictates of the American government.
"Federal government is the best government to handle diversity in culture, religion, language, and geography because of federalism's high threshold of tolerance to minorities," he said.
Puno stressed that a federal form of government is the secret to success of developed nations.
"The secret lies in the correct allocation of powers to be wielded by the constituents of the state," he explained. "Power cannot be monopolized by one, neither can it be monopolized by a few at the expense of the majority."
"Dito sa Pilipinas, ang power does not belong to the people. Kung ang power belongs to the people, bakit maraming mahihirap, bakit nasa iilan lang ang kontrol dito sa Pilipinas?
"The central government is sovereign, and that sovereignty is absolute, inclusive and cannot be shared. Iyan ang nangyayari ngayon dito sa Pilipinas. The central government does not share its power with the local government," he added.
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In a unitary form of government, Puno said there is wrong allocation of power among leaders. He believes a federal form of government will reallocate that power correctly.
"Until we are able to cut this chain of dependence, our local government will be denied the right to decide for themselves what is good for themselves," he said.
"What is worse is that our unitary government has been captured by vested interests; we are ruled by dynasties, run by the economic elite and threatened by drug lords," he added. "We stink. Something is rotten in our democracy."