MANILA - The founder of Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) bared some specifics on the proposal to place the country under a federal system of government.
PDP-Laban is the political party of incoming president Rodrigo Duterte, who is also strongly pushing for a federal system of government.
Duterte requested PDP-Laban to initiate discussions on federalism. The party has called for a two-day conference starting Monday to debate on the matter.
There is no party stand yet about federalism.
In the conference in Manila, PDP-Laban founder and former Senator Aquilino "Nene" Pimentel shared some elements of the proposal including the creation of 11 Federal States, 81 Senators, electing President and Vice President in tandem, and adding territories in Sabah as part of the Federal Republic.
Pimentel said the change is necessary to allow government resources to be distributed equitably to each province in the country.
The former senator said most of the powers of government are in the hands of the central government in Manila and very few powers shared with local governments.
"It is a system of sharing power between national government and the local government. There will be one Federal Republic of the Philippines, but there will be several federal states," he said.
Under the proposal, the country will be divided into four Federal States in Luzon, four in Visayas, and three in Mindanao.
Luzon will be divided into Federal State of Northern Luzon, Central Luzon, Southern Luzon, and Bicol.
Metro Manila will become the Capital of the Federal Republic, and will not be part of any Federal State under the proposal.
Pimentel likened it to Washington DC in the United States.
In Visayas, the Federal States will be composed of Eastern Visayas, Central Visayas, Western Visayas, and MINPAROM, which is currently Region 4-B.
In Mindanao, the division will be the Federal States of Northern Mindanao, Southern Mindanao, and Bangsamoro.
Pimentel said that under federalism, more powers will be granted to federal states and decision-making about developments applicable to the Federal State will be left at the hands of the state leaders.
Over-centralization of power and resources in the present system inhibits the development in most areas," he said.
"Kung mag pederalismo, hindi na hihingi nang permiso sa Maynila para maimbitahan ang mga negosyo na papasok. Halimbawa, bibigyan namin kayo ng incentive. Magkano ang tax na gusto nyo ibigay that will be under the federal set up? When businesses are able to come, you increase potential of your area to hire," Pimentel said.
"Halimbawa magtatayo ng maliit na tulay. Hihingi pa ako ng permiso. Nung nasa Cagayan De Oro ako, nung time pa ni Marcos, yung sweldo ng aking mga empleyado hihingin ko pa sa Maynila. Eh kalaban ko si Marcos. Iniipit nila ako," he noted.
Pimentel, however, emphasized the importance of a strong Commission on Audit under the supervision of the national government.
"Importante accountability mananatili sa kamay ng national government. Kahit baguhin natin ang sistema, ang COA mananatili sa national jurisdiction at mayroon representative sa mga federal state mismo to make sure hindi nanakawin ang pera ng bayan," he said.
The former senator said policies of federal states will be determined by the members of the legislature in each of the respective 11 states subject to the Constitution and other national legislatures.
Pimentel clarified that his proposed federal system is still presidential in form, meaning, there will still be a President, Vice President, senators and congressmen, contrary to other federal system that employs a parliamentary form of government.
But for President and Vice President, Pimentel's proposal is for both to be elected in tandem like in the US, unlike the present system where they are voted separately.
"They will still be elected throughout the nation, the president and vice president will be elected as one under our proposal," he said.
Senators will also be elected but with major changes under the proposed system.
Pimentel said senators will no longer be elected nationwide. Six aspiring senators will run in each state, that would mean a total of 66 senators for the 11 federal states.
Metro Manila will also have 6 senators, and 9 more to represent overseas Filipinos. In all, there will be 81 senators under the federal system compared to just 24 currently.
Pimentel cited as an example the recent election that calls for a need to change the senatorial system.
"Lahat taga Luzon, 9 out of 12. But the number of voters in Visayas and Mindanao, mas marami pa tayo kaysa Luzon. Yet sa election sila parati dominant majority," he said.
Frank Drilon, Manny Pacquiao, and Miguel Zubiri are the only three winning senators that are not from Luzon.
Pimentel also explained the need to increase the number of senators.
"Yung 24 senators, batay iyan sa Saligang Batas noon pang panahon ni (President) Manuel Quezon. Ang mga tao sa Pilipinas noon 16 million lang. Ngayon we are 104 million," he said.
He cited, among others, United Kingdom as an example with 618 parliamentary members but with only 60.9 million population, France with 64 million population but with 331 senators, Italy with 52 million population but with 315 senators, and Spain with 40 million but with 264 senators.
Congressmen will still be elected by district, as well as mayors and Vice Mayors in their respective towns, he said.
The Federal State will be headed by an elected Governor and Vice Governor.
Pimentel said delivery of justice will also be swifter under the federal system since power that was once only for the national government will now be delegated to the state.
"Sa ngayon, kung merong magnanakaw na Regional Director hindi ko pwede sipain nang hindi humihingi ng permiso sa Maynila but in federal state you can move. Therefore, power will be in the hands of people," he said.
He said the Supreme Court will remain in the federal form of government but the Court of Appeals will be distributed to the 11 Federal States.
Pimentel said there will only be one flag for the Federal Republic of the Philippines. There will also be one Armed Forces and Philippine National Police, one Central Bank and one monetary system, one foreign policy and one public education system.
States will be given enough power to improve the kind of education that fits their environment.
Also part of the proposal is to include territories in Sabah as part of the Federal Republic.
Pimentel said there are is proof that Sabah belongs to the Philippines. "May mga dokumento ito, dyan makikita na ang claim ng Malaysia is not over title or ownership, they are just lessee. Ngayon, nakabinbin itong kaso ito. Kailangan mai-file sa United Nations," he said.