Understanding Philippine-style federalism


Posted at Apr 03 2017 06:51 PM | Updated as of Oct 11 2017 12:38 PM

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President Rodrigo Duterte still carries the challenge of fulfilling campaign promises as he nears the end of his first year as chief executive.

Among these promises is the federal form of government, a concept that most Filipinos don't understand.

Jonathan Malaya, executive director of the PDP-Laban Federalism Institute said though there is generally a positive public response on shifting to a federal system of government, not all Filipinos understand the technicalities of such a shift.

“They (public) really want a change and a systemic change because the people realize that they have been under a presidential system of government so they want to try something new,” Malaya said on ANC’s “Early Edition.”

He explained that a federal system of government will not solve Philippines' woes but should be seen as a path to finding solutions.

“Federalism is a means towards greater development. It is not the solution to all of our problems,” Malaya said.

If approved, Filipinos can have better access to basic services such as more schools and hospitals because of the “greater resources and political power,” Malaya said.

Under the PDP model, a dual executive setup will be applied, with the president as the head of the state, chief diplomat, and commander in chief of the military. He also has the powers to appoint members of the judiciary, Malaya said.

The prime minister will function as the head of the government, dealing with day-to-day affairs such as domestic and economic policy. He also has the function of appointing members of the Cabinet, according to Malaya.

Malaya said PDP is open to having an “optional” vice president on the condition that both president and vice president are elected from the same political party through tandem voting.

“If the people still choose that there will be a vice president and there will be an immediate replacement for the president in case something happens to the president, we are open to that,” he said.

The country’s legislature meanwhile will maintain a bicameral setup under the PDP proposal.

Malaya said under their proposal, the second chamber, or the Senate will act as a representative body of the regions with each region being accorded with around 3-7 senators.

“We also feel that we need the system to ensure that all regions in the country get senators,” he said.

The Senate, Malaya said, will maintain its traditional roles of appointing members to the Cabinet and approving treaties with other nations.

It will, however, have the added task of going through the national budget, and matters that affect the powers and finances of the regions.

The country’s national assembly will still serve as the principal legislative body of the country and would likely maintain a membership of around 300, Malaya said.

The membership will be divided between representatives of congressional districts and party-lists, Malaya said.

If implemented, Malaya estimates a 10-year transition for the country to fully adapt the federal system of government.