Federalism may not be the answer to regional inequality in PH: analyst


Posted at Jun 07 2018 10:36 AM | Updated as of Jun 07 2018 11:08 AM

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MANILA - Federalism is not a "magic solution" to the problems of the Philippines, a political science professor said Thursday, warning of possible unintended consequences of proceeding with the huge shift of government system.

Paul Hutchcroft, a professor from the Australian National University who has written extensively on Philippine politics, elections, and governance, said the Philippines must first pinpoint the problems it wants to solve and how federalism may address these.

"Anytime a country thinks about such a huge and ambitious shift, it needs to be very clear what the goals are. It needs to start with what are the problems to be solved.... If federalism is the answer, what is the question?" he told ANC.

Hutchcroft, a dual-citizen of countries with federal governments, said the Philippines needs to make a big decision on the area of electoral system redesign, among others, to make sure political clans would not be given more power in a shift to federalism.

"There are going to be dynasties in the Philippines just as there are dynasties in many other countries. What's important is the institutional environment. If dynasties operate within an environment that has stronger political parties, the dynasties will diminish overtime," he said.

President Rodrigo Duterte promised to push for a shift into federalism to address the unequal development in the country that has left several regions in poverty while Metro Manila continues to prosper economically.

"The Philippines might end up really with a number of regions that have difficulty functioning on their own, that end up being poor in the new system than the old system," he warned when asked what's the worst thing that can happen if federalism fails.

"There's nothing magical about federalism. And federalism is not something you just pull out of a shelf and into a country. There are literally hundreds of decisions and sub-decisions that have to be made," he added.

A committee tasked to draft a new federal charter is expecting to submit its output to Duterte by July. If the President endorses it, one of the committee's members said that a plebiscite vote on whether or not to push through with federalism may happen early 2019.