Shift to federal system calls for reforms – analyst

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UNLESS the Philippines does away with the dominant system of political dynasties, a shift to a federal system of government may also fail to bring progress to the country, a political analyst said Wednesday.

Bobby Tuazon, Director for Policy Studies of the Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPEG), noted that for federalism to work, there are structural reforms that have to be initiated and an effective representation of the people.

Unless reforms are introduced first, Tuazon said, “federalism will definitely strengthen the concentration of political and economic resources in the hands of the local elites.”

“Federalism may be viable only if there are strong local sub-states or provinces and where there is an effective representation of the people especially the marginalized in local governance, policy making, and in the distribution of productive resources,” he added.

Former Chief Justice Reynato Puno on Tuesday said that it is time for the country to shift to a federal system since the unitary form of government has failed the Filipino people.

Puno noted that a presidential form of government has not brought progress to the country because of the imbalance of power wherein too much power has been given to the national government.

“And even within the national government there is an imbalance of power between and among executive, legislative and judicial branches of government. Too little power has been given to the local governments and this insufficient power has stunted their growth,” the former chief justice said.

Tuazon on the other hand said proponents of federalism should clarify first what objectives the proposed form of government will address.

He noted that countries that adopted federalism did so after a long historical transition of having different states until they decided to federalize in order to establish a single national state or country.

In the Philippines, Tuazon said it is difficult to determine if a federal form of government will work since there is no single concept of federalism that has been proposed.

“One question that definitely will arise under federalism is whether to adopt a parliamentary system headed by a prime minister or retain the post of a president,” he said.

He added that proponents of federalism should come up with concrete concepts and proposals first “before we can be able to see whether it will work.”

Tuazon also said it is difficult to say if the provinces are ready for federalism because the matter will depend on the level of awareness of the people in the local government.

“The other question is whether such an alternative form of government is the subject of public discourse and clamor in the provinces,” he noted.

According to him, the concept of federalism was given interest only in Bicol region.

Federalism is also being proposed as a political solution to the decades-old struggle for self-determination in the Mindanao particularly in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Earlier, former senate president Aqulino Pimentel Jr. detailed his proposal on the country’s shift to federalism which involve the creation of 11 federal states — four in Luzon, four in Visayas and three in Mindanao.

Luzon, under his proposal, will divided into Northern Luzon, Central Luzon and Southern Luzon and the Bicol Area, while Metro Manila will be the federal capital.

Visayas will be broken down to Eastern, Central Visayas and Western Visayas and will include Romblon and Palawan under its Visayas territory.

Mindanao will also be divided into Northern and Southern Mindanao, and a separate federal state for the Moro people.

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