By TaxJ

What’s in a name? If this were the case I’d also go for federalism: shared powers between central government and its component or constituent political subdivisions. Only, I won’t call it federalism. Also, I won’t refer to the political subdivisions as states. Instead I’d call them as they are: provinces and chartered cities. It may not be constitutionally mandated, but it is allowed.

Sharing powers with lgu’s rather than states is not just about being able to work within the parameters of the 1987 Constitution. It has its intrinsic merits. It is doable now or anytime, it is less expensive and disruptive, and it can go for the fruits promised by federalism while deflecting the dangers poised upon our poor country be federalists. Senator Nene Pimentel says that his federalism will cause the speedy development of the entire country by unleashing the forces of competitiveness among the States. Nothing is farther from the truth. The real competition is between and among cities and municipalities, not even among provinces. Most businesses are either city or town based. It is there where businesses get their permits. States cannot and should not alter this arrangement.

Val Abelgas disputes the Senator’s claim in his article entitled The Folly of Federalism, thus: “It will create additional layers of bureaucracy that will lead to even more red tape, corruption and confusion. Businessmen and investors will be the most adversely affected as they will have to contend with conflicting and confusing laws from various states/regions. Can you imagine 11 states with their own agencies on commerce and industry, housing, health, transportation, education, etc. and the federal government having its own, too, all with their own sets of rules?”

Another claim by Senator Pimentel is that his federalism will dissipate the causes of rebellion in the country, Mindanao in particular. The opposite is true. His kind of federalism will enhance the causes of rebellion in the country: poverty through failed governance. The shift towards federalism is so expensive and disruptive that it will aggravate the sufferings of our people leading to further destabilization. It will eat up resources that otherwise could go towards poverty alleviation.

In an article entitled Financing Federalism Leonor Magtolis-Briones wrote: “Students of public finance have been pointing out that the creation of an additional layer of government—namely the state—will inevitably lead to higher levels of expenditures. This is because the machinery of the states has to be maintained, along with that of the federal government and the local government units. Pressure for higher levels of expenditures will inevitably lead to pressure for increased levels of taxes.” This concern does not even mention the added cost of maintaining 75 Senators and 350 Congressmen. Senator Nene Pimentel probably thinks that we are overjoyed with the antics of our do nothing Senators and Congressmen that he wants to create and create more and more of them!

It not just federal financing that will aggravate the causes of rebellion. Mere creation of states also will. It will create diversity and conflict where there is none. I believe in unity in diversity. But creating a union to create diversity is another thing. This is what happens when provinces are formed into a state. To be able to understand this point better, please take a look at the proposed State of Northern Luzon. It shall comprise the provinces of llocos Norte, llocos Sur, La Union, Pangasinan, Batanes, Cagayan, Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya, Quirino, Abra, Apayao, Benguet, Ifugao, Kalinga and Mountain Province, and all the cities, municipalities and barangays therein. Until provided otherwise by the State Legislature, Tuguegarao City shall be the capital of the State.  Wait ’til Ilocanos and Pangasenenses start fighting it out for the state’s attention!

But nothing so bad will happen in Luzon and in the Visayas compared to what Mindanao would go through if it tries to organize and operate a Muslim state. I don’t know why anyone would promote the organization of a state based on religion, more so if it is done at gunpoint. I would not want theocracy for even the worst of my enemies. I would not will it for Muslims or Christians. I shudder at the specter of another MOA-AD, a version far more bloody than one can ever imagine. It is bad enough that we have ARRM but it is tolerable, being a mere autonomous region. The Muslim problem sprung from years of government apathy and neglect. It is a condition shared with them by Christian settlers. It is neither political nor religious. It is economic, stupid!

It appears now that federalism has the support of ULAP and other LG bodies probably because of the 20/80 sharing being dangled as bait by Senator Nene Pimentel. They can see the figures, but not the hook and line! History will be repeating itself once more. When Congress devolved the functions of agriculture, social, and health services, it conveniently forgot to provide the necessary funds. So the national agencies remain awash with funds, the poor devolved personnel had to make do with what local officials can manage to give them. Now it is made to appear that the LGU’s will get more funds from federalism. Actually they would be getting less because the states will have the final say on the allocation of funds, not Senator Nene Pimentel. This time it will be the states that will control the purse, not the central government. So federalism’s promise of giving people a chance to chart their own destinies is a myth. Provinces are the better venue for such pursuits, not states.