In defense of federalism

By J.A. Carizo

On the automatic release of IRA and share of the autonomous regions. By law, it is mandated but if you will review the LGC (RA 7160) and the Administrative Code of the Philippines (EO 292), there are a number of loopholes and it takes more than amending these laws like overhauling the Constitution. For example, it is still the central government that dictates the LGUs (through budget circulars, administrative and executive orders) up to what percent should be allocated to specific items. Emergency funds and gender and advocacy budgets for instance, are dictated to be at 5% of the LGU’s annual budget, or that budget on personnel should not exceed 55% of the total budget. Though by intent the same can be considered as a check to local officials who might overspend on staffing (for election purposes, of course), but that is unfair for good government officials who knows the real score on their areas of jurisdiction. In Albay, for instance, a 5% emergency fund is not enough as apart from Mayon Volcano there is also this 20 typhoons or so that pass by Bicol.

1. State operations yet to be drawn. Correct but if you will review Resolution No. 10 of Pimentel, the principles are already there only that they need to be polished. At this point, polishing such concepts need our cooperation.

And we need not abolish the cities, municipalities, provinces and even the barangays. That is also included not only in Pimentel’s proposal but also in other proposals. What we’ll gonna do is enhance their powers so that “they who collect the taxes shall have the prime share and not just the left-overs.” And, of course, they who are at the grassroots shall have the autonomy to design the development they wanted to have and not just wait for the plans from the top. Case in point – the Calabarzon. The area is primarily an agricultural country but what happened? More and more are becoming displaced having no skills to work in the factories. Another case in point: Rapu-rapu in Albay. Many thought the municipality, sitting atop coal and gold, will become richer and economically advanced. But in studies that have been conducted, the IRA of the LGU did not increase and the residents are still as jobless as before. Why? Because the nat’l government declared it an economic zone without due consultation with the residents. As a result, the venture was tax free and because there was no consultation, the residents were not trained or taught new skills so they were not hired. Even the provincial government did not get anything… except perhaps some officials who allegedly received bribes for the continuing operations of the Lafayette mining.

2. Rebellion and inter-tribal and religious rivalry. Maybe if we follow the present government’s prescription like redrawing the territories, that would happen. The present advocacy is to retain the existing subdivisions and ensure peaceful coexistence between religious, ethno-linguistic and other socio-cultural groupings. (RA 8371 is outside the picture as each state, being autonomous, shall resolve the issues on IPs and ancestral lands. Besides, we cannot at all times prescribe a sweeping law for cases that may appear similar but in fact differs as we go to the micro or individual level.) Second, if we study the war in Mindanao, we will find that it has basically religious undertones. Like Christians, Muslims also think that they are also children of God/Allah so why have a non-Muslim rule or dictate over them just like what Malacanang in Manila is doing? (Well, how many Muslims have become Philippine president?). So with Federalism, that gives them a chance to be at par with Christians first by giving them a chance to sit in States, and later, perhaps, in the national government.

Federalism is not the fast solution, though. But can we say that unitary system is a solution after a century of experience with it? Not even the creation of autonomous regions did answer the issue for Malacanang is also playing a hand on who to field and get elected in the autonomous regions. Greed is one of the reasons, of course, and more than this is the lack of a genuine political party law.

3. On the idea of revolution. I think we both agree with that. Federalism in itself is a revolution. 🙂

But apart from federalism, I am studying the case of Spain. It has a proto-federalist system (in-between unitary and federal systems). Some says it’s working fine as it is getting the best of both the unitary and federal systems. I don’t know how that can be applied in the Phils.

I think that would be impossible. Filipinos love shortcut and the easiest way for politicians to get money is through the status quo — waiting for the largesse from Malacanang.

Besides, the first thing we need to do is to convince our Congressmen as you say, to pass a reinvigorated Local Government Code. But would they work on something that will hurt their pockets? Of course not especially considering that the present system allows them to dip into government budget in the guise of pork barrel, etc.

Okay, I may sound pessimistic. Our Congressmen are pro-people and they love their constituents. But retaining the unitary system with all powers still centralized will do no better even if there is this “new LGC”. Why? Because what is the “purse” without the corresponding power and autonomy to use it? Look at the CAR and the ARMM who, according to some officials, are still dependent on Malacanang because they have no autonomy to enact their own budget, etc., etc. This is because the problem now is the system and as such we need to address the system and not just offer simple reforms (or vulca seal solutions) like taking paracetamol in dealing with our fractured bones.

My whole take on this issue is at:

(Original post and comment is found here.)

Which is better: A Federal System or a Unitary System with a highly decentralized structure?

This question propped-up in line with the renewed moves to federalize the Philippines especially with Sen. Nene Pimentel’s passage of Resolution No. 10 asking the Congress to convene as a Constituent Assembly (ConAss) and amend the Constitution in favor of a federalist set-up.

While I am not yet certain as to the manner of amending the Constitution by means of ConAss, I am already sure of my advocacy — Federalism. As to why, this will be shown in the succeeding articles in this blog.

To balance the scales, our friend, Tax-J, will also argue that the federalist set-up is not necessary. What we need is a highly decentralized system giving full autonomy to the local government units. His arguments will also be posted in this blog.

The objectives why we put-up this blog are:

  1. To argue our respective ideas intelligently. No one has the monopoly of truth, it should be stressed, so it could be that my idea or Tax-J’s idea is wanting in some respects, or superior in some respects. The flaws or superiority of the idea of either of us can hopefully be perfected in the future as we all help carve the path the Philippines had to take.
  2. To forward our advocacy and enjoin you, our readers, to formulate your own stand or contribute to the polishing of our ideas. It could be that we overlooked something or that we focused only on one aspect without knowing that there are also other sides of the story. I remember one of my professors, Carlos Gegantoca, said: There are always three sides in a story — your side, my side and the correct side.
  3. To help proponents and advocates either of federalism and decentralization under a unitary system in coming up with strong arguments as well as provide action points in pushing for their respective advocacies.

Our discussion was started days ago and most of these were e-mails. For a start, we’ll publish these e-mails for the reference of all of us. From time to time, we will also be publishing or cross-posting articles in the web regarding federalism and decentralization.

Welcome to our blog and enjoy reading!