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Governance is our problem. Our leaders failed to govern the country. We have reached a point where we can’t even govern ourselves. We look forward to elections for relief even if experience tells us that such mode of changing leaders bring none, only false hopes. Nor does unconstitutional means as Edsa 1 & 2!

As correctly pointed out by federalists, the fault is in the system. It is too centralized. We place our stakes on the national leadership hoping that they would be as Captain Barbel or Darna for indeed the task is too much for ordinary mortals. And when they fall short of our expectations… when they go buddy-buddy for themselves rather than for us… all we can do is bash them to our hearts content, as though it would dent their thick skulls, until our cries of anguish are drowned by the loud thunders coming from our empty stomachs. A sense of hopelessness seals our doom.

Common sense and our bayanihan spirit tells us that a load is lighter when shared. Kayang-kaya kung sama-sama. Indeed, imperial Manila has more responsibility, power and wealth than it can judiciously handle. Why not unload some of it to our provinces and cities? This does not reflect our regard for and trust in local government officials. We don’t. But at least at that level the task is less than Herculean. It is something any Grace Padaca, Among Ed, and Jess Robledo can handle. At that level, NGO’s and civic minded individuals can more effectively participate for good governance, or for less corruption. At that level Ombudsman may rule, where now it is obviously ruled.

Simple as this may seem, it would need no less than a revolution to implement. Congress can do this through a simple legislative process but doesn’t. What can move our lawmakers to part with their control over our destinies? This is the challenge. It seems that we may have to resort to communal action to force them to do their job. Some would call it bayanihan or a revoplution.

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We agree with Archbishop Cruz and the other maverick bishops. We must change our government now. We also agree with the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Reynato Puno. Any change must be done within the framework of the 1987 Constitution. We would like to add: it must be revolutionary yet peaceful. Is all this possible? Yes! Let us discuss how.

First, let us answer a question. Why is corruption and hunger so prevalent in our country? The culprit is accurately identified by federalists: too much concentration of power and wealth in Imperial Manila. They say it must be dispersed. They say that local people must be allowed to plan and work for their own development. They can only do this if more power and wealth are within their control. Well said, but, there’s only one problem. Some federalists insist that this can only be done through federalism and charter change. This is not true. The present Charter does not limit the Senate’s and Congress’ power to devolve power and wealth. Only our lawmakers do.

How does our present set-up foster corruption and hunger? Let us take the case of agriculture. In 1971, Congress devolved the personnel and functions of agriculture to the LGU’s, but not the support funds. So, trained technicians who had to rely on the inclinations of the governors and mayors for their operations. Some technicians were lucky enough to land in LGU’s with receptive officials and ample funds. They were able to do some progress. In municipalities and provinces that could not provide maintenance, operating and operational expenses both services and personnel had to suffer. So do the farmers. So does the country.

On the other hand, the DA itself became bloated with more funds than it can judiciously handle. And so we have the billion-piso swine and fertilizer scams. LGU’s are forced to accept with gratitude irrigation, dryers and farm to market roads, even when obviously overpriced. What else could they do? How else did the term Imperial Manila came about? This simple legislative flaw can be remedied by a simple legislative measure. Even federalists suggest that decentralization through amendment to the local government code is a step towards federalism. Unfortunately, we are so engrossed with federalism that we forgot to undertake this necessary complementary and preparatory step: devolution.

How important is devolution? It can take away so much power and wealth from Imperial Manila and transfer it to cities and provinces where local leaders can tap the participation of local NGO’s and civic minded citizens. Why cities and provinces? Cities and provinces have established operational and financial procedures. They have well-defined working relationships, including powers of supervision, over the municipalities and barangays within their jurisdiction. Existing NGO and regional cooperation can be easily improved or strengthened. In short, it can pursue the fruits promised by federalism without changing the Charter. Simple as this may seem, it would take no less than a revolution to push it through because, as federalists correctly point out, national leadership is reluctant to part with its powers.

We are not picking any quarrel with federalists. We are just trying to help them establish a sound basis for federalism: devolution within the limits allowable under the present Charter. Please. Let us first make the basic steps work. Then, let’s talk if we still need to go further. The kind of revolution we espouse should be clear by now. Local government officials should first be convinced that real local autonomy is within reach now. All they have to do is convince or pressure their congressmen to give it to them now, not after a cha-cha. If they can do this, they will be able to help solve our food crisis but also create more jobs for their constituents. This move  preempts all other forms of revolution!

If PGMA is sincere about stepping down from the presidency in 2010, she herself should lead this kind of revolution. She can leave no better legacy to her country than a political structure that would  enable more citizens throughout the country to work for their own development and prevent any of her successors to hurt the country as she did.  Let each city or province manage its own affairs, but first let us force lawmakers to do their part: yield more power and wealth and disperse it equitably to the people who can best handle it. It had been sitting on it for too long now. It’s time we force them to do their job.

Taxj: I believe that food security can be addressed better at the provincial and city levels than in the proposed states. A typical province will contain only one ethno-linguistic group. Its territory will likely be naturally interrelated by watershed continuum and shared coastal areas ideal for integrated management for optimum productivity. An elected provincial or city government would very likely have a well-articulated agricultural development platform when its candidates run for office given that a large portion of the voters are farmers. This means that the needs of the provinces or city would have been well studied and that plans would more likely involved key leaders and groups that stand to benefit from it. It would make a world of difference if the intended beneficiaries have a hand in the planning and implementation process.

Furthermore, from a governance point of view the provinces can set standards for local agricultural officers and extension workers so that the right persons will be hired for the right jobs, considering their familiarity with the conditions obtaining in the field. Cities and provinces can design and implement training programs for these officials to make them more effective for the particular thrusts and opportunities for agriculture in the province. Now, with a more coordinated and integrated hardware (infra) and software (training, consultations, and management systems) we can expect a much better over-all management of the farming sector. This will redound to the improvement of both productivity and farmer incomes.

Another important point is that cities and provinces can play an important role against any attempt to control prices of farm commodities through a cartel. Rice, corn, vegetables, and livestock will be in the hands of a well-knit and cohesive group that cannot be easily swayed by scheming merchants. Province based cooperatives can simplify the trading system so that its members can get the best price for their products without necessarily raising prices at the stalls or the end-consumer. Cartels can operate only when no such effective structures exist. A province can more effectively run price support programs and install infrastructure that gives farmers options to simply selling newly harvested produce at bargain prices to their financiers and well-funded traders.

FedMan: Thank you Taxj for your comment on preserving the management of food security programs (agricultural development) with the provincial and city governments. Actually, that is the existing situation with the devolution of agriculture to the LGUs.

I agree entirely with you that the lower the level of government for planning and implementing agriculture development projects, the better. Farming is one such activity that requires insight from the people who actually farm and these insights need to be incorporated in the planning and budgetting.

Under our unitary system that planning and budgetting is done in Manila.

Under a Federal system, that will be done by the States/Regions based on inputs from the Local Governments which must really get it by consolidating the view of real farmers at the village level. The advantage here is that the Regions can now supervise the implementation of the agreed plans as Provincial and City Local Governments have a tendency to lose focus when no one is watching. A Regional Government can also better hold them accountable for using taxpayers’ money.

Taxj: I’m sorry if I have not made myself clear. The devolution of agriculture to lgu’s was done in name only. Yes, under our unitary system planning and budgeting is done in Manila because there was no accompanying fiscal federalism in the local government code. But, nothing bars Congress except itself, from giving it to the provinces and cities. No need for states. No need for a cha-cha.

“Under a Federal system, that will be done by the States/Regions based on inputs from the Local Governments which must really get it by consolidating the view of real farmers at the village level.”  This is crazy. Why require Pangasinan or Ilocos Sur to submit data to Tuguegarao who shall finalize plans for them? Also Romblon and Masbate… Why make it go to the Bicol region’s capital simply for planning purposes? I say make the provinces and cities make their own plans and implement them themselves.

“The advantage here is that the Regions can now supervise the implementation of the agreed plans as Provincial and City Local Governments have a tendency to lose focus when no one is watching. A Regional Government can also better hold them accountable for using taxpayers’ money.” Are you sure this is an advantage? Why do you have to create a state who shall supervise the provinces and cities? Don’t you trust them enough? The lgu’s can do the job better without anyone peering over their shoulders.

If you must insist on federalism, then let me suggest that there be as many states as there are provinces and cities. Only, don’t call it federalism or states. So we can do it without a cha-cha. I think my advocacy may be best understood if we call it, a highly decentralized unitary system or hdus. This is similar to the federalism of Austria, India, Malaysia, Mexico and the Russian Federation where the the states derive powers from the congress, not the constitution.

FedMan: I think I understood your comment. In this Forum the defined way to Federalize is to convert existing Regional Centers (we have 17, not 11 per the Pimentel version). That means we have at least 40 years experience of Regional Centers and that transitioning would be smoother. Meaning to say all those areas you cited having their aggie dev plans reviewed at the current regional center already happen (in some inefficient and ineffective manner due to the unitary system con devolution) but if the State Government is an ELECTED government and their FISCAL resources directly come from the state citizens the whole aggie dev supervision and dynamic changes.

Make provinces the states? Hmmm..that would make it just like our current system where corruption is as rampant there as it is in the Palace. Give these guys more resources from their taxing their constituents? A provincial government has not been able to raise local resources in the past 16 years of the Local Government Code (devolution) because it will be political suicide for those parochial executives and is the reason why their IRA dependency is 88%!

That’s why transforming existing regional centers into sovereign states solves the problem of being far enough to tax yet near enough to supervise those provinces and towns.

Furthermore, there are irrigation, watershed, biodiversity, land best use issues that are best tacked at an inter-province level and that’s why we need a state government. Why over produce okra or onions or something of a certain variety when it will spell financial disaster for farmers when a state government can give it the “big eye” and plan accordingly.

Taxj: Pimentel wants 11 states, you want 17, Misuari has his own number. I’m sure a lot more have other ideas. I have my own. Who gets to decide. And at what cost? And this is just one aspect of the proposed cha-cha! Have you ever considered the battle royale that would ensue?

I’m not aware of any provincial aggie dev plan submitted for review at the any regional center even before the devolution. I can’t imagine a Governor doing it now, or even under the proposed federalism. Are you saying that the state would be more knowledgeable than any of its component political subdivisions? At least as far as food security is concerned!

“…if the State Government is an ELECTED government and their FISCAL resources directly come from the state citizens the whole aggie dev supervision and dynamic changes.” You must be kidding! The regional set-up could never be as conducive to citizen participation and official accountability than LGU level. Would a wave at Pangasinan or Ilocos Sur ever make a ripple at Tuguegarao?

Now the cat is out of the bag. You don’t want to give more autonomy to LGU’s because you don’t trust them enough. Granting, without conceding that LG officials are as you say corrupt, would they behave better when supervised by elected states officials? Based on your less than trusting attitude, is it not possible that the states would be another area of corruption? Rather than spend on another layer of useless bureaucracy why not just strengthen the existing mode of discipline and accountability for local officials?

I cannot understand your obsession with state taxes as though taxpayers would be so willing and able to shoulder the cost of more bureaucracy 80% of the national taxes? Why? Because the central government is now and lawmaking bodies! Is not Senator Pimentel promising to give to states awash with funds that LGU’s could handle better. Congress devolved the health, social welfare and aggie services, but not the funds therefor!  We need a simple legislative act to remedy a flaw or weakness in our existing law, not charter change!

I wonder where you got your assertion that local executives are shy with their taxing powers. Assuming that this is true, this cannot be remedied by raising it at a distance or through states. Jose V. Abueva Jr., a federalist suggest that the local government code be amended, and that local officials be trained on how to discharge their duties. Taxation could be one subject.

LG executives do not need the supervision of elected state officials. What they need are more power and funds. Is not the battle cry of federalists, “let the people manage their own affairs?” How can they do it with state supervisors perched on their shoulders?

We do not need a state government to carry out regional cooperation or projects. This is provided for in the local government code. It it is not enough, then simply amend those provisions. Furthermore, PGMA herself directed the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) to conduct a strategic review on the continuing decentralization and devolution of services and functions of all departments, agencies and bureaus, including corporation, boards, task forces, councils and commissions of the Executive Branch. http://www.lawphil.net/executive/execord/eo2005/eo_444_2005.html. Whether this gained ground is another story!

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.


We can have local autonomy without federalism but we can have federalism without local autonomy. This is the essence of “Decentralization and Federalism in the Philippines: Lessons from Global Community” by Alex B. Brillantes, Jr. and Donna Moscare.

It wrote: “… it is possible to have good local governance under a devolved set up, governance here meaning the delivery of basic services to the people, not only by the local government, but in partnership with the other sectors in the community. The countryside is dotted with illustrations of good and best practices of how local governments have creatively used their powers to bring about good governance at the local level.”

For instance, we have seen how local governments have creatively generated additional resources by floating bonds and therefore provide public housing, something that was unheard of before local autonomy. There are local governments that constructed public markets through the Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) mode. Having no resources available except for the land, Mandaluyong entered into a partnership with the private sector through BOT and has now constructed a public market that has approached world-class standards. Similarly, a small municipality in Ilocos Norte, Dingras, also entered into a variation of the BOT to construct its public market. We have seen local governments float bonds to meet public housing requirements. Victorias, Negros Occidental and Legaspi City are examples of such. In the area of environmental management and consciousness, contrary to the popular notion that projects with social and environmental concerns are not politically expedient because results are not felt immediately as, say, public works and infrastructure projects are and therefore unable to deliver votes, experience has shown that many local governments in the country have place environmental considerations among their priority concerns.”

Local governments have entered into joint ventures and cooperative arrangements within the context of maximizing utility of resources. They have set up their own provincial investment and business councils to maximize their entrepreneurial capacities. The list of examples of good practices goes on. Efforts at recognizing good practices at the local level may be placed within the context of proving that devolution is working. In other words, local government units, using the creative powers devolved to them under the Code, and inspite of the many constraints, have been able to respond to the enormous challenges brought about by devolution.”

Another concern that should be addressed in pushing for a federal system is the capacities and capabilities of the state and local governments. While preparing for federalism, the government should be more decentralized. It is necessary to promote and develop self-reliance in the local governments that will be converted to states. They should have the capability and resources to function effectively as states under a federal government. They should be enabled to respond to the needs and demands of the community and fulfill their roles under a federal set-up. Parallel movement, therefore, of devolution and federalism is vital.

Having said all these, one would think that the Paper would immediately schedule moves to further decentralize the present set-up. Instead, it drew an elaborate plan to promote federalism, making mention of implementing amendments to the LGC only on the fourth year of its execution. This means that federalists are more interested in setting up federalism than in promoting local autonomy. The paper pays lip service to local autonomy while actually stifling it. No amendment to the LGC until 2006!

So, what does the Paper offer? A slow, painfully slow, process of decentralization under the 1987 Constitution! Then, what? The death blow: federalism or the consolidation of provinces into States. No more shall LGU’s be free to manage their affairs! What would States be there for except as a regulatory body? Whoever wrote that “… federalism as an option should be considered to fully operationalize local autonomy and devolution in the country” is against local autonomy. He closes his eyes to the reality that local governments can function well enough without a State to look over its shoulders. And whoever wrote that “federalism is the next logical step after devolution” is far from being logical. Of what use is federalism when local autonomy is at work? And if it isn’t working, the law must be adjusted accordingly. The failure of devolution was caused by a defect in the law. Federalism is not the answer.

The 1991 LGC should be amended NOW. The changes should be substantial enough to be able to clip the powers of the Presidency over fund releases which should be made emphatically automatic. Local governments should be strengthened within the bounds of the present Charter. Except for the time frame, this is also included in the ten-year plan of federalists. So, the initial conflict would just be in the matter of thrusts and priorities. The real fight should only come 10 years from now when federalism is formally introduced. Unless the federalists, contradict its own stand on the LGC, and refuse to act accordingly!

By: TaxJ

I think I have touched all your concerns in my letters to Senators and opinion writers. Briefly, let me pass on them. Re purse: as with the LGC and ARRM, isn’t release supposed to be automatic and mandatory. It’s a matter of law-enforcement!

1. Cause the speedy development of the entire country by unleashing the forces of competitiveness among the States; and,

This is hogwash. State operations is yet to be drawn. At most it would go through a experimental stage. Cities and provinces are operational. Its weaknesses are identifiable and can be remedied at once.

2. Dissipate the causes of rebellion in the country and particularly in Mindanao.

The contrary will happen. States will foment inter-tribal and religious rivalry. At the provincial level tribes and Christian settlers generally get along well with each other. It is easier to deal with the problem at this level. This is provided for under RA 8371 which would issue AD titles to actual, not historical, occupants. Seldom will you find inter-ethnic/cultural conflict within the confines of a province.

3. Congress will not part with its largess. Precisely. This is why my idea calls for a revolution, no less. This is not a band aid solution, but a lasting one.