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.

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.

By: TaxJ

Ninoy Aquino begat hope and courage. Hope and courage begat EDSA 1. EDSA 1 begat Cory, FVR, ERAP and EDSA 2. EDSA 2 begat Gloria. Gloria begat unprecedented corruption and poverty, then a MOA that led to war: Filipinos against Filipinos. The combination of these events begat the loss of Ninoy’s legacy.

The absence of his legacy begat poverty in mind and spirit as well. We dare not move against Gloria because of fear, not for life and limb, but for the uncertain scenario of an early PGMA exit. Even 2010 is viewed with much skepticism. Embedded in our hearts are the lessons of experience: no change in leadership ever brought any relief.

Senator Nene Pimentel correctly diagnosed the problem: too much wealth and power in the Presidency or Imperial Manila. Unfortunately the prescription he gave is seriously flawed. Federalism won’t solve the problem. It will only aggravate it. He is just complicating a simple solution: decentralization through legislation. This is allowed by the present Constitution.

Clip the powers of the presidency; distribute it to the local government units. This is the good Senator’s forte. He must have overlooked it in his haste to post another date in history: from the father of local autonomy to the champion of federalism! Unfortunately, it promises to be his undoing. Cha-cha is dead for now. And even if it reaches a plebiscite, a provision adding more people to the unpopular bodies would spell its doom. People would rather vote for the abolition of one of the two Chambers, or both!

Fortunately, it is not too late for Mr. Local Autonomy to be true to his calling. Instead of gunning for federalism he may rally the local government officials to persuade Congress to approve a legislation that incorporates his 20/80 formula in an invigorated Local Government Code. Who knows that, under intense pressure, its members might even come to their senses, get real and go for impeachment instead?

(Original post here)