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Letters to the Editor

Nothing to fear from federalism

/ 05:00 AM April 14, 2018

As a member of the PDP-Laban study group that labored for more than a year to draft the new federalist constitution now being studied by Congress and by the President’s Consultative Commission, I’d like to allay Rina Jimenez David’s fears about “Federalism’s real goal” (4/10/18).

“Poorer provinces or regions may lose access to assistance from the national government.”—Not true. There will be a fiscal equalization mechanism similar to other federal systems that will transfer resources from richer to poorer regions toward greater equity. More importantly for subnational governments, they will receive a majority—no longer a minority—of the annual budget, commensurate with downloading more functions to them.

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“Entrenchment of political dynasties.”—Not true. Among the political reforms proposed by the study groups together with our draft constitution is a self-executory ban on political dynasties. Other proposed reforms aim to strengthen our political parties, which to my mind is the only way to recapture the democratic process from wealthy families—together of course with creating a sturdy middle class through economic growth.

“If federalism is the answer, what is the question?”—As I like to point out in my speaking engagements, the Philippines is the only Asian country that has failed to cut poverty by half in the last 25 years. As of 2015, according to the World Economic Forum, we were also dead last among the six founding Asean members in ALL categories of infrastructure. Those problems sure sound urgent to me.

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“Federalism is really about power consolidation.”—Not true. Federalism is simply about creating a regional layer of governance in order to improve the responsiveness and accountability of governance, under the well-known fiscal principle of subsidiarity.

“In the transition to federalism, Congress will be dissolved and President Duterte will exercise legislative powers, leading to eventual one-man rule.”—Not true. David here is quoting former congressman Neri Colmenares, a leftist party-lister who is lying through his teeth, plain and simple.

The transition envisaged by the study group will actually comprise three stages:

First, within 18 months from ratification of a new federalist constitution, Congress (or parliament) will draft a new regional and local government code to replace the 1991 Local Government Code and set forth the new federal framework of government.

Second, until each region drafts its own Organic Act, its sitting governors and large-city mayors (or their replacements in future elections) will constitute a regional commission to exercise both executive and legislative authority.

Third, within a period not to exceed 10 years from ratification of the new constitution, each region will draft its own Organic Act that will serve as the local constitution of that region, for approval by its voters and by Congress (or parliament).

I can refer David and Inquirer readers to the book published by the study group, “The Quest for a Federal Republic,” edited by Interior Assistant Secretary Jonathan Malaya, now available in bookstores.

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GARY B. OLIVAR,
[email protected]

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