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Recto ‘behaving like a bully and a child in tantrum’

/ 12:10 AM September 24, 2016

Sen. Ralph Recto, in “Federalism is ugly—Recto” (Second Front Page, 9/15/16), appeared like a bully and a child in tantrum, alternately subjecting to public ridicule someone with disability, and acting like a spoiled brat that has broken into an outburst to get what he wants. He prejudged a proposed system that he has yet to experience and warned of flaws that he could only speculate on.

Fortunately, he is not the only voice on federalism that has come out of the 24-member Senate. To be sure, federalism will suffer some birth pangs but the sacrifice would be worth it for the greater good and a better future for Filipinos. Recto saw dagdag (more) bureaucracy, dagdag red tape, dagdag taxes, dagdag gastos. But all these dagdag can be prevented with proper legislative measure. Which is precisely the job of lawmakers like him.

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And how could there be additional bureaucracy when functions of the national government would be done by regional and provincial staff? And contrary to Recto’s fear, red tape could be reduced as regional or provincial officials, like those in the health service, would no longer need to get approval or funding from a central office for supply purchases.

Recto’s math may be correct as to the fact that only three regions produce the bulk of the country’s GDP. This is precisely what federalism aims to correct: allowing the other regions to become as developed as Metro Manila, Southern Tagalog or Central Luzon. For example, federalism would open the opportunity to turn Mindanao, with its rich natural resources, into another version of these prosperous regions.

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The senator need not worry about Luzon subsidizing other regions. The less developed states at the start of the fledgling federal system will forever remain reliant on support from the richer ones. Precisely, federalism intends to develop the poorer states’ economies so they can become self-reliant and eventually be weaned from subsidy and dependence. Besides, what’s wrong with one state assisting another? The federal states to be created will still be part of one, united country; in fact, they should always be ready to complement each other.

A 20-80 federal-state sharing of national wealth will be problematic in Recto’s calculations. But there are other ways to compute the existing variables to produce a favorable scenario. Let others do the math for eliminating this problem. As to the national debt, its payment will still be shared by all states just like what’s happening now, but in ways that take into consideration the financial capacity of each state.

Instead of shooting down federalism, Recto should look at how successful this political system is in other countries. The United States is a classic example. It is proof that the federal government and the state governments can coexist and work harmoniously and grow together economically, politically and socially.

With Recto, the public conversation on federalism will be difficult as he makes it so. But in the end, it is not only he who will decide whether or not this country should adopt a federal system of government. That decision is for all Filipinos to make.

—BAM FRANCISCO, [email protected]

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