FEDERALISM: Why Not?
May 13, 2008 5 Comments
Senator Pimentel filed a resolution asking both Houses of Congress to convene into a constituent assembly, and begin talks on federalizing the Philippines. And like any other attempt of revisiting and changing our 21 year old charter, opposition received it with not so tasty remarks.
I can still remember the days when I was part of the advocacy to shift to the parliamentary form. Then, I strongly believed that change was necessary. But being an 18-year old caught into the flicker of entering mainstream politics, I never really verified which change is best for the nation. Cha-Cha “Sigaw ng Bayan Style” was unsuccessful. Now, I really think its failure was a good thing for the country.
Today, I am not so much supporting change if it only changes the power-structure of Imperial Manila and does not really do anything to benefit the provinces. That is not the type of change we need at this point. It can be compared to changing the mask but not the wearer.
And so when Pimentel’s proposal amplified into the mainstream press and was subject of several blogs of several people, I came to think about this proposal.
REFUTING ARGUMENTS ON FEDERALISM
I humbly refute the points of the respected writers cited in this blog.
PROBLEMS OF FEDERALISM: FEDERAL FINANCING
Many people talk about the repercussions of federalism. The first, and perhaps the most debatable issue on it is the financing of a federal government.
In the article of Leonor Magtolis-Briones entitled Financing Federalism, she has presented a case on the problem of federalist financing. In her article, she said:
“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 have 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 is a valid point from a respected writer, but this necessitates a little clarification. The federal government shall now only be mainly focusing on National Defense, [a portion of] Justice, and Foreign Relations. These entail a substantial amount of money to maintain. But the premiums that will be given by the federates from tax collection and other revenue-generating mechanics can suffice.
As to its effect on taxation, as an interim backlash, it may have an impact on the amount of taxes we pay. But if this augmentation of taxes will effectively be equated to better services of the government, then I think people won’t really mind. We survived e-VAT, maybe we’ll survive this too.
PROBLEMS OF FEDERALISM: ADDITIONAL LAYER OF GOVERNMENT
In the article written by Val Abelgas entitled The Folly of Federalism, he said:
“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 valid point raised. At first glance, federalism is nothing but a duplication of the current government. But as a matter of argument, I do not second this line of thinking.
As a matter of fact, federalism will provide investors with more options as to where to invest. The states will now have the opportunity to attract investments on their own. Unlike today that the high executives do the marketing. The marketing is now bestowed upon the states.
Businessmen and investors will now have more options. Though with different state laws on business and taxation of industries, the businessmen and investors can choose to put their investments in states with business-friendly laws. The states will now have a sense of competition as to which state has the most investment-friendly climate.
Federalism also enables the states to customize their enclaves to suit a specific investment type. For example, Northern Mindanao, whose main strength is tourism and agriculture, may now create specific measures to fit tourism investments. They may create farm-to-market roads, industrial trains, and trucking stations for agricultural purposes, while also capitalizing on ships, boats, cruises, and buses for tourism. The choice is theirs.
Federalism actually limits the function of the federal government to a coordinating and monitoring government, with much of the actual operations diffused upon the federates. Businessmen do not need to bribe Imperial Manila officials for remote projects in Visayas and Mindanao. Bribery may be eliminated because red tape is actually eliminated.
PROBLEMS OF FEDERALISM: POLITICAL DYNASTIES
In the same article mentioned in the second problem, it said:
“It will further strengthen political dynasties. There is no denying that established political clans have been in control of local politics for generations. With greater powers under a federal set-up, what will stop them from further solidifying their hold on Philippine politics? A regional, instead of national elections for senators, would put more of these political dynasties at the national helm by being elected to the Senate.”
The political dynasty issue proves to be a real problem of the country, and is a serious impediment to national development. The belief that federalism shall only espouse further the concept and practice of political dynastism needs further reflection.
The federal system actually can eliminate political dynasties, for it provides a fair chance to ordinary citizens to participate in elections, most especially in Senatorial elections. Instead of electing by basis of national prominence, we now have a better chance of focusing on real issues.
Another case of political dynasties and federalism, written also by Val Abelgas:
“It will turn senatorial elections into local elections, therefore leaving behind national issues during campaigns. We all know that the reason Arroyo still controls the House is because local elections are usually limited to local issues, and the Senate is not under Arroyo’s control because the incompetence, corruption and bankruptcy of the national government under Arroyo were the central issues.”
Local issues are national issues. We must never maintain a mentality that local issues are less important than those which are blessed with national prominence. Issues such as land reform, land use, and corruption can be addressed with a broader perspective, and with the opinion of the federates really mattering. As to the allegations on the House and the Senate, I do not wish to comment.
Political dynasties are part of any political system, but many people do not realize the fact that the reason why they become a dynasty is because people believe in their capacity to better their lives. So if we want to crush the dynasties, either in a unitary or federal system, we should provide decent and viable policy alternatives for the voters. One that is doable and achievable.
THE CLEAREST PATH TO PROGRESS IS FEDERALISM
Some analysts say that the way to economic growth is a sound economic strategy. But no matter how superb your strategy is, if your political system disallows the implementation of the strategy, then the strategy is useless. Making this country progress as one patch of a nation is possible, but difficult and takes a long time. As for federalism, it will at least lead us to some progress in less time.
Many people think that this is nothing more than a stunt of Malacanang to save a presidency in grave danger of retribution by 2010. But this time around, the opposition supports the move. The time is right, the proposal is going to the right track, maybe it’s time to give federalism a try.