What if I told you that thereexists a sort of government that’s better than what we have right now? I cansee the skeptical looks on the faces of all of you reading, and I understand allyour dubiety and misgivings. I was doubtful too, seeing the government we haveright now as pretty good, all things considered. I didn’t see what could bechanged.
But that was not until I heard about something called federalism.Through careful thought, debate, and research I’ve seen the good thatfederalism can bring. Federalism is the step the Philippines needs to taketo progress and develop to become a strong country. Anti-Federalists say that Federalismis a bad choice for the Philippines, for multitudes of reasons, some of whichcenter around the fact that amending the Constitution would be a lengthy, timeconsuming, and expensive task, and especially that the Philippines is not readyfor such a maneuver. The national government and individual state governmentsmay conflict and step on each other’s toes. There would be divisions anddisunity that would cause strife and conflict among the different parts of thecountry. They say that the current system of government is good enough, andthat it’s been working for long enough to be stable. This system happens to bethe unitary form of government, which is a system of government wherein much ofthe power lies in the national government and it gets to decide all thedecisions, policies, and programs of the country (So, 2016).
But PresidentRodrigo Duterte has recently been pushing for a government that follows thefederal system (Andolong, 2016). He himself has been planning to appoint acommission to draft the changes required for a shift to federalism (Tubeza,2017). He believes that it would give more autonomy and a way to air out thebad blood in certain regions like Mindanao.There are waysto make sure that the state governments and the national government can worktogether. Properly delineated roles in the Constitution would give a goodframework for the harmony of the national and state governments. In fact, thePhilippines also already has a good ground for federalism. The Philippinesalready has an extent of “national unity and democratization, decentralization(Abueva, 1997). This change doesn’t have to be sudden.
It can be takengradually in parts so that the Philippines can be eased into it. I would argue that the effort, time, and fundsthat will be spent on changing the system will be worth it, for reasons Ibelieve are worthy of note. Thecurrent unitary government system functions in a way that the nationalgovernment basically heads over everybody in the country. All the importantthings regarding the nation go through the legislative, judicial, and executivebranch of the national government. Basically this central government based inManila controls the entire country.
What Pres. Duterte proposes makes a drasticchange in this system. With federalism, the power is split between the central,national government and the separate sovereign states (Ranada & Villarete,2016).Federalism leadsto a lessened dependence on the National Government and an empowerment of thelocal governments. The split of jurisdiction implies an increased independenceof the, as they would be called, federal states. The states deliver basicservices like medical services, promoting tourism, and dealing with other localissues (Brillantes & Moscare, 2002). They share the power of running thecountry with the national government which will still have sole power andresponsibility over areas of foreign affairs, national defense, monetary andfiscal policies and constitutional issues which include agreements betweencountries and the management of groups like the Armed Forces of thePhilippines, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, and the Supreme Court (Cruz,2016).
While thenational government still has significant power, the power and responsibilitiesare split up more equally than with the current unitary system. This empowermentof the federal states will allow them working room to focus on their individualtasks in facilitating the common good in their parts of the country. Theproblems should be able to be solved at “the lowest level, by the peopledirectly concerned” and not passed on higher (Abueva, 1997). The ability tofocus on their individual roles of facilitating the betterment of the countrywill give both the individual states and the national government an area to dotheir respective jobs in.
The federalstates can manage themselves and run their own part of the country, a morefocused version of the current system’s national government. This would thenallow the federal states to act as entities of their own rather than branchesof the national government being wholly controlled by the central government inLuzon. These federal states can manage majority of the matters of their area,fiscal, political, or otherwise. They of course still have to conform to theoverall laws and the Constitution for protection and unity in the country, butthey have the ability to individualize the ways they run themselves to betterfoster progress and development.With this, thenational government can then focus on the bigger picture of the country as awhole. Without the need to continuously facilitate and spread itself thin overall the different regions of the Philippines, looking into every littleincident or having to go through all the requests that the current system makesit have to look through, the national government then can simply act as anoverseer, a bigger protective entity that unites all the federal states.
Thestate governments can deal with mundane state concerns, “basic services likehealth (field health and hospital services and other tertiary services); socialservices (social welfare services); environment (community based forestryprojects), agriculture (agricultural extension and on-site research); publicworks (funded by local funds); education (school building program); tourism(facilities, promotion and development); telecommunications services andhousing projects (for provinces and cities); and other services such asinvestment support (Brillantes & Moscare, 2002, 5).” The nationalgovernment, before responsible for these, is left with dealing with concernsand internal problems that plague the nation itself (Abueva, 2002). The statesthemselves will also be able to reach farther, into the less developed parts oftheir own regions that the national government may have found difficult or toofar to easily reach. This would address the needs of the individual statesbecause the government is brought closer to the places and people who need it.The newsplitting of the budget especially that this empowerment would especiallybenefit the federal states. Currently, Luzon gets majority of the nationalbudget and that gives it more of a chance to develop as compared to the rest ofthe country. No visitor to Metro Manila can get himself/herself not to admithow thriving or busy the National Capital Region is, especially if the visitorcomes from a region not as prosperous or focused on when it comes topolicies/funds.
After all, the national government headquarters itself in NCR.But the new policy of splitting the taxes will allow the states to have thefunds necessary for development. The new policy splits the taxes 30% to thenational government, keeping 70% for the state to use to improve and develop(So, 2016). Since theindividual states have a certain independence from the national government,they also have a certain free will to enact policies and regulations thatbetter fit their own personal situations.
They now have the power they need todevelop and strengthen. Due to each state being unique, with its own cultureand attributes, each state needs unique measures to ensure optimal development.Federalism acknowledges and accepts the diversity of all these different areasand groups that comprise the federal states (Shively, 2005). Statesbasically have more freedom to pinpoint where they can develop using what theyhave and what they’re good at and can also specialize in different policydomains to deal with their specific problems (Ranada & Villarete, 2016). It redefinesunity in diversity through promoting a united nation that acknowledges that itis comprised of many, different, beautiful, and unique cultures and throughthat, the nation can then come together and become stronger.Federalism wouldalso give more responsibility to each individual state. This will make them accountablefor any and all of their successes and failures. It “allows action by a sharedgovernment for certain common purposes while permitting for autonomous actionby constituent units of government for purposes that relate to preserving theirdistinctiveness, with each level directly responsible to its electorate (Watts,2002).
” They can no longer blame the National Government for any failureregarding slow bureaucracy in enacting certain policies or actions. Nobody hasultimate power and checks and balances are in place to make sure the power isshared.Federalism will ultimatelyallow each state to become stronger, and through a good national government,present a formidable united front to the world.
It is the hope of most everyFilipino to have a powerful nation that each Filipino can pride himself/herselfon and federalism can bring this vision closer. This empowerment of eachindividual state and the ensuing endowment of increased responsibility andability focus and bring the government closer to the many different groups inthe Philippines makes federalism a good choice for the Philippines.