The drive towards the change in the form of government from unitarian to federalism form goes into high gear with series of fora being held in various parts of the country.
Despite the push of the government, many people are left dumbfounded about the real score about federalism due to the utter lack of sustained information dissemination, supposedly coming from government media assets.
The drive towards public awareness about federalism in Bohol has been evident but coming far in between. In the first week of this month, a key official from the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) came over to explain the form of government to the barangay officials.
By April, another forum is slated to push the federalism agenda via a two-day forum in Tagbilaran.
However, a Bohol Tribune source said the Filipinos need to understand in depth what federalism is and to weigh both advantages and disadvantages, or they may swim in an “ocean of tears and regrets” later because of their ignorance.
The efforts being exerted to inform the public “remains to be desired,” said the source.
Unlike any other government system, federalism is something that Filipinos are not quite familiar about since the Spanish eroded this concept during their 300 years plus colonization of the Philippines, said the source.
Other countries that adopted the federal form of government moved have their collective memory of being an individual body politic making it easier for them to adapt to such system of government.
Majority of Boholanos may be aware of federalism, but not its nitty-gritty, the source said.
Many can easily explain the structure of the federal government, but in terms of issues on abudget, revenue sharing and the prospect of cessation from the rest of the country, these issues remain unanswered.
The same source said the government is in the best position to inform the public regarding federalism by launching series of information drives, though several means such as buying airtime on television or radio or buying advertising spaces in newspapers.
There is no website or any other online resource, put up by government media assets, to inform or educate the public regarding federalism.
The source said the issue on wealth sharing and revenues could be a huge stumbling block where it may cause adisparity between the proposed state of Manila and the rest of the states.
With federalism, the individual states will rely on internal revenue to generate funds, no longer able to get additional funding from Manila. Doing so, said the source, will defeat the purpose of having a federal republic in the first place.
PUSH TO INFORM THE BARANGAY
If there is a vulnerable segment of the current government set-up in the shift to another form of government, it is the barangay.
The barangay may lose its relevance once there would be a shift to federalism, the source said.
Ironically, the proponents of the shift for federalism are reaching out to barangay leaders to push their agenda.
In the provincial congress of the Liga ng mga Barangay during the first week of February, DILG Assistant Sec. Jonathan Malaya whose task is to educate the public on the nuances of federalism talked to 1,109 barangay leaders who attended the Congress,to shore up support for the shift in the form of government.
According to a barangay official who spoke on the condition of anonymity, Malaya was able to explain the structure, but none about the issues on budget, internal revenue or wealth sharing.
He said some of his colleagues might have an understanding, but there are several questions left unanswered.
The barangay relies heavily on funding from the Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) from Manila. With the shift to federalism, there would be no more IRA, since it will defeat the purpose of having a federal form of government.
Without the IRA, barangays will have to resort from asking for funds with the state government, which may not be affordable as there is a varied level of development among the states in the federal republic. More developed states may able to afford to provide funds to the barangays, which may not be the case in some states, which can barely sustain their state government’s needs.
During the provincial government’s time at the Liga ng mga Barangay, Gov. Edgar Chatto tempered the expectations of the barangay leaders about federalism.
He said the forum on federalism would touch only on key aspects and principles. He said there is a need to take baby steps and it would be foolish to tackle deeper concepts, without first absorbing the basics, like how a person goes through elementary, then to high school, and eventually to college.
In alignment with national efforts, a group identified with the President alleged with members located nationwide, is going to hold a two-day forum on federalism.
The forum is in line with the increased interest shown by the government in a bid to shift the form of government by changing or revising the present Constitution.
Published reports said Romeo Melecio, chairman of the pro-Duterte group called Mayor Rodrigo Roa Duterte-National Executive Coordinating Committee in Central Visayas, plans to hold an event explaining the facets of federalism to the public at the Bohol Cultural Center on April 7 to 8, 2018.
The report said the group is expecting to invite 10 Cabinet members to attend the forum.
The group, reportedly, invited Department of Agrarian Reform Sec. John Castriciones Land Bank board of director Jesus Hinlo, and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority Sec. Guilling Mamondiong.
The forum aims to draw more than 10,000 participants not just in Bohol, but in neighboring Negros Oriental, Siquijor and Cebu provinces.
Melecio, with some of his members, paid a courtesy call to Tagbilaran City Mayor John Geesnell Yap, Liga ng mga Barangay provincial chairman Board Member Romulo Cepedoza, and Gov. Chatto.
GMA News resident political analyst and professor Richard Heydarian wrote a long-tail piece on the GMA News Online website regarding on the three key facts of federalism in the world.
He said in comparative political analysis, the key is to compare one country to another compatible country. There is a risk of comparing apples to oranges, which is not only a huge mistake, he said, but “perilously disingenuous.”
He said the Philippines must look at the experiences of developing countries on federalism, rather looking at the experience of developed countries such as Germany.
The Philippines is considered a developing country, or in other parlance, a third-world country.
Heydarian said the Philippines must look at how federalism handled in the developing world, where some nations belong. He cites the countries of Iraq, Sudan, Somalia and Ethiopia to Nigeria, Pakistan, Venezuela,and Brazil as examples.
While the countries may have permutations of federalism, the countries show a common denominator. He said, there is a persistent inequality within and among the federal states. There are extreme hunger and poverty in some countries such as India, Brazil,and Nigeria, not to mention Venezuela.
Bureaucratic inertia and double taxation with high levels of development inequality exist or persist in these countries. These issues also affect also the most advanced federalism countries in the world, he said.
“It is far from clear whether that has brought about any significant and directly positive effect on national economic development. Federalism is obviously not the root of all their problems, but it’s unclear whether it has helped solve their economic problems either,” said Heydarian.
The ethnic division also wrecks these federal states, occupied with trying to defeat micro-nationalists, secessionist efforts and even outright civil war like in the case of Iraq, Somalia,and Sudan.
Iraq, said Heydarian, is a cautionary tale since federalism already exists in the collective memory of the people via pre-existing ethnic-religious divisions, which may partly explain the rise of the Islamic State.
The proponents of federalism tend to overlook the importance of institutions. Heydarian cited some references where the central argument points to the presence of inclusive political and economic institutions, rather than extractive-exclusionary ones.
Inclusive political institutions point towards a transparent and accountable state, which is not occupied by a narrow, self-serving political class. Inclusive economic institutions are modern patterns of economic productivity, which aims to push higher the living standards of the majority of the population.
This can be achieved, he said, via robust industrialization, and open trade, rather than protectionist and resource-dependent economies.
“So long as the Philippine state remains weak, with oligarchs controlling our political office and the economy, whatever form of government we adopt is bound to fail. That’s why any Charter Change should come along with a more comprehensive reform of our whole institutions, not just form of government,” said Heydarian. (Dave S. Albarado)