Federalism: Boon or Bane (Part 3 of 3)

The Philippines needs to become competitive in the global arena if Filipinos are to benefit from the changes coming about.

Simply put too much time is wasted on the process at the national level when the same could be achieved more efficiently at the regional level with the advantage of the actual needs of the constituents being met.

The threat presented by Federalism is great enough that its detractors constantly point out its weaknesses without offering any alternatives that can be integrated in any of the existing drafts.

The test case for Federalism is the plebiscite to be held on January 21 for the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law.

The BOL provides the structure for the organization of a new Bangsamoro Autonomous Region whose government is parliamentary in nature. It is extensive and detailed in its delineation of powers and functions of the national government and the autonomous government.

There is actually no need to adopt either the Con-Com or the House drafts because there is already the BOL. An ideal structure would be the formation of the Federal Regions of Luzon, Visayas, Mindanao, Bangsamoro, Cordillera and the National Capital Region with each following the BOL framework for their regional or federal government.

The composition of the Federal National Parliament would be elected representatives from the states or provinces comprising the federal regions on the basis of proportional representation.

The post of President as Head of State could then be on a rotating basis from each of the Federal regions while the Prime Minister as Head of Government is elected by members of Parliament.

Critics of Federalism have brought up the main issue of how it will only strengthen political dynasties. There is a degree of truth to this but only in the beginning.

The new political structure will force both elected officials and their constituents to be more issues-oriented as both will be directly responsible for the fiscal and economic decisions which will determine their growth path.

They will no longer be dependent on the national government for funding and will have the authority to determine and spend for their infrastructure requirements. As such if the elected officials do not perform, it is up to the people to vote them out of office and elect others who would find it easier to step up to the plate since the cost of running for office is greatly reduced.

Regional political parties will flourish under the federal system and will promote issues-based electoral choices instead of the existing personality and popularity based voting preference. Voters will be convinced to identify with political party's which they share core political and social values with. This will allow the development and training of new leaders at the regional level which prepares them to run for nationally elective posts in the future. Members of political dynasties will be forced to change their political approach if they want to stand for elected office.

There is also the advantage of increased political stability and accountability at the national level. Legislative gridlock will be easier to resolve because Cabinet members are also members of parliament and can be made to account for any questionable acts by his peers in the chamber.

The Prime Minister can be ousted by a simple no-confidence vote which does away with impeachment that causes political instability. The opposition will always have a shadow government ready which can take the place of the one voted out by the parliamentary majority.

Change doesn't happen overnight. An entrenched system will not be receptive to change because it upsets the established political and economic power structures. But as we are all aware change is one of the constants we face every single day. The pace of change is made faster because of technological innovations.

The Philippines needs to become competitive in the global arena if Filipinos are to benefit from the changes coming about. Constant political bickering at the national level is one major reason why the Philippines has fallen behind its neighbors in the region.

There is no such thing as a perfect system or society but there is the constant effort to achieve equality and equanimity. It is about time that the full potential of the Philippines is unlocked not only for the few who are privileged but for the greater majority who deserve a better quality of life than what they have now.

About the Author
RG is a seasoned international trade and sales and marketing professional who also dabbles in writing. He was a contributor to Business World in the mid-90s and is also a tech geek.
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