The Philippines must Adopt Federalism

Gail Sheehy once said, “If we don’t change, we don’t grow. If we don’t grow, we aren’t really living.” To our professor, Mr. Benito, team mates, worthy opponents, friends, ladies and gentlemen, a pleasant afternoon.

The proposition at hand is, “The Philippines must adopt federalism.”

As the first speaker of the affirmative side, allow me to set the parameters of this debate.

1. A federal form of government is a system of government in which sovereignty is constitutionally divided between a central governing authority and constituent political units. Federalism is the system in which the power to govern is shared between the national & state governments, creating what is called a federation, one where, the local government is autonomous from the national or central government.

2. The adoption of federalism  is limited to the form of government as to the extent of powers exercised by the national or central government, that is, either unitary or federal. The change from  presidential to parliamentary, democratic to aristocratic or  monarchial, and the like do not take part in this debate.

3. The adoption of federalism entails the amendment of the present 1987 Philippine Constitution. However it does not mean that it speaks equivocally to that of the Charter Change that is being pushed through by the present Arroyo administration neither does it speak of that of Estrada, Ramos and other prominent political figures.

4. The federation of the Philippines will not be made through the existing Regions and Political subdivisions. Instead, places with common ethnicity, language, culture, tradition, etc., shall form one federal unit.

5. The success of a form of government depends on the people who govern and the people being governed. And since we are talking of the Philippines, a comparison between the Philippines and another country either with a federal or unitary form of government and citation of studies comparing federalism and unitary system conducted by foreign research institutions shall be of no relevance since the former and the latter have different culture, tradition, history, etc.

Allow me now to lay down my arguments.

1. Since the Philippines gained independence and have been self-governing, Filipinos have been discontented of the different administrations because of the abuse and misuse of an enormous power in the unitary form of government. This is reflected by the surveys conducted by Pulse-Asia and SWS that say that majority of the Filipinos are clamoring for the impeachment, resignation or ouster of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. However, PGMA’s case is not isolated. History tells us that even the popular President who toppled down the Marcos dictatorship, then President Corazon Cojuangco Aquino, had the same ill story as her administration suffered from 9 coup’ attempts.

By limiting the power of the head of state into the external affairs of the country, lesser power, influence and money would be involved in the Office of the President. Hence, corruption and other negative things will no longer be so conducive in the highest seat of power. Such negative things will also be limited to each federal unit. Example, if there is much corruption that beset Manila, it will not affect other federations and its people.

2. Having talked about Manila, this leads to my next argument. Manila has always been the focus of attention of the government since it is the capital city of the country. The Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) has an overwhelming budget of Php. 2.72 Billion which leaves other provinces and cities lesser funds. And since the fast pace development of the country is isolated to Manila, people would flock there ending up as squatters, underemployed or unemployed. Poverty then is not alleviated.

3. The Philippines is also a country that has a very diverse culture and tradition. Each place has its own unique history, geography and the like. So why have one central power to govern such diversity? Aside from Manila, the government is focused to the development of the homelands of the seating President. Look at Ilocos, it had been very well taken care of during the Marcos regime; Tarlac, during the Aquino regime, and so on and so forth. Compare these places to the development of places where no President had come from. Take our very own place for example. The Bicol Region would not have had its rightful share would Reming not devastated our Region.

4. In such case, there is no equal access to the national government. Observe how the budget is appropriated in the Congress of the Philippines. Aside from the fact that the process is too long, there is no equal distribution of the country’s wealth. The production of a place is not reciprocated by its share of wealth from the national treasury. Natural resources for example are taken from provinces but the profit of its output is enjoyed by the people in the Capital city. If federalism will be adopted, each federation will be self sufficing. This is the case of the pre-Spanish colonial rule where each tribe was independent to one another, producing for themselves their own necessity. It does not however speak of the absence of the ‘bayanihan’ spirit, neither of the absence of nationalism. Each federation, by making use of its own resources, will contribute to the progress of the country…

…a country devastated by a lot of problems.

What then could be more noble and more patriotic than growing and living for the motherland, offered by change?

It is about time that we change our socio-political attitude, and along with it,  let us change the system that corrupts our mind-set; Let the Philippines adopt federalism! Let us grow, let us live and let us Change.

Mr. Moderator, I now rest my case.

(Transcript of debate speech)

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