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Federalism in the Philippines: Are we ready?

For sure, you have heard of this word before and maybe you haven’t known what this word really means aside from what President Duterte has been assertively expressing the need for Philippines to shift to Federalism.

You had a good click there my friend because here I will be talking specifics about why and how federalism would be the right forn of government for this country.

We need to scuff the internals of Federalism before we can get a good dose of it. Let us then start from the basics.

First, Federalism means:

“…the federal principle of government pertaining to or of the nature of a union of states under a central government distinct from the individual governments of the separate states, as in federal government.”

That’s base from a dictionary but folks what does it mean in a simplest form? Federalism is the more realistic sharing of power between the central government and the local government units for the benefit of the people. So it means that we are giving each region a hold to govern their own which could help people do what is best for them and their place. This is not the system of government today and this is why we need to know why we need Federalism.

How is Federalism going to work in a system like Philippines in which aspects are hard to achieve especially in various situations.

I have been lucky to have attended a forum conducted by a group who call themselves PDu30-Core and themed it as Constitutional Reform to Federalism with guest speakers Atty. Butch G. Corpin & Atty. Raul L. Lambino who are both experts in terms of the topic.


On stage is Atty. Butch G. Corpin speaking about the basic framework and operation


Here is Atty. Raul L. Lambino talking about the sustainable models for Philippines

Somehow, these are the basics that I have come to know during the forum. As far as to what we do not know about our Local Government Code (LGC), it is enforced to circumstances where it is decentralized to only three (3) major powers of government, which are the agriculture, health and social welfare while there are so many areas of governance, controlled by the national government. If we shift into federal government, it basically means that all major powers of government, except for some that cannot be devolved and should be retained by the national government, will have to be shared with all the federal states.

Now, if we are to enumerate the critical modifications between federalism and the Local Government Code, in LGC only 40% of the money collected by the Bureau of Internal Revenue or BIR is being distributed among the four (4) local government units; provinces, cities, municipalities and barangays. All the other sources of the national income are not included in the 40% funding distributed to local government units. The proposed new distribution scheme between national government and the federal states will be then 20-80. 20% will be retained by the national government and 80% to be distributed to the federal states.

Okay, so how will the federal states be structured in the Philippines?

There are eleven (11) proposed federal states throughout the nation that will be composed of the local government units.

In Luzon there are four (4) states namely Northern Luzon, with Region 1 and 2 put together, including the Cordillera Autonomous Region, Central Luzon; Bicol area and Southern Tagalog. Just like Washington, D.C. in the US, Metro Manila will be retained as the capital but it will not be a federal state itself.

In the Visayas, there will have four (4) federal states: the Eastern Visayas (Samar and Leyte); Central Visayas (Cebu, Bohol, etc.); Western Visayas (Ilonggo provinces); and MIMAROPA (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon, Palawan) which should correctly belong to Visayas.

While in Mindanao, there will have three (3) federal states, namely Northern Mindanao (from Zamboanga to Surigao); Southern Mindanao (Davao, Cotabato, etc.); and most importantly, the Bangsamoro federal state, because unless we are able to satisfy the just aspirations of the Moro people, there will always be war in Mindanao.

And if there is war, you cannot have development. You need peace so that development can follow.

Federalism for Philippines; are we really ready for it?

One of the main problems of the country and probably the biggest reason as to why we need Federalism for the Philippines is because of poverty. We have known a lot of actions and plans yet there’s still no glimpse of radical change.

To create a balance in the system and harmony among the people is one tough job for Federalism. Another is the curiosity from the people as to how we can bring the conceptual, legal and technical level of understanding of federalism down to the masses. This is hard, since not everyone might be able to really take a grasp on it and there are also those who maybe do not care. But hey! This is not just for any one; this is for the betterment of the whole Philippines and Filipinos whether it is for our sustainability, economy, tourism or local problems and issue.


Left: Atty. Butch G. Corpin, Right: Atty. Raul L. Lambino for the question and answer

We are lucky to have these people behind this determination in trying their best to hold seminars and similar informational and educational efforts to share with the people what the concept is all about. For schools, the most practical level to start the education on federalism would be the high school level. How can students benefit to Federalism? Exquisitely simple, more chance of quality education to everyone because there will be more and adequate funds for it. As mentioned, only President Duterte espouses the federal structure of government and we should be thankful for that because it only means that he does only want what’s good for us (people) and for the country (Philippines).

It will be really hard to adopt federalism without amending the Constitution. Hopefully there is still enough time for the adoption down to the implementation. We also would like to thank the Centrist Democracy Political Institute or CDPI for inviting us in this very informative forum.

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