Fellows Hub (7)

A centrist’s challenge

Thursday, 03 October 2019 17:11 Written by
“You are good if you can uplift Filipinos from their current condition. But you are greater if you bring them to a condition beyond where they need not be uplifted.” – Lito Monico C. Lorenzana (LMCL), Centrist Democratic Party of the Philippine (CDP) Founding Chairman

I’M prepping up to write a treatise on Centrist Democratic Party’s arduous journey from a fledgling “Successor Generation” movement to a nascent political party and interpolate the “Centrist” concepts of some of the brilliant minds, our mentors, who started it all and my own ideas built on experience from the “roots of the grass,” as political action officer. I hope to draw the attention and persuade idealistic segments of society and the public at large that the way to good governance and participatory decision-making is through Centrist Democracy’s brand of political technocracy and to which they are invited to join as party members. Will it be relevant to present realities? With the flowering of the initiatives, will national redemption be at hand? Can it leave a legacy that will shape a secure and prosperous future for the succeeding generations? The essay hopes to give pragmatic answers as well as insights from party stalwarts, fodder to the grist mill, hoping that the by-products would contribute to the development of real political party institutions and advance the cause of nation-building. This article will just be a glimpse of that work.

Centrist Democracy’s roots can be traced from as far back as the French Revolution in 1789 when “democratic passions were unbridled throughout Europe” and supported for the greater part by Catholic Church’s teachings. It was then called Christian Democracy, with the application of Christian principles in ordering society’s political, economic and social life. In the Philippines, the Federation of Free Workers (FFW) in 1950 and Federation of Free Farmers in 1953, started out as associations exhibiting “definite Christian democratic orientation” and, with the Church, worked for reforms. The birth of the Christian Social Movement, the major political repository of the Philippine version of Christian Democracy, under the guidance of the initial movers led by the preeminent Raul Manglapus and the support of Filipino Muslims in Mindanao, soon paved the way for what would become Centrist Democracy, although unraveling political events in the country preempted the flourishing of the Centrist movement. There were many groups who followed the Christian democratic path although none were able to rise to national prominence. We hope that this generation, comprised of knowledgeable and patriotic young Centrists, imbued with Christian values and principles will rise to the challenge and bring about genuine reforms in this country, an economic laggard behind its mostly non-Christian Asian neighbors.

CDP started as Centrist Democratic Movement, a federation of young professionals and sectoral groups which have attracted a good number of adherents who believe in democratic ideals tempered with social concerns. The proponents, comprised of the founding Chairman Lito Monico C. Lorenzana and several others sought accreditation from COMELEC which granted them a national political party status in September 12, 2012 under the able guidance of Congressman Rufus B. Rodriguez who eventually became its National President. I boarded the political ship just as it left port so to speak, to field candidates for the 2013 midterm elections, an experience which left an enduring impression and paved the way for my eventual entry in politics and the first electoral exercise where I actually campaigned for party candidates. It was like finding a missing thread that would be intimately woven to complete a patchwork quilt defining my life’s work.

One of the party’s goals is to institutionalize political reforms to eradicate the patronage-oriented parties which dotted the political landscape. Unlike most political parties with leanings to conservative standards and strong liberal (capitalist) inclination, CDP follows the “mixed economy” principles of a Social Market Economy (SME), the political ideology which ensures the rise of Germany from the ashes of two devastating world wars. The essay I am about to write will have a good portion discussing the subject including the Centrist Democracy’s adherence to a truly functional democracy and the rule of law, the principle of subsidiarity and decentralization and a sustainable political party system to ensure effective governance.

Centrist Democracy hews close to the Christian ideals promoting human dignity, which in the words of Dr. Peter Koeppinger, one of the guiding pillars of Christian Democratic Union (CDU) of Germany, also means self-determination. According to him “all must be free to determine the course of their lives and be able to take care of themselves; it is freedom of personal development, initiative and decision-making”. The Centrist way is by no means the be-all and end-all in the political discourse and offers no quick fix to the nation’s ills. Nevertheless, as we are facing political problems, just so we proffer political solutions. A close friend and colleague, Ben Contreras, a mayoral candidate asked: “If our government is being ran by people from the Centrist Democratic Party (CDP), do you think we will be better off than under PRRD?”. I answered unequivocally, “under the present unitary, centralized system, with an aberrant political and electoral system, unbridled corruption and oligarchic control, uncontrolled political dynasty and patronage, (with) no transparent and accountable government bureaucracy, ignorant citizenry and bribable officials, a categorical NO”. There has to be institutional reforms which will usher a society and government that uplift human dignity, tempered with the rule of law, social justice and genuine people empowerment.

This is a centrist’s challenge to my age, to the youth, the Church, the politicians, the civil society organizations, the government officials, to those who hold the welfare of mendicants, the poor and the “hungry poor” in their hands, the people displaced by war, the landless, the indigenous people whose future are made uncertain by land-grabbing oligarchs and to the people’s protector, the vanguard of the defenseless, an impartial military establishment who will ultimately decide if they follow the rule of law or take matters in their own hands or support a revolutionary government and lay more chaos in the land: take responsibility and help shape the future of this country for our posterity’s sake. Do it the centrist way.

The polity of idiots

Friday, 20 September 2019 17:23 Written by
“Politics is the art of looking for troubles, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies.” – Groucho Marx

WHILE discerning directions, issues and ideas worth writing about, I find, to me at least, nothing indubitably stimulates the subconscious mind as much as “political” matters can. I hope readers tolerate my obvious preference and bias towards politics, a subject which, despite my exiguous political background, training and experience, I hit upon as edifying, utilitarian and challenging, notwithstanding that like religion, my other interest, it is unfairly despised.

Come to think of it, politics is the domain of those who genuinely desire to learn and serve as leaders of the community including, I admit, those who consider public service as the ladder to gaining prestige and popularity and perniciously, financial returns. They are, in Greek Democracy termed as “polites,” persons who are interested in public affairs, who consider citizenship both as a right and a duty. Being polite is “marked by or showing consideration for others and observance of accepted social usage.” Thus, the derivatives of policy, polity and, of course, politics would have its root from “polis” (Greek city-state), referring to the body of systems and standards, laws and regulations appurtenant to governing a society or community. The “polites” of this community receives incentives and gratifications in their social involvement and are thus politicized by their association with like-minded individuals. The motivations are as varied and portentous, as current social concerns could take away focus on crucial political and economic legislative issues.

Consider for example the extant issue on the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Expression Equality bill (Sogie), an anti-discriminatory bill proposed in Congress which seeks to prevent prejudicial acts against some people based on their sexual orientation, gender identity or expression. Some claim there’s really no need to pass them since there are numerous statutes that ensure discrimination is avoided and penalized such as in the 1987 Constitution, the Anti-Sexual Harassment Act of 1995 and the Magna Carta for Women, among others. But the bill, earlier filed in 2000 by the now late senator Miriam Santiago, and refiled even today, seeks an expansive law preventing discrimination against lesbians, gays, transgenders, bisexuals and queer sectors (LGBTQ++) lumping them with differently abled and indigenous groups, protecting their rights on the basis of their Sogie (e.g. right to access public and private restroom services, admission to educational institutions, among others) and providing penalties. Its political undertones are unmistakable, further dividing this benighted country splintering our social consciousness with more disruptive issues than our lawmakers and citizens can handle. I myself, would vote against the bill unless they amend provisions that will unnecessarily incriminate otherwise sane and innocent people and the stiff penalties provided therein that are by themselves discriminatory to the rights of the rest of the populace.

In his treatise on Politics, Aristotle made distinction of the political animal as a “social creature with the power of speech and moral reasoning,” and being naturally sociable, human beings are drawn to associations and activities of society. Such activism, not necessarily engaged in any form of protests, rallies and marches, is any activity “that promotes or directs social, political or economic change designed to improve society.” He went on to say that those who turn their backs on society, declare themselves to be “lawless, tribeless and heartless,” alluding to a bird flying alone which, of all the wild animals, “refused to be domesticated by human beings.” To be alone, concerned only of one’s private affairs, deciding only that which unequivocally benefit one’s self is being birdbrained or idiotic.

Aristotle might have called them political idiots, from the Greek idios which pertains to one’s own self, private, peculiar, self-focused or separate. In Athenian democracy, an “idiotes” was a person not active in – or not capable of being active in – public affairs and engaged only in self-interested pursuits or private matters, never mind the “civic space and the common good.” The words idiopathic (basic) or idiosyncratic (peculiarity) derive from same roots. From this flowed the idea of an idiot as an ignorant or mentally retarded person, and later evolving into our modern sensibility of an idiot as an insult to someone’s intelligence. They typically represent the majority in today’s society who could not care less if the locality swims in flood and garbage, boils in terrible heat due to traffic and elects similarly disposed idiotes who are concerned more on recouping campaign expenditures and perpetuating themselves in power, largely ignoring the general good.

Another issue of idiotic proportion, is the concern about our judicial and penal system particularly on GCTA, which brings home the point on the idiocy of a flawed interpretation of the law. First, our legislators created laws which abolished the death penalty found to be an ineffective deterrent to crimes and settled with reclusion perpetua which guaranteed perpetual punishment minus the killing. I have no argument with that. Then they amended the laws allowing for good behavior (Good Conduct and Time Allowance) and converting them into days and years, which could be deducted from their penalty, to give chance for those repentant ones who did sufficient time, made amends and capable of reuniting with society. All these are commendable acts that show our judicial system is more reformative than punitive. But embedded in the same system are corrupt and corruptible elements which circumvented the law to serve their own private interests, the idiotes of penology.

According to their own convoluted computation, even those who are not allowed by law to qualify and are in fact expressly disqualified by law, the rapists, murderers and plunderers who were consigned to perpetual punishment, can make time with good conduct, deductible from their total stay, regardless if the number of years meted out are meant to ensure they stay for good. Even if they have five life imprisonment, each life being equivalent to 20-40 years, if their behavior inside the correctional facility showed them as reformed, then they qualify. What about the injustice done to the victims and their families, can the crime be reversed too and get the dead to come back from the afterlife because they have made time wherever they are now? It is utterly mind-boggling and thus, exacerbated by a flawed system, interpreted by corruptible prison officials and supported by idiotic politicians, understandably, the polity of idiots howled.

According to Mark Twain, “Never argue with an idiot. They will drag you down to their level and beat you with experience.”

Leadership

Wednesday, 11 September 2019 11:14 Written by
Organizations thrive not really on the number of members as to the quality of their leaders. How many of them have gone to the graves never to see the light of another day because leaders failed them.

Mismanagement, lackluster leadership, lack of imagination and incompetence characterize the demise of otherwise good clubs which started with the correct vision and mission statements. This is the tragedy of our country today. It can't produce anymore "statesmen" in place of politicians. We have failed to hone and replicate honest leaders, committed, dedicated and patriotic enough to see beyond their pettiness and short-term personal interests.

Compassionate leaders are gone. In their place are unfeeling oligarchs who only think of how much they profit exacerbated by the presence of transactional politicians holding power. Integrity is an overused principle which they used anyway because it's still fashionable, as a word. Leaders are not as confident today earning the people's trust so they buy their way in to the portals of power.

Will we ever have committed, disciplined, patriotic leaders with integrity? There are a few scattered among the wolves but lack the courage to make a difference. Maybe there will be heros or martyrs but they need our collective prayers. Perhaps, in God's perfect time.

#Leadership principles

A congressman like no other

Wednesday, 28 November 2018 15:04 Written by

A FAMOUS NFL player and Coach, Vince Lombardi, known as a stickler to basics and for his single-minded determination to win once said, “Leaders aren’t born, they are made. And they are made just like anything else through hard work. That’s the price we have to pay to achieve that goal, or any goal.” Successful people therefore, master the fundamentals then put on hard work to bring about results.

Mastery of the Fundamentals

Purpose-driven leaders are able to inspire and rally their people to achieve dreams which they view as beyond reach. Awareness of one’s capabilities and limitations heightens individuality as an unambiguous self-conviction that enhances transparency and inspires confidence. An indispensable quality is decisiveness, the imprint of exceptional leaders that disavows tentativeness over an undertaking. Everyone lays claim to integrity but only those who practice honesty and humility to accept and rectify one’s mistakes, ever make the grade. Essential to any career pursuit is good education. Getting a diploma is the customary goal that most everyone considers the be-all and end-all. Proficiency however, empowers one to be competitive and achieve the best results. These constitutive qualities and leadership traits would highlight the career of Lawyer and Congressman Rufus B. Rodriguez. Before becoming a politician and even dreaming of a legislator as his life’s purpose, he built his fundamentals not just as a consistent intellectual achiever but with a string of Masters work in the fields of Economics and Law, subjects which in time, gave him an edge in Congress deliberations while serving his constituents as Cagayan de Oro District 2 Representative for 9 straight years. A wunderkind, he further honed his skills through lectures and discourses in various local and international forums and turned to writing in his spare time. A prolific author, his books became requisite academic references which greatly helped students at various levels. Beyond doubt, the pre-eminence of these overlying attributes are what ordain true public servants like him.

Hard Work

Political leaders perform an obligation in their social contract (Hobbes and Locke) with the people. Having reposed in them the authority to hold power, they are expected to deliver on their platforms of government or risk their chances for re-election. Evidently, the electorate in District 2 have expressed satisfaction through the successive terms of office granted to Cong. Rodriguez. He distinguished himself among the City’s past representatives as a man of action. While his peers are content with automatic appropriations and passive acquiescence to congressional proceedings, he introduced landmark bills and followed through until they are enacted as laws. In Congress, bills are thoughtfully deliberated, taking some time to reach even the third reading stage unless one doggedly pursues the agenda otherwise, they are left to the back burners. Hard work then means total immersion in back-breaking legislative work while sourcing out funds to address the most pressing needs of constituents. It’s not a walk in the park.

The Goal

Cagayan de Oro City (CDOC), a regional hub enviably located at the heart of Northern Mindanao and widely promoted and acclaimed as the Gateway to the Land of Promise deserves good leaders. As a first class, highly urbanized city, CDOC is consistently ranked among the top competitive and liveable cities until it dropped recently down the ranks. Still, with resolute leadership and a cooperative citizenry, we firmly believe the City will soon rival Davao and Cebu in terms of economic advancement. The immediate goal would be to earn that elusive Seal of Good Local Governance (SGLG) to boost investor confidence.

The humongous potentials of the City cannot be overstated. Economic prospects for tourism, infrastructure, industry, commerce and real estate and home-grown development initiatives offer a brilliant outlook. This would require however, a concerted synergy between the city’s executives and legislative council with the able support of CDO’s representatives in Congress including the party-list ABAMIN, which would likewise greatly contribute in providing much needed funds for social services, scholarships and livelihood initiatives. The long-term goals can be summarized under three major groupings: First, a world-class infrastructure program that would solve once and for all the city’s perennial problems in traffic, flood, waste management and efficient movement of goods from farm to the city; Second, total mining and log ban and effective reforestation programs to ensure the safety of the city’s residents and to promote tourism; and Third, Health, Education, Employment and Dwelling/Housing (HEED) initiatives that would address problems in peace and order, drug-dependency and criminality. Only a knowledgeable and seasoned legislator could make these aspirations a reality.

With strong fundamentals and experience as a hardworking public servant with clear specific goals, the City would be in good hands with Rufus B. Rodriguez once again as Cagayan de Oro’s representative. He is, undoubtedly, a congressman like no other.

(Renato Gica Tibon is a fellow of the Fellowship of the 300, an elite organization under Centrist Democracy Political Institute  [CDPI] with focus on political technocracy. He  holds both position as political action officer and program manager of the Institute. He is the former regional chairman for Region 10 and vice president for Mindanao of the Centrist Democratic Party of the Philippines [CDP].)

The work of a congressman

Thursday, 15 November 2018 14:43 Written by

A SENIOR living National Artist for Literature, F. Sionil Jose, still writing at 90, recently remarked that “the character of the leaders eventually defined the people and the nation they led.” He laments as we now do the decline of Filipino intellectuals, and if we may add, morals, of leaders in the corridors of power, content with its trappings but neglecting the one work they should prioritize: eradicate poverty. The under-performance of our representatives is indicative of a serious character malaise that afflicts those who are unqualified and lacking the skills yet still coveted the position.

What should our representatives do in Congress? In general, members are tasked to do legislative work that consists primarily of enactment of laws that govern relationships of individuals and the state (civil laws, criminal laws, taxation and political laws etc.) Authorization, appropriation, committee discussions, floor debates, division of the house are part and parcel of the legislative process. All government spending are likewise passed by Congress through budget appropriations which are a complex process in itself. Aside from these, congressmen amend laws, initiate impeachment process, affirm treaties, grant amnesties, confirm appointments or serve as legislative oversight. Congress represents their constituents. The House of Representatives (HOR) where the laws of the land originate is presently home to 297 congressmen that include 59 party-list nominees. It is the Lower Chamber of the Bicameral Congress, the other being the Senate or Upper Chamber. Congress is the legislative or lawmaking branch of government, a co-equal of the Executive and the Judiciary, each having the ability to check on the other to make sure that power is balanced among them. Without these powers, government will be dysfunctional and unable to meet the present-day demands and needs of the people. In the legislature, these needs are expressed through resolutions or bills, which are proposals for new laws and may exemplify the particular aspirations of their citizens coming off as platforms of political parties or through public hearings and sectoral representations.

In the House of Representatives where most bills are introduced, deliberated and passed, the more intrepid and eloquent members take the floor regularly debating their bills and/or interpellating fellow lawmakers. They lobby, hobnob with fellow committee members or even engage in horse trading just to pass their priority bills. The more idealistic ones project themselves as “influencers” with overarching concern over the greater good as much as they are forwarding the interests of their constituents. Yet, despite coaching and technical assistance of their respective congressional staff, many nominal congressmen (afraid of debates or gutless?) choose the tranquil path of relative obscurity breaking their muted deportment only through shouts of “ayes” or “nays” when voting starts. No privilege speeches. No grandstanding. Nothing.

This is where we start to oppugn the performance of our representatives in Congress. Are they always present and participating in the deliberations? Have they introduced bills that concern their districts and were these able to make the lives of their constituents better? Was their presence worth their pay? How many laws were passed with them as authors or co-authors? Have they served in committees? At the very least, we’re entitled to know what their committees have accomplished. Having submitted bills is, of course, different from having enacted them as laws. A review of the achievements of Cagayan de Oro’s representatives would show that since 1984 when then Assemblyman Aquilino Pimentel Jr. won a seat in the now defunct Batasang Pambansa and up until the tenure of Rep. Rufus Rodriguez (District 2, 2007-2016) and Rep. Maxie Rodriguez (Abamin Party list) only a handful of bills were submitted and laws passed. Most of them just wait out for their automatic appropriations, filed non-essential bills and/or join uneventful committee works until their terms were up.

Records in Congress disclose that among the city’s representatives, Congressman Rufus B. Rodriguez made perfect attendance, enabling him to introduce the most number of bills and legislations authored or co-authored, that eventually became laws. In the 14th Congress, he filed 31 House bills, 449 in the 15thand 563 in the 16th Congress. Cong. Rufus helped pass RA 10667 or the Philippine Competition Act in 2015 after languishing in Congress for more than 20 years. The law protects the well-being of consumers and preserves the efficiency of competition in the marketplace to attract investors and enhance job-creation opportunities in the country. He likewise authored RA 9519 converting Mindanao Polytechnic State College into Mindanao University of Science and Technology (Must), the forerunners of what is now the University of Science and Technology of Southern Philippines (USTP) made possible through the passage of RA 10919. A succession of bills and legislations followed which paved the way for improvements in the delivery of basic services and vital infrastructures such as the construction of roads, drainage, pathways, pedestrian overpasses and the now much utilized Cagayan de Oro Coastal Bypass Road which greatly helped facilitate the flow of traffic from Gusa to Opol, Misamis Oriental. He vowed to get more funds for unfinished projects especially for the coastal bypass and JR Borja Extension roads and other essential needs of the city once he gets elected. Clearly, with competence and experience, the work of Congress is cut out for him.

Will Kagayanons experiment instead with newbie representatives who will be groping in the dark while trying to learn the ropes of lawmaking? Or entrust them to someone like Congressman Rufus B. Rodriguez who knows the legislature like the back of his hand having served in the House of Representatives for nine straight years.

Lawmakers are imposed upon us to represent and speak for their constituents. According to Plato, “Wise men speak because they have something to say; fools because they have to say something.” So, how do we call congressmen who don’t utter a word at all?

(Renato Gica Tibon is a fellow of the Fellowship of the 300, an elite organization under Centrist Democracy Political Institute  [CDPI] with focus on political technocracy. He  holds both position as political action officer and program manager of the Institute. He is the former regional chairman for Region 10 and vice president for Mindanao of the Centrist Democratic Party of the Philippines [CDP].)

Why Sara slayed the Speaker

Wednesday, 07 March 2018 10:52 Written by
In politics there’s no such thing as being too big to fail. Ruling coalitions become ruling parties, at which point being bloated often results in a party split, as factions lose out in the jockeying and sense an opportunity to strike out — and strike back — by forming rival coalitions to contest the next election. In regional terms, the Visayas (Cebu in particular, with Pusyon Bisaya) and Mindanao (with the Mindanao Alliance) have their own tradition of regional parties standing up to Marcos’ KBL: even PDP-Laban traces its origins to that era. Regional barons don’t take well to being bossed around, and if a boss gets too big for his britches, a revolt is inevitable. This is why everyone seems to be expecting Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez to fall, the beneficiary of his toppling being Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, but the cause being widely attributed to Davao Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio’s sharp-tongued confrontation with him.

The clash between the mayor of Davao and the representative from the first district of Davao del Norte has been framed as a battle royale between the Speaker’s machinery and everyone else, under the umbrella of the President’s daughter. The Speaker’s take-no-prisoners approach most famously took on the President’s former patron, Antonio Floirendo Jr., with the President weighing in on the Speaker’s side after Floirendo supposedly was too uppity in response to the President’s efforts to smooth things over. But if it was necessary to teach Floirendo a lesson, it seems the time has come to teach Alvarez one, too, not least because a Floirendo-led effort to defeat the Speaker in 2019 is widely expected to succeed. But it is bigger than that as the presence of Sen. JV Ejercito at the launching of Duterte-Carpio’s regional party demonstrated. The Estrada home turf of San Juan has been rocked by a confrontation between the Zamoras and Mayor Guia Gomez, yet PDP-Laban took in the Zamoras despite JV Ejercito’s support for the President. What sort of treatment is that? And so, for every ally denied the blessings of the ruling party, there now glitters the opportunity to be associated with Hugpong ng Pagbabago.

In the meantime, aside from publicly being humiliated by Duterte-Carpio, the Speaker came under attack within his own party from members unhappy with his recruitment methods and for supposedly giving the cold shoulder to party veterans. Creating the impression of a civil war within a party is a tried-and-tested method for taking down party bigwigs a peg or two, and what matters most here is the hands-off announcement from the Palace when it comes to party matters. Those with sensitive political antennae will take it as the absence of a ringing endorsement for the Speaker, at a time when he has been accused by no less than the President’s fiercely outspoken daughter for being disloyal and disruptive.

PDP-Laban and Hugpong ng Pagbabago trying to outdo each other in being more “Dutertista” than the other only increases the chances of keeping the overall ruling coalition intact, and tying all factions to the Palace’s apron strings. It’s also a pointed reminder to the Speaker, even if he survives, not to be too piggish in the company of piglets. It does not do well for a runt to act too convinced that he’s an undefeatable wild boar. While he leads a big chunk of last-term congressmen, he has been too pushy with his no-election-in-2019 agenda, leaving no room for those looking forward to replacing last-termers, and bruising the feelings of so many players — and the public, too, which otherwise might give the President’s Charter change scheme the benefit of the doubt if only it weren’t so obviously stacking the odds in favor of people like Alvarez. Now the Speaker’s scheme is running out of steam, just when the President’s collection of consultative commission mummies are showing signs of life.

Still, all the factions could reunite by the State of the Nation Address in July, where the President could make a pitch for a plebiscite on a new constitution by October — the deadline for filing candidacies for the 2019 midterms. It will be the
balancing act of a lifetime.

Federalism is not heaven

Wednesday, 07 March 2018 10:42 Written by

I’m told that in public gatherings assembled by the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and local government units, audiences are practically being promised heaven under a federal form of government, with hardly any serious effort to explain how or why. In a firsthand account from one who was in one such forum, the speaker asked the audience: “How many meals do you eat in a day?” Hearing answers saying they only have one or two, the speaker declared, “Once we have a federal form of government, all of you will be able to eat three meals a day or more!” It’s a real stretch, but certainly an effective way to win support for federalism among the uninformed, undiscriminating and uneducated among us.

Sad to say, it’s quite likely that there are enough out there for whom that reasoning is enough, and who can swing the referendum vote for federalism if and when we get to that point. Like it or not, those who would care to study the pros and cons of the federalism debate are grossly outnumbered by those who wouldn’t. It is thus incumbent on those who would to help those who wouldn’t, so the latter may know, think about, and evaluate the issues enough to make a reasoned judgment, whichever way one eventually goes. The important thing is that people are able to make an informed choice on something with such a profound effect on our nation’s future.

Sadly, the government cannot be relied upon to play this important role, as it’s already in the mode of campaigning for federalism, rather than informing the public fully and objectively regarding both sides of the debate. Acting Interior Secretary Eduardo Año has been quoted as saying, “The DILG through the Center for Federalism and Constitutional Reform … [will] lead the nationwide campaign to inform and educate the public about the merits of federalism.” Nothing about demerits or options? The DILG website describes its role as “the focal organization for field level machinery for the awareness, acceptance, conversion and action of qualified voters to support a new constitution and a federal system of government.” One hopes that the Commission on Higher Education, which will reportedly mobilize its network of state colleges and universities nationwide, properly sees its job as to inform and consult, rather than to campaign for a foregone conclusion.

Many issues must indeed be considered for a reasoned judgment on a matter wherein the devil lies in the details. I recently listened to detailed presentations on institutional and fiscal issues on federalism by two scholarly experts (one from the University of the Philippines, and one from the government think tank Philippine Institute for Development Studies or PIDS). They explained important points, two of which I share below, which merit much wider exposure as Filipinos decide whether or not to support a shift from our current unitary system to a federal one.
The first point is that federalism does not equate to greater decentralization. There are federalized governments that are less decentralized than unitary ones, and prime examples lie right next to us. Malaysia is described to have a centralized federal system where the constituent states play relatively limited roles in relation to the center. On the other hand, Indonesia has achieved highly decentralized governance under its unitary presidential system. Federal systems range from highly centralized (as in Venezuela) to highly decentralized (United States), just as unitary systems range from highly centralized (Singapore) to highly decentralized (Norway). If stronger decentralization is the goal, federalism need not be the answer.

The second point concerns the huge incremental cost that a shift to a federal system will entail, just by the sheer number of new legislators, officials and staff it will create. PIDS puts the additional cost in the range of P44-72
billion, not even counting changes in the judiciary. New legislators alone, let alone their staff, will number anywhere between 821 and 2,380, based on existing federalism proposals.

Won’t we simply be creating a government by politicians, of politicians, and for politicians? I shudder at the thought.