Charter change may not at all necessary be bad for us, Filipinos. Based on documentaries I’ve watched and educational discussions I’ve attended, I’ve realized that the adoption of Federal system in the Philippines may in fact be a tool to advance the country’s economy.
The primary feature of the federal system of the government as defined in the constitution is the distribution of powers between central or national authority, the federal government, and regional governments or states with their local governments. Each state in a federal system creates its own constitution where it can provide its own executive, legislative and judicial structure.
In most federal systems, a large part of political action is happening in the state and local levels. But in spite of having their own set of laws, legislature, courts, and administrative agencies, the states would still have to conform to the fundamental law of the land which is the federal constitution.
Now how then are federal states created? According to Dr. Clarita Claros, a professor in Political Science in UP Diliman, there are several criteria for how you are going to create a state. One is they must of course be near each other. You cannot have pockets of other states located in one state, so geographical contiguity is important. Make sure that you follow the contour of the landforms otherwise you will have problems later on how to divide the river between the states and the like. Two, you don’t divide ethnic communities so you’ll have members of the families suddenly belonging to two different federal states. And finally and the most important, you make sure that they are economically viable. Why? It is because you find federal systems are more successful if the federal states are economically viable.
Now let’s talk further on the distribution of powers in a federal system. The national government may be responsible for national defense, foreign affairs, currency, customs, federal budget and federal taxes, immigration, citizenship and national territory. The federal states’ powers and functions may include local government structure and functions, state budget and state taxes, education, law and order, regional planning, public works, environmental and natural resources.
To fulfill their duties, the federal government, the state governments and the local governments will have the authority to raise their own revenues. The federal constitution may provide the framework for a system of taxation.
Today, there are 25 countries all over the world that have adopted the federal system of government including the world’s police, the Americas.
Throughout its history, the Philippines have always followed the unitary structure.
To Atty Eduardo Machura, Chairman, Arellano Law Foundation, in one way, the unitary structure may not be efficient because everything proceeds from a very powerful, centralized national government. Almost everybody needs to come to Manila and beg for resources that come from the national government. Many people referred Manila as Imperial Manila because it’s where the national government seats. A mayor who needs to cement a 500 meter will have to come to Manila to complete a very simple project.
From this, we can see that there is an imbalance in terms of economic development and poverty alleviation since there is a tendency that the places far from the national government will be left behind.
In order to address some of these problems, the government and other sectors are looking into various options that the country may undertake. And one of these is changing the structure of government from unitary to federal.
And the debate on this topic continues. Yes, the federal system is good and may be effective for the Philippines; but what’s so strange are the various sorts of intention our government has in the back of their minds so that the issue here may no longer focus on the type of government system for the Philippines, rather on how far the intentions of these public officials go.