Federalism and human dignity 50 Shades of Federalism

Federalism and human dignity Featured

“Sovereignty resides in the people and all government authority emanates from them.” -Article II, Sec. 1, 1987 Philippine Constitution

SINCE its inception as a political party, the Centrist Democratic Party of the Philippines (CDP) has always been at the forefront of the continuing discourse on federalism.

As one of the active members, and an officer of the organization, I believe that the ongoing dialogues sustained by the support and initiatives of staunch advocates in Mindanao communities with the underpinnings of an enlightened citizenry are on the right tract and necessary. Any discussion, agreement or proposal about federalism that does not involve people, whose sovereign will may not be reflected in it, and whose imprints may be essential for its fruition, is bound to fail. This is why the Centrist position has always been anchored on its advocacy to promote and enhance human dignity as a core value in the design of the political, economic and social order.

Self-determination starts with the individual imbued with freedom and sense of justice embracing a set of doctrines or pillars which support this advocacy. These pillars constitute the ideals of Centrist Democracy in the development of genuine autonomy, the path that leads towards Federalism.

Foremost among these pillars is adherence to a functioning democracy and the rule of law. The leaders “govern upon the sole and intelligent acquiescence of those who voted them to power.” This bestowal of authority carries with it a covenant and a caveat that they are to be servants of the law and not above it. Democracy is not so much as the voice of the people as the rule of law that governs them.

Second principle refers to a social market economy where an educated and well-informed populace engage themselves in a free market system which allows for healthy competition and prevent the proliferation of cartels, oligopolies and monopolies; a market economy with active and vibrant participation of the citizenry in the political life of the community involving a “healthy respect for rules and regulations such as paying the right taxes, recognizing the rights of labor, protection of the environment”; and the role of a strong state to “establish, maintain and protect the competitive environment and ensure a level playing field.”

Third is subsidiarity, the principle which dictates that the power for making decisions should rest on the lowest level structure so that people may decide for themselves on matters that affect them. “Self-determination and being in control of their lives are the features of reverence for human dignity.” What we have now is a highly centralized system of government which “concentrates too much power in the Executive Department” headed by the President, making it ineffective in addressing varying concerns of local government units. Ideally, the latter must be given more control and leeway for self-administration promoting good governance, hallmarks that contribute towards the establishment of autonomous regions, an essential step that leads to a federal set-up.

Fourth is the institutionalization of political parties to make them more responsive and accountable not only to members but to their constituents. There is no mention in the statutes that define the system within which political parties can truly evolve. We need to enact laws prohibiting “turncoatism”, a phenomenon where elected members jump from one party to the other to ensure political survival; laws that regulate campaign spending and introduce legislation to grant subsidy to political parties for campaign and political education purposes.

These principles are embedded in a document collectively called the “Centrist proposals” which contained our proposed revisions to the 1987 Constitution. I was privileged to be a part of the process of preparation, edition and in making the document conform to the desires of our people, publishing a book titled “The Constitution of the Federal Republic of the Philippines,” spearheaded by CDPI President Lito Monico C. Lorenzana with the support of some well-meaning citizens who believe its time has come. While revising the 1987 Constitution, we recommended the aforementioned political party reforms, the enactment of a law banning political dynasties which, if still unpassed, should be written in the revised Constitution as self-executory, the passage of a real, all-encompassing Freedom of Information Act to “enforce transparency in all transactions in government” and electoral reforms that would ensure the democratic will of the people are freely expressed.

In the federal republic that we envisioned, we proposed a timeline with the establishment of a parliamentary form of government to replace the present presidential system and all its attendant ills and inadequacies. Thereafter, in several stages which are now overtaken by events, we proposed the creation of autonomous territories which will comprise the Federal Republic. This proposed constitution had been submitted to the outgoing Congress and the Office of the President that only took a cursory interest on it. Subsequently, PRRD commissioned a body composed of eminent Federalists, constitutionalists and legal luminaries who later submitted a presidential-federal version. With several more proposals coming from several groups promoting federalism and the 17th Congress version concocted by the former President GMA, now Speaker of the House, muddling the seemingly irreconcilable issues advanced by all these parties, the Federalism everyone is talking about may again take the back burner.

There’s a glimmer of hope though when the 18th Congress opens with Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, the CDP president and a true-blue proponent of the federal system, taking the floor to advocate for the latter, in a form which could be acceptable to all especially to his fellow lawmakers who are sympathetic to the President’s advocacies.

Federalism may be a complex process but the discussions should never cease. We need a massive political education around the country with the help of like-minded political parties and individuals, “setting aside differences and marching in a single rhythm,” promoting not merely a system but one that empowers people and enhances human dignity.000
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