Federalism Cha-cha going nowhere? Cebu Daily News - INQUIRER.net

Federalism Cha-cha going nowhere? Featured

“MORE Pinoys oppose Cha-cha, Pulse Asia” went PDI’s screaming headline. “Senators on Monday warned the administration against forcing the amendment of the Constitution and federalism on the nation after the latest Pulse Asia poll showed that 67 percent of Filipinos opposed President Rodrigo Duterte’s priority political enterprise.”

This is fake news. But, so what? Then we will just have to work harder to add to the 33 to 48 percent of Filipinos who already approve of Charter change. But in the end, they will have to pass judgment on the changes to the Constitution through a plebiscite, anyway. And this is the constitutionally mandated democratic process, no more, no less.

But if the Senate refuses to participate in the process using the criminally concocted Pulse Asia figures as an excuse (the real figures: 48 percent in favor, 37 percent against, 15 percent don’t know), then they are dangerously playing with fire. But this time, they may contend not just with the wrath of the timid voters, but a deadlier foe — we the frustrated passionate advocates who have been pushing for these changes for so long, led by a leader who by the way is a minority president himself, voted in by only 16 million voters out of a population of 110 million. Using the same logic, DU30 has only the acceptance of 15 percent of the population of the Philippines. But he is the legitimate president.

We can play along with numbers until hell freezes over, but this point is irrelevant. All surveys are mere snapshots of a moment. These are not immutable numbers beating the federalists to capitulation. This will even motivate us more. But if the 23 senators, refuse to perform their mandate, then they will provoke us to weaponize our motives. And God help us all. This is not a threat; this is a promise!
The Senate, their puppeteers among the oligarchy and the traditional political dynasts have always closed ranks when the status quo is threatened. And there is no greater menace that disturbs their equanimity than revising their elitist 1987 Cory Constitution.
While dismantling the communication and electrical power monopolies then President Ramos initiated PIRMA in 1997 and aroused the fury of Cory, who summoned her old sentimental ally, Cardinal Sin and the Catholic hierarchy. The Protestant Ramos never had a chance. There were other attempts, ERAP’s Concord in 1999 (he was cut down by impeachment and incarcerated); and GMA’s shift to federal parliamentary and a liberalized economy proposed by her 2005 ConCom, did not pass muster and derailed too by the Senate.

These past presidents’ motives were suspect, attributing to them a desire to extend their presidential terms; the same tactics are being used now from that old familiar playbook. But the accusations can’t gain traction as only the Deegong was transparent on his promise to shift the country’s system to federalism through the revision of the 1987 Constitution, announcing it from the get-go of his candidacy.

But the ugly hydra heads of the political dynasties, the oligarchy and the Catholic hierarchy have emerged openly, gathering their forces to once again thwart a legitimate act of the populace.

But what is this unholy triumvirate really protecting? It is the status quo, the unitary-presidential system. This is the type of government that has existed in the Philippines for a century from the time the Americans imposed on us their concept of republicanism and democracy.

The system’s main feature is a political structure where power and authority are concentrated in the national central government (the Center). The regional and local government units (LGUs) are subordinate and exercise only such powers allowed to them by the Center. There is a massive transfer of resources to the Center and the decision as to their uses and applications. Critical revenues directed centrally and collected locally are invariably expensed from the top; detached from the actual needs below. Planning and programs for the communities are characterized by a top-to-bottom approach divorced from the realities on the ground; and impairing gravely the decision-making process.

This subservience of the LGUs to the Center, stifles local initiative and resourcefulness, perpetuates dependency and reinforces traditional political patronage relationship and stunts local development. This explains the proliferation of political dynasties permeating 70 percent to 80 percent of Congress and the LGUs. Empirical evidence shows the poorest provinces are controlled by political dynasties some of which have existed for generations.

Complimentary to the unitary system is the presidential type of government with three distinctive branches. In theory, the executive power is vested in the president who is the head of government and the state; legislative powers is entrusted to a bicameral Congress consisting of the Senate and the House of Representatives; and judicial power is conferred on a Supreme Court and the lower courts created by law. But in practice, our present system is characterized by intermittent gridlock between and among the two houses of Congress and the presidency, especially when these elected leaders all come from different political parties.

As head of the executive branch, the universally elected president to whom vast powers are vested reigns supreme. But the path to the presidency is fraught with distortions to the democratic process. The biggest one is the “ingrained corruption” in the very expensive nationwide elections where the presidential candidate must depend on a network of local governments and personally oriented, not ideologically directed political parties. The presidential candidate must trade the future largesse of his office for the support of these political parties and LGU executives. And the billions needed to fund this endeavor open an aperture for the moneyed few and the oligarchy to surreptitiously invest in a presidential run. When successful, they exact their pounds of flesh to recoup their expenses through regulatory capture and other modes of corruption.

All these are enshrined in the 1987 Cory Constitution. And this is what we, a motley alliance of parliamentary federalists, hybrid-presidential parliamentarians, liberal economists, social market economists — all agents of change — must dismantle. And we must work together, now!000
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