The federalization process: The framework/roadmap

The federalization process: The framework/roadmap Featured

Part 4 of a series
THE following is lifted almost verbatim from an earlier column that I wrote, “How do we change from unitary to federal” (The Manila Times, August 25, 2017). This was also presented to the Malacañang press corps in September 2017, and the Centrist proposal draft constitution has been presented individually to the members of the two houses of Congress. (This can be downloaded from our website

In the Centrist proposal, the process of converting the Philippines to a federal republic comes immediately after the Philippine parliament is put in place (refer to “Part 3: Presidential to parliamentary – the preconditions (The Manila Times, August 8, 2018).

“Federalism is a multi-step process that must be clearly written in the constitution. We can’t just legislate federalism or just write in the constitution that we are a de facto federal republic tomorrow. What we can write in the new constitution when we revise the 1987 Cory Constitution is “the framework,” the step-by step process, the roadmap, as it were, to attaining the Philippine Federal Republic, beyond the term of President Duterte and even in the next decade or so. So, even with DU30, the main sponsor gone from the political scene, we will have planted today the seeds of our Federal Republic.”

The Centrist proposal’s “out of the box” version of a federal state has its roots on the concept of autonomy, subsidiarity and self-determination.

In our version, we allow the provinces and highly urbanized component cities to evolve first to an autonomous territory with the decision to group themselves coming from the grassroots below. Self-determination is central to this decision. Although the Philippines may eventually end up with from 5-12 federal states, parliament can’t impose on the current provinces and cities. They are merely given the general guidelines for such formation based on criteria to be embedded in the revised constitution, such as common culture, language, custom, contiguous areas and economic viability. Therefore, it is necessary that these contiguous provinces/cities need to negotiate with each other.

In other words, the citizens within a contiguous territory, with common language and culture must decide in a referendum that they become completely autonomous. Petitions are passed by their local legislative assemblies (sanggunian).

Once a referendum is passed, within a year, parliament must enact an organic law defining the autonomous territory’s land area, powers, obligations and sources of revenues (taxes). The autonomous territory then writes its own constitution to be approved in a plebiscite by its own people. If 3/5 (60 percent) of the provinces and component cities of the Philippines become autonomous territories, then the Federal Republic of the Philippines is created.

1st stage: Creation of autonomous territories
The first stage has already begun and will end in a plebiscite in May 2019 to coincide with the midterm elections. Therefore, we elect all officials still under the old 1987 Constitution. Or it can be written in the transitory provisions of the revised constitution that these officials, elected under the 1987 constitution, will hold office only until the first parliamentary elections on May 2020 under the new federal Constitution or the members of the two houses of Congress become automatic members of a unicameral parliament by May 2020. The 12 months between May 2019 to May 2020 should be used in preparation towards the transition to a parliamentary-federal system.

2nd stage: May 2020-2025
Upon the establishment of the unicameral parliament, it may create a federalization commission to oversee the negotiations and allow the evolution of the provinces and highly urbanized cities from what they are today into autonomous territories (using as template the BOL-BAR). The local government units (LGUs) shall negotiate with one another the establishment of their federal state based on their geographical location, population, history, language and cultural similarities, considerations of their natural resources and wealth, and the selection of the seat of the state capital.

The result of these negotiations shall be incorporated in detail and enacted in an organic law by parliament within a year of a petition to be subsequently approved by the constituents of the newly formed autonomous territory in a referendum.

Some of the provinces and cities will be ahead of the pack and some will be laggards, therefore the development of a federal republic will not be uniform. All these need time and with guidance from parliament.

The incumbent President DU30, now in a parliamentary form of government, shall continue his dual presidential role as head of state and head of government (2020-2022) leading and presiding over the new unicameral parliament.

3rd stage: May of 2022
By May 2022, President DU30 steps down as head of state, as is clearly his intention, and a new president is elected by the parliament to serve the remaining term of President DU30; or ends his term by 2025. (This can be provided for in the transitory provisions of the new constitution, but a controversial one that contravenes his wishes.)

4th stage: May of 2025-2030
The second regular parliamentary election under the new constitution is held by 2025 with a five-year term to 2030. We then have a new prime minister and a new president.

It is our contention that if 3/5 (60 percent) of the provinces and highly urbanized cities become autonomous territories with organic acts, then the Federal Republic of the Philippines is created. By our reckoning this will happen in 2028.

Looking into the theoretical aspect of federalism and the models of successful federal governments in the world, the principles of self-determination, solidarity, autonomy, subsidiarity, and cooperation between the national and the federal states and among the states themselves are essential in sustaining a Federal Republic.

As I have often expounded: “This roadmap to federalism is thus designed to mitigate the shock to the body politic arising from the purging of traditional political practices through the immediate passage of reform legislation now pending in Congress. Furthermore, the critical process of transition to a parliamentary-federal republic has to be in place in the revised constitution so the assurance of its continuity is safeguarded by the constitution itself even beyond the term of the current president. To reiterate, the Centrist roadmap simply adapts to the exigencies of real change or “tunay na pagbabago,” the rallying slogan of the Deegong, accelerating change where feasible without unnecessarily upsetting institutions and government services.”

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