HOODWINKING THE PEOPLE…The ConCom was constituted to draft a constitution for a federal Philippines. That is exactly what we did. But there seems to be a concerted, well-oiled, perhaps even richly financed endeavor to derail it.
• Federalism is what we propose as a solution to the plurality of ethnic and cultural groups in the Philippines, long aspiring for autonomy, the real exercise of self-determination and of self-governance, while keeping the ONE REPUBLIC intact.
What do its opponents have as an alternative that is structural, permanent and long-lasting?
• Federalism is what we propose as a means of empowering the regions and allowing them to flourish by creatively, studiously and diligently applying the resources both human and material of their region to its own development.
How has the present unitary form of government, no matter the decentralization of the Local Government Code been sufficiently attentive, responsive and relevant?
• Federalism is what we propose as a solution to the inefficiency and unresponsiveness of a Manila-based government that is often oblivious to the problems and challenges of the provinces, and incapable of responding to exigencies with promptitude.
What do its opponents offer as an alternative? We have changed governments and officials and personnel many times over. Is it not clear that the problem is structural? And if the problem is structural, should not a structural solution be set in place?
The pseudo-argument has been popularized: HINDI YUNG SISTEMA, YUNG NAGPAPATAKBO NG SISTEMA ANG PROBLEMA.
This is wrong on at least two major counts: We have changed the people running the system many times over: from Marcos, to Cory, to Ramos, to Erap to GMA, to PNoy and to Digong. Each promised to rid the government of inefficiency and corruption. None delivered satisfactorily on these promises. In fact the very administration that prided itself in bringing about a regime of righteousness has turned out to be one riddled with corruption but as successful in concealing wrongdoing.
The point is that human conduct IS ALSO CONDITIONED BY STRUCTURES. To say that it is enough to have good people to make good government is to speak with unpardonable ignorance. Structures orientate human conduct.
And that is what federalism addresses—the structure. So what is the alternative of its opponents?
• Opponents of federalism point to what they calculate are added costs. That may well be true, there will be added costs, as there are added costs when you want anything improved. In our fallen world, the love of money can be the root of so much evil, but money, it is sadly true, is also what gets things going. Furthermore, why do they not point to the fact that when you drastically decrease the need for a fat bureaucracy on the national (federal) level, you transfer some of the resources you need on that level to be able to fund and finance the resources of the region?
How do the opponents of federalism propose to bring about necessary change FREE OF CHARGE? How much do we presently spend on undersecretaries, assistant secretaries and a coterie of consultants, technical advisers and retainers in virtually every department of the national government to run an inefficient, unresponsive system?
MORE IMPORTANTLY, why has NO FEDERAL COUNTRY ever regretted its federal configuration? I have yet to hear of a country that is federal wanting to re-establish a unitary state!
It is truly despicable when a proposal that holds real promise is interdicted by less than honorable and intelligent reasons. These include governors who oppose federalism because they do not want their sway over their provinces that they take to be their fiefdoms. These include senators who hate to see the composition of their chamber altered—because many of them win as senators only because they may have the national plurality of votes but miserably unable to muster the support of their constituencies. This will include the bootlickers and sycophants of the political opposition who oppose not because they have anything more practicable and more helpful to propose but because they must always oppose.
We at the ConCom have done what we were tasked to do. We have written as best a draft charter as our best lights have allowed us to. If the President believes that federalism is good for the country—as he has often announced—then he must rally his allies and marshall the powers of the Executive Branch to convince the people about it. He must silence the members of his official family who do not share his position and, if necessary, send them packing. The government cannot be credible unless it speaks with one voice, not in some confusing falsetto. But if obstructionists succeed in stymying our efforts, that will not be our loss, but the nation’s, and that would really be sad and yes, infuriating.