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Monday, January 16, 2017

Freedom, federalism and Duterte

FROM A DISTANCE By Carmen N. Pedrosa (The Philippine Star) |
Some recent converts to social media for Duterte have asked me – but where can we join? Is there an organization for that? There are, but these are not strictly organizations, but groups usually friends who form their own advocacy. It is more like a movement that is slowly but surely gaining ground. Federalism, Duterte and freedom are tightly woven into each other. Without Duterte there will be no federalism and without federalism, no freedom. Why is that?
Constitutional reformists have been working for federalism as far back as I can remember. But it lay dormant, defeated by those who do not want change. Until Duterte came to the scene and took the issue in the forefront as his battlecry.
To me, federalism appeared in the Philippines in 2005 when a group of Filipino politicians were invited to the Forum of Federations in Brussels, Belgium. I was one of them because I had written about it in several columns and why we should work for it.
But even then, to me, it was more about asking questions rather than giving answers.
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I did not know then that there are more than 25 countries in the world today that have federal systems of government. That means more than 40 percent of the world are governed by a federal system in one form or another. Together they represent 40 percent of the world’s population. These include some of the largest and most complex democracies – India, the USA, Brazil, Germany, Mexico, Switzerland and Canada. But of these countries the most successful was Switzerland.
The federal system of government was all-inclusive. If a citizen had a complaint or suggestion, and if he had enough followers he posts it in the canton’s citizens’ board. A date is set for elections to vote on the complaint or issue. All voters are known to everybody. It is a real people’s initiative where the concept is understood and well-organized. (Not the failed signature gatherings of the 1987 Constitution that is being resuscitated again to thwart real change.)
Opinion (Article MRec), pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: 1
Federalism is a concept and a system of government. It is a concept first before it is a system of government.

It poses problems when it is defined first as a system of government because differences arise. The debate deteriorates into ethnic, political or religious arguments. Many will tell you it is not possible. Precisely because of these differences.
And yet, historically, most federations have come together as separate entities. A good example are the 13 colonies in North America or the 26 cantons of Switzerland that came together to form federal government. A short definition of federalism as a system means only that“retaining some powers to themselves, but pooling others with the central government.”
It would be the solution to Muslim Mindanao and Christian Luzon that came about because of Western colonization. For that reason alone, it is worthwhile that we support the change embraced by Duterte and his followers.
Federalism is seen as the central ethos of an emerging civilization that recognizes both national and sub-national identities and promotes regional and global frameworks for better understanding, coordination and cooperation. “In this sense, the philosophy of federation is transcending much beyond the system of governance to a way of life and civilization in the new millennium.
The federalists have formed a Forum of Federations. But that is what it is – a forum with each country contributing to the pool of knowledge. It has elected officials, civil servants and scholars. It was started by the Government of Canada in 1999, and currently has eight other partner governments: Australia, Brazil, Ethiopia, Germany, India, Mexico, Nigeria and Switzerland. The Forum builds to make it possible for experienced federalists to share their knowledge and experience with those who have just become members.
Brazil hosted the sixth conference in 2013. I do not know if the Philippines was invited to that conference. But I do know that with Rody Duterte, as president and advocating the federal system of government, we should be more active in the forum.
In discussions among small local groups the main issue is about the IRA (the internal revenue allotment) the division between the national treasury and the community is 60-40 with 60 going to the national government. When we went around the Philippines talking to local authorities, they said that by the time the IRA is received, only 20 percent is left to spend for the local community.
With this kind of division, it is understandable why the local authorities are unable to support themselves. The unjust division is also one of the reasons why Muslims would rather secede. So not surprisingly federalism is the best antidote to secession feared by most Filipinos who do not understand the system.
I have heard it said that Rodrigo Duterte is determined to change the Constitution to structure our politics and government to parliamentary government.
In his speech after being proclaimed the standard-bearer of PDP-Laban political party, Duterte said he has no ambition to run for president, but decided to do so when his friends urged him to run and push for federalism.
His politics lends itself to the work more so because he is from Mindanao. The perspective will be how to work for the Philippines to stay as one country with smaller communities especially in Mindanao that do not have political clout. These local governments should have the political clout to govern their communities. At the moment the big stumbling block in the governance of these communities is the power to tax and budget their income for the community’s needs. I think that is the reason why former President Fidel V. Ramos said, “It is time we had a President from Mindanao.”
From the Correct Movement who has recently teamed up with BayanKo for this advocacy this is their take. “Of all the most important systemic and fundamental constitutional reforms that must be implemented in order to improve the Philippines, Federalism is the reform that has the most solid support among most ordinary Filipinos. Particularly in the Visayas-Mindanao and even in the Solid North, Bicol, and Muslim Mindanao regions.”
It was also in these areas that overwhelmingly voted for Duterte.

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