Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Federalism will not solve corruption | Inquirer Opinion

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He is yet to give details on the federal form of government that he wishes for the Philippines. However, former senator Aquilino Pimentel Jr., who is the founding father of Duterte’s party, PDP-Laban, espouses a federal government that will have 11 federal states—four in Luzon, four in the Visayas and three in Mindanao.

Under the Pimentel proposal, the four federal states in Luzon will be Northern Luzon, Central Luzon, Southern Tagalog and the Bicol area; the federal states in the Visayas will be Eastern Visayas, Central Visayas, Western Visayas, and the provinces of Romblon and Palawan; and Mindanao will be composed of the federal states of Northern Mindanao, Southern Mindanao, and a separate state for the Bangsamoro.

In most foreign countries with a federal system, the federal government wields powers over foreign affairs and national defense.

Pimentel proposes that a Philippine federal government should additionally retain control over the justice system and the public school system. The rest of governmental powers will be delegated to the autonomous state governments.

It must be pointed out that it is not the nature of a system of government that causes it to fail. It is the people who operate the system of government that will make it fail, or succeed. By merely changing the system of government—without changing the culture of the people who run the government—the same people who cause the failure of the unitary system will make the new federal system fail as well.

As many as 70 percent of Filipino politicians are connected to dynasties who have ruled the towns and provinces for generations. With the powers that these dynasties hold under the present unitary form of government, they have been able to perpetuate themselves in power and amass vast wealth through corruption. How much more influence and wealth will these dynasties monopolize if more powers from the national government are devolved and handed over to their control?

Let us grant for the sake of argument that federalism will work for a Davao City ruled by a Mayor Rodrigo Duterte. But what guarantee do we have when it comes to the politicians who treat the rest of our 145 cities, 1,489 towns, and 81 provinces as though these were their fiefdoms?

A shift to federalism as a formula to address the problem of poverty is a remedy that calls for the reallocation of powers among politicians. Given the prevailing culture of corruption among these politicians, however, federalism will not yield positive results for the country at this time.

What we need at this time is to reallocate more powers to the people, for them to fight the abuse of power of the politicians. We need to arm citizens with a freedom of information law to enable them to easily expose corruption, which is the bigger cause of poverty compared to the perceived dysfunctional nature of the unitary form of government. We need an antidynasty law under which a stint in public office is a public service and not a family business, as many political dynasties have made it. We need an antidynasty law to level the playing field and give well-meaning citizens a chance at public service, instead of allowing government positions to be the birthright of de facto royal dynasties.

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