Haggling Over Federalism

A Proposal Lacking A Consensus
By Manuel L. Quezon III

Philippine Daily Inquirer

Even as the House is poised to begin discussions with the Senate on Sen. Aquilino Pimentel's federalism proposal, the public has a lot of catching up to do, beginning with getting its hands on the actual text of the Senate's resolution and then dissecting it. The public needs to do this, because once the House starts haggling with the Senate over federalism, the public could end up squeezed out of the discussion...

In theory, I'm keenly interested in federalism, and in principle, I'm supportive of it; but my approach is based on the premise that we should retain a bicameral legislature and the presidential system. This is not a basic approach shared by other proponents; there are even proponents of federalism who think it would essentially abolish a national government, when federalism might actually strengthen some national powers while freeing up states to enjoy wider powers in certain areas.

Pimentel's proposal will create federal states without having consulted the provinces on whether they're comfortable with the composition of federal states and the designated state capitals (e.g., for the State of Northern Luzon, composed of Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, La Union, Pangasinan, Batanes, Cagayan, Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya, Quirino, Abra, Apayao, Benguet, Ifugao, Kalinga and Mountain Province, with Tuguegarao City as the state capital; the Cordilleras, for one, won't be happy about this; or for the State of Central Visayas, with Masbate, Negros Oriental, Cebu, Bohol and Siquijor, Toledo City will be the state capital and Boholanos won't be happy about this and might bring up the question of "Cebuano imperialism.") The location of Congress in Tagbilaran City, while the Executive branch remains in Metro Manila, is lunacy (there's a reason all other federal capitals have their institutions in one place; it makes more-but not much more-sense to move the Federal capital to the Visayas or Mindanao)...

It would be unfair to say that Pimentel's proposals are carved in stone; they are exactly what they purport to be: proposals. Subject to discussion, and negotiation. But these are proposals of such ambition that they deserve the fullest public participation in their eventual outcome.

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