Manila is not the Philippines

HOTSPOT - Mocha Uson - The Philippine Star

Recently, I was granted the opportunity once again to visit Marawi, and it coincidentally fell on the same day of Sen. Manny Pacquiao’s boxing match held in Malaysia. There were likewise kindhearted people who invited me to see the match, but since the visit to Marawi was already scheduled ahead of time, my office opted to push through with this task. I’ve been to Marawi five times and my first visit was with the President, during the height of the war against the Maute group. I’ve witnessed personally the plight of Marawi – the destroyed buildings and the damaged streets pale in comparison to what the people have suffered, as they seemed to have fallen in despair.

The President was not with me during my most recent visit to Marawi, and this gave me the opportunity to go around and have an up close and personal encounter with the people. And even if it was only for a few days, I felt a rather meaningful visit. It was because I met the hearts of our Maranao brothers and sisters.

Whenever we speak about Marawi, many of us think that it is merely a small but violent place. However, it is big and used to be an industrious city before falling victim to a meaningless war. I’ve already said before that sometimes we, who are from Manila or those who grew up in Manila, feel that the Philippines is composed only of Manila. But Manila is a just a small chunk compared to the rest of the Philippines. Hence, what happened to Marawi is not only due to the carelessness of the local government, but also of the national government. The act of terrorism that haunted Marawi was a result of decades’ long negligence of the national government, so I wouldn’t be surprised if the same happens to other areas in the country.

Terrorism is an ideology that stems from the belief of a single person and amplified by the imprudence of government leaders. Thus, while there is still time, it is important for federalism to be put into place. This is because through federalism, governance is no longer concentrated in the center, i.e. Manila. There will be a greater capacity for local governments to run their respective territories through federalism in various aspects, such as taxation. A region may pass its own taxation system based on their context of living. Just take for example Manila where the local government may impose higher taxes due to higher standards of living, in contrast to other provinces with lower cost of living. This way, families are able to manage their expenses better, and businesses become attracted to invest in areas with lower taxes. These instances affect the quality of life of the people in these places, and these likewise affect other essentials of living, such as education. And with better value for education in place, citizens become more focused on working toward productivity and no longer entertain opportunities for terrorism, as they know the latter would not help them progress in any way. This is because it is the government that provides the people with the necessities to improve their way of life, and the people would have no reason to resent and rebel.

And why do I say Manila is not the Philippines?

I am saying this not to degrade Manila but rather to emphasize that the Philippines is made up of several regions, and yet our current system focuses only on Manila. The time will also come when Manila will be so saturated (if not yet), that other regions will rebel due to the little support of the national government. To address this, we have to change our Constitution in order to fit the entire nation. We can picture it this way: the Philippines is a family, and each child earns P100,000, and each child gives a big portion of their earnings to their father (the national government). But while their father provides love and affection to his children, what if he has a favorite among them, i.e. Manila? How would his other children feel? Some of them may just turn against their father for not attending to them in the same day he does to their eldest sibling. This is the image of our current form of government. It should be an imperative that each child enjoys the majority of their earnings, and only a small amount is given to their father as when the contributions are gathered, they become of significant value.

As I have said, Marawi is just an example. There are many other areas of the Philippines that are being left behind due to an inappropriate and inadequate system of government. Because of this, a lot of cities and municipalities become susceptible to revolt and join those who engage in acts of terrorism.

I am not saying that this is the only reason for rebellion, but it is important to take into consideration the woes of the people and how these serve as foundations for uprising. These same woes can also be used by left-wing propagandists to aggravate the people’s sentiments and push them to go against the government. If you may notice, communist rebels are found in far-fetched territories rather than in the center of the Philippines. This is because they use the poverty being experienced by our fellow Filipinos in these places. However, if there is sufficient knowledge and education on the side of the citizens, then they will be more capable of discerning their situation and find ways to improve their lives. And yes, these problems can be properly addressed when federalism is passed and becomes the country’s system of government.

The deeper problems of our country will not be healed by means of band aid solutions. What we need are more comprehensive amendments to the Constitution. We are being left behind by our neighbors in terms of governance, as we are the only nation in Southeast Asia that is under a unitary form of government, which places the country’s problems to be solved only by the hands of a few leaders, and manipulated by Manila-based oligarchs. And this is the painful truth.

Now we have a President who came from the province, a President from the South, and the elitists of Manila are not happy about it. This is mainly because it is only now that such a self-centered and self-serving constitution can and will be replaced – through a President from Mindanao. If such change will not take place today, then for sure it wouldn’t find another chance to take place again. Do you think if our President is from Manila, he or she would think about the welfare of the country’s far-flung territories? I think not, as the national government would reap small earnings from these locations, and its budget will diminish significantly. And since money is what makes the presidency function, such president will not make such move that will negatively affect his power.

 The only president who can make a selfless commitment, for me, is President Duterte. He had already stated that once federalism is put into place, he will step down and call for an election. Where else can you find a leader who is willing to give up his mandate for the benefit of the people he serves?

This is the time for REAL CHANGE in our government system. If we do not seize this moment, we may not be given a second chance to pursue change anymore.




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