Federalism promotes better governance

SHOOTING STRAIGHT - Bobit S. Avila - The Freeman

I had to fly to Manila to play in the Aboitiz Media Golf on Tuesday, hence I had to do an advance column, which means, I cannot talk about the first State of the Nation Address of President Rodrigo "Digong" Duterte. Anyway, I'm sure that you can read that report in the front page of this newspaper or in the national newspapers.

I'm sure that President Duterte would make a great SONA with a huge difference. Other presidents read their respective SONAs but may have not meant what was written on their papers. But knowing President Duterte, he would make sure that every word he says in the SONA, he would surely do. As Press Secretary Martin Andanar said, "The President's speech will be powerful as he made it himself!"

Incidentally, last Saturday, President Duterte finally signed the executive order mandating full public disclosure for all offices under the executive branch. It is called the Freedom of Information EO. This was signed last Saturday, July 23, or 23 days after President Duterte assumed the Office of the President. However, the EO provides a list of exceptions, among which is that the Department of Justice  and the Office of the Solicitor General must give to the Office of the President within 30 days from the effectivity of the E.O. issues pertaining to national security. Indeed, there is a lot of sensitive information that should be kept from the media that might publish such sensitive information.

When he was campaigning for the presidency, then president Benigno "PNoy" Aquino III promised to prioritize the FOI Bill. But six years into his presidency, the FOI Bill was never approved simply because he wasn't really serious about giving transparency in his presidency despite his often-repeated mantra called "Daang Matuwid."

But not President Duterte, who promised to get rid of corruption in the government and the first step is for media to be able to secure documents without being subjected to any bureaucracy. But as he already pointed out, the FOI EO is not a law, but an executive order, which means it is only applicable to the executive department. Now it is up for the legislative branch or Congress to pass an FOI Act so that all branches of the government will become transparent to the Filipino people.

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If there is anything that I'm sure President Duterte would mention in his SONA, it is his plans to make that dramatic, albeit historical shift from our present unitary form of governance and into a parliamentary-federal system of governance. As they say, proof of the pudding is in the eating. If you didn't know, there is a group that is now going out nationwide selling the idea of this shift into a federal form of government.

Last Saturday, I joined aforum dubbed "Pursuing Federalism: A Shift from Unitary-Presidential to Federal-Parliamentary Government" held at the Elizabeth Hotel sponsored by the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry Inc., the Centrist Democracy Political Institute, the Cebu Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Inc. and the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung and the Centrist Democratic Party.

My good friend Mr. Jose T. Ng, vice president for the Visayas of PCCI, was the opening speaker and he was followed by Mr. Lito Monico Lorenzana, chairperson of Centrist Democratic Party of the Philippines, who spoke on federalism and the vital pre-conditions to a future federal-parliamentary government. Atty. Raul Lambino, acting secretary general of the Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats and Ms. Joji Ilagan-Bian spoke on the features of economic liberalization.

Mr. Lito Lorenzana told the group that our shift to federalize must start with educating the Filipino people on the pros and cons of the unitary form of government, which most Filipinos have already lived with in the last 70 years. A federal form of is something we have not had. But look at our neighbors in ASEAN. Malaysia is a federalized country, which means that it would be easier for our Muslim brethren to embrace federalism than seek independence.

 Atty. Lambino showed a PowerPoint presentation from Transparency International that showed that the top 15 most corrupt nations are mostly presidential-republican. Of the 15, only Yemen and Somalia were parliamentary. Then he showed another Transparency International data that showed 15 least corrupt nations of the world. All of them were parliamentary-republic or parliamentary-monarch and not a single nation had a presidential form of government. Hence, our shift to a parliamentary-federal form of governance is one big change that this country needed yesterday and thanks to President Duterte this change will come soon.




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