Federalism
TO THE QUICK - Jerry Tundag (The Freeman) - August 13, 2018 - 12:00am

The critical views on federalism publicly expressed by at least three leading Cabinet members of the Duterte administration has provoked a rather surprising reaction from the normally unflappable Fr. Ranhilio Aquino, a member of the commission tasked by President Duterte himself to draft changes in the Constitution that would usher in a federal form of government.

Because of their critical views on federalism, expressed at a Senate hearing on the proposed 2019 budget in the case of finance secretary Carlos Dominguez and economic planning secretary Ernesto Pernia, and by defense secretary Delfin Lorenzana at a subsequent press conference, Fr. Aquino now wants them fired, or at least made to shut up.

Having always followed, and admired, Fr. Aquino for being one of the most credible and level-headed analysts often tapped by TV talk shows, I find his rather ballistic reaction quite unsettling. And while I can see where he is coming from, the measures he proposed to deal with critics are truly unnerving.

Moreover, I find it truly confusing to want to stifle dissent and criticism at this crucial stage of a process that could very well spell a sea change in our lives. If there is a time to be critical of federalism, not as a means to obstruct it but in order to spark healthy debate, it should be now, not when it is already upon us. If good, let's have it. But let us talk about it first.

Let us not commit the serious mistakes made by the previous Aquino (hopefully not related to Fr. Ranhilio) administration in ramming down our collective throats the K to 12 program that added two more years of high school to basic education, for no other reason at the time than that the Philippines was one of only two countries that did not go all the way to Grade 12.

Now do not get me wrong. I am not opposed to two more years of high school. To me, all education is good, and the more you have of it, the better. But the senior high program of two additional years is not a simple case of flicking the switch and the light comes on.

At the time it was implemented, nobody was ready for it. Not the government, not the schools, not the students, not the parents.  Ask those who went through it, the pioneer batch of senior high graduates, if they gained anything from the two added years and they will tell you they got nothing for the wasted time, money and effort.

Noynoy Aquino, whose term was remarkable for achieving nothing remarkable, slammed K to 12 upon the nation out of a deep sense of panic that he will be leaving no legacy behind. Eventually, of course, the nation will cope. But not before suffering some injurious and irreparable consequences. Let us not go the same path with federalism.

RANHILIO AQUINO
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