Why we need federalism
SHOOTING STRAIGHT - Bobit Avila (The Freeman) - December 6, 2018 - 12:00am

The House of Representatives approved on second reading Tuesday a proposal to shift to a federal government. The proposal, Resolution of Both Houses 15, was approved through voice voting, where lawmakers vote with “ayes” or “nays.” Unlike in nominal voting, where lawmakers are called and asked to vote on a proposed measure, there are no records on how each member of the House voted.

Under the approved Congressional Resolution of Both Houses 15, the Federal Republic of the Philippines will have a presidential-bicameral-federal system of government. The president and vice president will be elected in tandem but will have the same powers and functions as in the current Constitution. According to certain pundits, many provisions of the 1987 Constitution have already served, if not outlived, their purposes; hence, the sustained clamor over the years for amendments to or revision of the Constitution finds justification in the need to provide, among others, much-needed socio-economic and political reforms, a long-term solution to the decades-old conflict in Mindanao, and regional economic development in the countryside.

Indeed this is a genuine political shift from our present unitary form into a federal form.

Under the proposal, the Lower House will have two chambers: a House of Representatives with no more than 300 members, and a 24-member Senate.

A total of 80 percent of the House members will be composed of lawmakers from legislative districts across the country from Luzon, Visayas, and Minda-nao, while the remaining 20 percent will comprise what is called the party-list lawmakers.

At least, it is a step in the right direction. After all, federalism is what this country direly needs. There is only one major hurdle left, though. What will be the vote of the present Philippine Senate on this proposed shift?

I just came from Japan, specifically in Fukuoka and Nagasaki. Mind you, Japan is a unitary form of government, but thanks to the Japanese culture, theirs works for them. A case in point is their infrastructure development. In Japan, it doesn’t matter if you are in Tokyo or Osaka or Hokkaido or Fukuoka; their infrastructure projects are given the same attention and great detail, regardless of location. In the Philippines, our unitary government is focused only in the National Capital Region (NCR) where majority of infrastructure development can be found. When it comes to projects in the Visayas and Mindanao, no attention to detail is given any importance. A case in point is the famous Loboc Bridge which DPWH constructed close to the Loboc Church. This is why the clamor to shift government form is very evident in the Visayas and Mindanao.

Another example is how DPWH allows us Cebuanos to suffer through our traffic without finding solutions to ease the traffic on our roads. But then, DPWH officials mostly come from Manila and do not care what happens to Cebu City. Of course, now things are different in this unitary form of governance because Davao is now the center of the Philippines with President Rodrigo Duterte always staying in his hometown. But what happens if his presidency ends and there is a new president who may come from Manila? Then we are all back in square one.

So it is better to shift to a federal system so that it doesn’t matter to us where the next president may come from. At least he would have no choice but give equal development to far-flung areas in the Philippines.

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I’m one of those people who are elated by the latest news that Supreme Court Administrator Midas Marquez has returned as the Supreme Court spokes-person, following the designation by Chief Justice Lucas Bersamin. We read this report in the Philippine Star last Tuesday that Midas would be holding concurrent positions as SC spokesperson and head of the Office of the Court Administrator. Marquez also served as the spokesperson of former chief justices Reynato Puno and Renato Corona. He was replaced by law professor Theodore Te, during the stint of former chief justice Maria Lourdes Sereno. Te tendered his resignation after Sereno’s ouster. So happy days are here again.

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For email responses to this article, write to vsbobita@gmail.com. His columns can be accessed through www.philstar.com.

vsbobita@mozcom.com

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