Fil-Can View By Daniel Nolasco-Cajurao » Dictatorship or Federalism?

Undesirable Options - It seems the new Philippine leadership is caught between the devil and deep blue sea nowadays, as it seemingly cogitates to perpetuate the incumbents into power apparently with the end in view of having more control over the bureaucracy, and eventually squandering the coffers of the government with gusto.

After declaring Martial Law in the entire Mindanao island, extending it beyond the constitution limits, it looks like the present administration remained inept and incompetent, if not starved of acquiring muscles, to thwart the surmounting issues that beset the country today. In fact, it had threatened to call for a Revolutionary Government which is tantamount to declaring Martial Law so that it can harness its power of putting the entire archipelago into a one-man rule, which is essentially a configuration of dictatorship. But the bid failed miserably as it was nipped in the bud by majority of the people, prompting a denial from no less than the president himself that it was just a mere hearsay hovering in the air. Hence, it apparently shifted its gears as it eyes a new strategy of controlling power. This time, changing the 1987 Constitution to pave the way for a federal form of government, dubbed as Federalism, something that is strongly opposed by most of the leading constitutionalists and pro-democracy advocates. As to why these two options deemed undesirable, let's ponder on their respective nature as well as pros and cons.

What is Martial Law? Is there such a need for it? Historically, due to predominance of civil unrest, some countries resorted to Martial Law as it wanted the military to control the affairs of the government, eventually dislodging the essence and spirit of democracy. It is an "imposition of direct military control of civilian functions of government as a response to uprisings, political protests, labor unrests, rebellion, or invasion as the case maybe", if only to bring peace and order in the land. On the other hand, this form of governance is feared by the people as a floodgate of abuses. Being implemented by the armed forces, the sovereign rights of the people are undoubtedly curtailed. Under Martial Law, the people are denied of their freedom of expression, right to freedom from unreasonable searches and arrests, right of association and assembly, right to gain freedom through court proceedings, otherwise known as "writ of habeas corpus", and the protection against human rights abuses, dubbed as "writ of amparo". At the pretext of making it as a solution to the chaotic situation in the country, Martial Law has been deemed, however, as the culprit of graft and corruption and political vengeance against the nemesis of the incumbent officials. Indeed, fabrication of falsehoods, and unfounded accusations will lead to warrantless arrests, enforced by the military, of the opposition and those who are loquacious against abuses in government. Does the Philippines need it? Unless he has enough ropes to hang himself, let the president declare Martial Law nationwide now!

On the other hand, it seems the Philippines' political pot is brewing with the concoction and hot spices for this renewed proposition of establishing a form of government called Federalism. But, what is this concept of Federalism all about? Why federalize the Philippines?

Historically, it has been reported that this concept of government has been contemplated by early revolutionaries, Emilio Aguinaldo and Apolinario Mabini, who suggested to divide the country into three federal states, apparently the like of Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. Then, followed by University of the Philippines professor Jose Abueva who stressed federalism is "necessary to more efficiently cater to the needs of the country despite its diversity", as it increases decentralization, greater local power and access to its resources by the local government. Subscribing to the same concept is former Senator Aquilino Pimentel, Jr., who underscored it as a "key component in alleviating the Mindanao crisis and appeasing the Moro insurgents".

However, various authors of reliable literatures, as well as legal-based papers, distinguished Federalism as a "type of government that combines regional or provincial governments into a single political system", while creating over them a federal state, wherein there would be division of powers between the two levels of government of equal status.

Several forms of federalism are being adopted by adhering countries, as: Unitary, Dual, and Cooperative.

In Unitary Federalism, the regional government remained subordinate to the national government, otherwise called the Federal government, although certain power and authority are delegated to the local governments.

In Dual Federalism, the Federal Government and regional government are coequal. But a very large portion of powers is exercised by the regional government, while the Federal Government has jurisdiction only to the extent of powers vested on it by the constitution.

In Cooperative Federalism, the Federal Government and the regional government "interact collectively and cooperatively to solve common problems". But in this form of federalism, the Federal Government remained supreme over the regional government, as it keeps the power to regulate international trade and engage in treaties, control of national economy, coinage and currency, armed forces, postal system, air and sea transport system, federal elections, federal taxation, and pass laws of national and international importance.

Regardless of the form of federalism, the regional government shall have control of its local police, natural resources, educational system, health and safety, local traffic, environmental protection, and has the power to impose local taxes and service fees.

In a nutshell, federalism is deemed detrimental to the entire citizenry as it could be a cause for conflict on various issues, especially foreign policies and taxation, between the Federal Government and the regional government, eventually causing political chaos and economic turbulence in the archipelago. If not appropriately reconciled the conflict will certainly lead to the outright breakaway or secession of the regional government. Federalism is also seen as another floodgate of possible abuses of powers by local leaders, especially in the absence of constitutional prohibitions on anti-dynasty, nepotism, landlordism, and localized militarization that may give rise to the emergence of armed goons, who can compose of the dreaded "death squad" that will run after political nemesis of the incumbent leaders.

Due to its Unicameral System, the Federalism is more prone to graft and corruption as the Principle of Check and Balance is likely to be neglected unless the constitution explicitly provides.

Henceforth, amidst this hullabaloo for the creation of a Federal Philippines, it is more advisable that an in depth, comprehensive, and thorough discussion of this issue shall be dealt with accordingly, if only to fully inform and educate the people that will soonest be affected. As much as possible, our legislators shall never cut corners or rush their decision overnight, if only to avoid burning bridges.

As to what form of federalism is more fitting and beneficial for the Philippines, our legislators shall be conscientious enough to tell the people candidly and sincerely the provisions that will be adopted lest this federalism to go down like another lead balloon to the people.

As what the people had been shouting on the streets, "Never Again to Martial Law", and "No to Federalism Now!". Indeed, both options are deemed undesirable for the country today.*