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What if I told you that there
exists a sort of government that’s better than what we have right now? I can
see the skeptical looks on the faces of all of you reading, and I understand all
your dubiety and misgivings. I was doubtful too, seeing the government we have
right now as pretty good, all things considered. I didn’t see what could be
changed. But that was not until I heard about something called federalism.
Through careful thought, debate, and research I’ve seen the good that
federalism can bring. Federalism is the step the Philippines needs to take
to progress and develop to become a strong country.

            Anti-Federalists say that Federalism
is a bad choice for the Philippines, for multitudes of reasons, some of which
center around the fact that amending the Constitution would be a lengthy, time
consuming, and expensive task, and especially that the Philippines is not ready
for such a maneuver. The national government and individual state governments
may conflict and step on each other’s toes. There would be divisions and
disunity that would cause strife and conflict among the different parts of the
country. They say that the current system of government is good enough, and
that it’s been working for long enough to be stable. This system happens to be
the unitary form of government, which is a system of government wherein much of
the power lies in the national government and it gets to decide all the
decisions, policies, and programs of the country (So, 2016).

But President
Rodrigo Duterte has recently been pushing for a government that follows the
federal system (Andolong, 2016). He himself has been planning to appoint a
commission to draft the changes required for a shift to federalism (Tubeza,
2017). He believes that it would give more autonomy and a way to air out the
bad blood in certain regions like Mindanao.

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There are ways
to make sure that the state governments and the national government can work
together. Properly delineated roles in the Constitution would give a good
framework for the harmony of the national and state governments. In fact, the
Philippines also already has a good ground for federalism. The Philippines
already has an extent of “national unity and democratization, decentralization
(Abueva, 1997). This change doesn’t have to be sudden. It can be taken
gradually in parts so that the Philippines can be eased into it.  I would argue that the effort, time, and funds
that will be spent on changing the system will be worth it, for reasons I
believe are worthy of note.

            The
current unitary government system functions in a way that the national
government basically heads over everybody in the country. All the important
things regarding the nation go through the legislative, judicial, and executive
branch of the national government. Basically this central government based in
Manila controls the entire country. What Pres. Duterte proposes makes a drastic
change in this system. With federalism, the power is split between the central,
national government and the separate sovereign states (Ranada & Villarete,
2016).

Federalism leads
to a lessened dependence on the National Government and an empowerment of the
local governments. The split of jurisdiction implies an increased independence
of the, as they would be called, federal states. The states deliver basic
services like medical services, promoting tourism, and dealing with other local
issues (Brillantes & Moscare, 2002). They share the power of running the
country with the national government which will still have sole power and
responsibility over areas of foreign affairs, national defense, monetary and
fiscal policies and constitutional issues which include agreements between
countries and the management of groups like the Armed Forces of the
Philippines, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, and the Supreme Court (Cruz,
2016).

While the
national government still has significant power, the power and responsibilities
are split up more equally than with the current unitary system. This empowerment
of the federal states will allow them working room to focus on their individual
tasks in facilitating the common good in their parts of the country. The
problems should be able to be solved at “the lowest level, by the people
directly concerned” and not passed on higher (Abueva, 1997). The ability to
focus on their individual roles of facilitating the betterment of the country
will give both the individual states and the national government an area to do
their respective jobs in.

The federal
states can manage themselves and run their own part of the country, a more
focused version of the current system’s national government. This would then
allow the federal states to act as entities of their own rather than branches
of the national government being wholly controlled by the central government in
Luzon. These federal states can manage majority of the matters of their area,
fiscal, political, or otherwise. They of course still have to conform to the
overall laws and the Constitution for protection and unity in the country, but
they have the ability to individualize the ways they run themselves to better
foster progress and development.

With this, the
national government can then focus on the bigger picture of the country as a
whole. Without the need to continuously facilitate and spread itself thin over
all the different regions of the Philippines, looking into every little
incident or having to go through all the requests that the current system makes
it have to look through, the national government then can simply act as an
overseer, a bigger protective entity that unites all the federal states. The
state governments can deal with mundane state concerns, “basic services like
health (field health and hospital services and other tertiary services); social
services (social welfare services); environment (community based forestry
projects), agriculture (agricultural extension and on-site research); public
works (funded by local funds); education (school building program); tourism
(facilities, promotion and development); telecommunications services and
housing projects (for provinces and cities); and other services such as
investment support (Brillantes & Moscare, 2002, 5).” The national
government, before responsible for these, is left with dealing with concerns
and internal problems that plague the nation itself (Abueva, 2002). The states
themselves will also be able to reach farther, into the less developed parts of
their own regions that the national government may have found difficult or too
far to easily reach. This would address the needs of the individual states
because the government is brought closer to the places and people who need it.

The new
splitting of the budget especially that this empowerment would especially
benefit the federal states. Currently, Luzon gets majority of the national
budget and that gives it more of a chance to develop as compared to the rest of
the country. No visitor to Metro Manila can get himself/herself not to admit
how thriving or busy the National Capital Region is, especially if the visitor
comes from a region not as prosperous or focused on when it comes to
policies/funds. After all, the national government headquarters itself in NCR.
But the new policy of splitting the taxes will allow the states to have the
funds necessary for development. The new policy splits the taxes 30% to the
national government, keeping 70% for the state to use to improve and develop
(So, 2016).

Since the
individual states have a certain independence from the national government,
they also have a certain free will to enact policies and regulations that
better fit their own personal situations. They now have the power they need to
develop and strengthen. Due to each state being unique, with its own culture
and attributes, each state needs unique measures to ensure optimal development.
Federalism acknowledges and accepts the diversity of all these different areas
and groups that comprise the federal states (Shively, 2005). States
basically have more freedom to pinpoint where they can develop using what they
have and what they’re good at and can also specialize in different policy
domains to deal with their specific problems (Ranada & Villarete, 2016). It redefines
unity in diversity through promoting a united nation that acknowledges that it
is comprised of many, different, beautiful, and unique cultures and through
that, the nation can then come together and become stronger.

Federalism would
also give more responsibility to each individual state. This will make them accountable
for any and all of their successes and failures. It “allows action by a shared
government for certain common purposes while permitting for autonomous action
by constituent units of government for purposes that relate to preserving their
distinctiveness, with each level directly responsible to its electorate (Watts,
2002).” They can no longer blame the National Government for any failure
regarding slow bureaucracy in enacting certain policies or actions. Nobody has
ultimate power and checks and balances are in place to make sure the power is
shared.

Federalism will ultimately
allow each state to become stronger, and through a good national government,
present a formidable united front to the world. It is the hope of most every
Filipino to have a powerful nation that each Filipino can pride himself/herself
on and federalism can bring this vision closer. This empowerment of each
individual state and the ensuing endowment of increased responsibility and
ability focus and bring the government closer to the many different groups in
the Philippines makes federalism a good choice for the Philippines.

 

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