Notes on Federalism

 

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The Pimentel Model

  • The greatest flaw of the current unitary system of government is that – like most of the things about our identity as a country – it was decided on by a select few and imposed on the rest of us against our will or without our fullest understanding. Our cluelessness about what happens to us is the root cause of our lack of National pride.

 

  • Federalism, if we are to adapt it, must avoid that – it must be a destiny we will all choose to take, every step of the way.

 

  • Public information dissemination and media coverage must be intense and sophisticated, from consultations to the referendum.

 

  • Something as important as changing how the country works must dominate the public consciousness – I want to see Enrique Gil and Matteo Guidicelli having a brawl over it in public.

 

  • Ralph Recto’s opposition to Federalism on the grounds of revenue disparity among would-be states shows both a lack of imagination and a blindness to the major root causes of regional backwardness – dependence on the capital, often operating as National-local cronyism (both executive and congressional), exacerbated by the red tape of the Unitary bureaucracy which demands approval of projects from faraway Manila, is why progress only trickles down the regions at best.

 

  • Federalism would cut our low-earning regions’ allowances, but it would also give them the impetus and leeway to be more industrious and find allowances for themselves. Recto should know about that, his own father had once so eloquently advocated self sustainability and warned against the ills of economic dependence on a greater power.

 

  • Sometimes, being a doting and overprotective parent can actually stunt the growth of your children.

 

  • Capacity building for the would-be states must be an integral component of the transition process to a Federal system.

 

  • The peripheries of power have been so used to relying on the capital that devolving power to them would be expecting Skyscrapers to be built with tapping knives and pick axes.

 

  • The Philippines has long seen the bullying of the rural by the urban, by the industrial on the agrarian. Metro Manila, Cebu, and Davao have long stifled the growth of the rest of Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.

 

  • No, Imperial Manila is not the only villain. There is also Imperial Cebu and Imperial Davao. And there are small-time bullies stealing all the lunch money in each province and region too.

 

  • States must all sit on the federal table as equals, regardless of industry. The United Arab Emirates, where power is distributed in proportion to revenue, is not the ideal model in that respect.

 

  • Otherwise, our states would only squabble. There is a reason why regionalism is a bad word, and the capital has used this to justify the imposition of National homogeneity with hegemony.

 

  • In that respect, the upper chamber of the legislature needs to see fundamental reform. Right now the Senate is the exclusive club of the hegemons, those who succeeded in reaching the top of the vertical melee for power. It seats so many dynasts and oligarchs you might as well call it the Philippine House of Lords.

 

  • Whatever you do with the Senate, it must serve to be representative of each of the Federated states: have senators elected at large per state like the American Senate, or give the membership selection to the State governments like the German Bundesrat. Ideally, each state should be given their own way of choosing their representatives for the upper house.

 

  • Fundamental to Federalism is the cultivation of the individuality of each component entity, drawing strength in diversity. Because the other states of Federal Malaysia did not impose their system on Negeri Sembilan for uniformity, they were able to have a model after which their unique elected monarchy could be patterned.

 

  • A healthy federation is pied, dappled, freckled.

 

  • Sionil Jose’s concern that Federalism would empower the local warlords– a concern echoed by Grace Poe’s opposition to it in the elections, is not unfounded. And yet his own recognition of Duterte’s revolution is the answer to that: Federalism would help to localize this revolution, not giving a boost to the local powers, but cutting them off from their hegemonic National protectors. No more national padrino system or complicated top-down bureaucracy centered in distant Manila to blame, if a state is doing poorly the people know who to lynch.

 

  • Local self determination is more than just economic and administrative. More fundamentally, it is cultural – it is existential. For would-be states to stand up on their own feet, they must first know who they are.

 

  • Structural decentralization must occur not only administratively, but also socioculturally. Philippine Federalism must first and foremost be a cultural federalism.

 

  • Most of the eleven states in Nene Pimentel’s Federal Model for the Philippines are cultural chimerae, regions lumped together even if they had little shared history, soulless products of the illusion of National homogeneity imposed from the hegemonic capital since the time of Quezon.

 

  • Region 12, SOCCSKSARGEN, is a prime example of how local identity has fallen victim to the Unitary hegemony. The poor region, whose convoluted acronym of a name nobody can pronounce, was frankensteined from the dismembered remains of the historical Cotabato sultanate, and its provinces rarely interact. Struggle as it may, as a region it has no sense of identity.

 

  • The federal state to which Region 12 would belong in the Pimentel Model, Southern Mindanao, is equally soulless as a polity. The Kidapawanon has little affinity with the Tagumeño in Davao del Norte or the Pantukanon in Compostella Valley. If not kept in check, Davao would dominate the whole place, or Davao and GenSan would squabble to the detriment of the other towns.

 

  • The fact that local history is not taught in our schools is both one cause of regional resentment against the national, and the reason why it is inconceivable to the likes of Senator Recto that the regions cannot support themselves. We have for so long seen the Philippine peripheries as mere dependents on the might and money of Metro Manila. Teaching local history, and national history in the context of the local, will teach our local children to own their destinies because their historicity will be taught from such an immediate perspective. This will be crucial to making Federalism a success.

 

  • Education, culture and arts, social welfare – all of that, and more, have to be bottom up. Federalism would be hollow if those were not devolved.

 

  • The communities of the would-be states, on the local level, must take the responsibility of adapting cultural self-determination into their own hands, carving their own collective identity against the grain of the imposed homogenous national. No more National offices to give you curricula and templates, you must build your souls from indigenous materials.

 

  • Percy Bysshe Shelley could not be more relevant to the debate on Philippine Federalism. The poets, he once proclaimed, are the unsung legislators of mankind. Our cultural devolution lies crucially in the hands of our local artists, whose duty it will be to create our local sense of selfhood –to carve our collective souls from the wilderness.

 

  • If they would only stop banging on about Duterte and each other. We need our intellectuals to be intellectuals right now.
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