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Is federalism the key?

By Robert B. Roque, Jr.

Some people believe that shifting the system of government from unitary to federalism is the key to addressing the perennial problems of the country, especially on issues of governance and distribution of funds.

Most administrative powers and resources currently belong to the national government and Malacañang decides on how much would be given to the local government units. Sometimes, governors and mayors would have to beg for approval of their projects.

With Federalism, political units called states or regions would decide on these matters with little or no interference coming from the national government.

The focus of the national government would be on foreign policy, defense and other national interests. On the other hand, states would be given autonomy and responsibility on the development of their very own industry, culture, public safety, education, transportation and healthcare.

States would be given more power to handle their finances, development plans and laws since they have their own problems and situations to solve. They need not come to the national government for every problem they encounter.

However, some states might not be ready for autonomy. As a matter of fact, some might not be as rich in natural resources or skilled labor as others.

Naturally, states with effective leaders would progress faster than states with unproductive heads and their economy are expected to drop without the support of the national government.

And federalism might not be enough for separatists who want a country and not just a state that they could call their own yet still remain under the Philippines. Bear in mind that armed clashes still continue in spite of the creation of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

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I like the idea of federalism in terms of regions and provinces having self-determination – the power to handle their own finances and development plans. However, were it left for me to choose, I would rather retain the bicameral system than the parliamentary form being proposed in Congress.

In a bicameral form, there are more checks and balances and people can choose their president, vice presidents, senators and congressmen in a direct popular vote.

Besides, I smell something fishy in some of the proposed amendments to the Constitution that only appeal to the whims and caprices of politicians.

Finally, to me, the form of government is not as important as who runs it. No matter how good the system of governance may be, it will not run smoothly under a corrupt or abusive leader.

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