My column yesterday was The Sixth Republic, in which I argue that of the proposals made by former president Ramos and Speaker de Venecia, the least controversial and thus, most popular, is Federalism. My main purpose in the column was to begin pointing out that what Ramos proposed as a three-in-one package, are in fact, three, separate, complicated proposals, and it doesn’t do anyone any good to think it’s an all-or-nothing package. Personally I believe we’d be better off with Federalism, but not unicameralism, although I’m open to a parliamentary (or to be more precise, a semi-presidential) government.


Federalism’s daddy

The idea of Federalism in the Philippine context we owe, I believe, to the late Don Salvador Araneta, who proposed it in his Bayanikasan Constitution (an introduction to it, is here, along with part one of the proposed charter, and part two of the rest of the charter is here). Araneta’s ideas weren’t pulled out of thin air, but were, instead, the result of three years of studies under the auspices of Philconsa and Araneta’s own pretty formidable interest in the matter.

Araneta’s proposals can be seen to have influenced people as varied as former President Ramos, with his political trinity of unicameralism, Federalism, and parliamentarism, to David Martinez, whose book, “A Country of Our Own: Partitioning the Philippines,” on the need to re-invent the Philippines and reorganize it along the lines of a free association of states (a confederation), is a remarkable intellectual achievement indeed (not that I agree with all of it, but the book does make for provocative reading). Ramos and Martinez, in a sense, are the conservative and radical interpretations of Araneta’s ideas.

The biggest problem involving Philippine federalism is how the states will be defined. The other proposals, such as unicameralism and parliamentarism, will affect how this is done.

Some interesting views are emerging on the issue of the current proposals. Tony Abaya makes some compelling arguments for parliamentarism but against federalism. JJ Disini remains unconvinced by proposals for unicameral parliamentarianism. Let me add at this point something important: Joel Rocamora of the Institute for Popular Democracy is proposing proportional representation. This is something we should all become familiar with, as an electoral practice. The counter-proposal to proportional representation, is the Two-Party system, which I initially prefer.

What bothers me, of course, is that Federalism and other changes have been tied to the President’s political survival. It bothers me even more that well-meaning people like Prof. Jose Abueva have signed on to the Ramos-Arroyo-de Venecia Plan so as to finally achieved their Federalist dream. Add to this reports of senators being wooed by the Speaker, who is prepared to promise them guaranteed seats in a National Assembly in exchange for their supporting charter change, and I am reinforced in my original opinion that the proposal is big, bold, and lies. I believe that the question of the president’s stay in power must be resolved, before the question of constitutional changes is tackled. In the meantime, a consultative commission on charter change can, and should, be appointed. If it does its work well, it can help Congress and thus make a constituent assembly acceptable to the people, which is really the way to go when amending (and not entirely replacing) a constitution is undertaken. A consultative commission can help achieve what we now lack: a national consensus on what, exactly, the changes should be. But if we want an entirely new constitution, then we have to have a convention.

Update: PCI has two entries that make for instructive reading. The first reading asks, are we ready for a parliamentary system? The second gives historical backgrounds to Federalism. My only addition is that Mojares’s information is distinct from the influence Salvador Araneta’s thinking had on today’s major players. That is: Mojares indicates the basis for the Federal ideal; Araneta has articulated it in modern terms.

Manuel L. Quezon III.

14 thoughts on “Federalism

  1. Unfortunately the discussion of the proposed changes is tied in to the stay in power of the incumbent. What makes it more untenable for a number of people is that the present president is besieged by political scandals and actions brought about by a non-decisive electoral victory.
    We must remember that the The present Constitution is not a product of convention but of an appointed commission and was validated by a referendum. It replaced the Marcos constiution that was penned by a convention but approved in highly circumspect circumstances.
    In this issue of charter change I think there are dangers and opportunities. And if taken advantage will lead to fundamental changes in government. Now whether it will affect governance is another matter altogether, I think.

  2. Proportional representation is a *much* fairer system than first past the post. In the UK, for example, the third part, the Liberal Democrats (and before them the liberals), regularly poll over 20% of the vote yet end up with few than 10% of the seats. Why? Because they finish second in many constituencies and there are no prizes for that.

    Under proportional representation your vote goes towards a national total and therefore it always “counts”; under first past the post there is often no point in voting because the result in your constituency is usually a foregone conclusion. This is a major reason for the apathy of the British electorate.

    Since in my view the high level of political engagement and relative political sophistication of the Philippine general public is one of the main reasons to feel hope for the country I would hate to see it wither under the first past the post system, which to my mind is fundamentally undemocratic.

  3. mlq3, i agree with what you said about the proposal for charter change as “big, bold, and lies” in relation to GMA’s clinging on to power, im quite perplexed about prof. abueva’s going along with fvr-jdv plan. i had the opportunity to listen to abueva lecture on federalism and his concept of a federal govt in our country which is different(abueva’s concept is an adaptation of the german federal govt)to what fvr-jdv propose to have(as anticipated)a bastardized version of both the french and u.s. federal form of govt. more or less.

    but real issue is GMA, mlq3 is right in saying that
    the presidents stay in power must be resolved first.(she must leave)

    but again GMA will not move out of office, she’s got the gall for it…its all over the news straight from GMA..no charter change will cause “anarchy”.. and to those who are against charter change thru con-“ass”, they will be labled in the (willingly manipulated for the right price) media as anarchists?, traitors?…etc…

  4. There are many points of view, with each one being eloquently articulated. Whatever system is in place, I hope that:

    1. The provinces get a bigger share of the economic pie and that infrastructure and development is diffused.

    2. Power is not too concentrated in Manila. This includes giving the regions greater leeway in planning, taxation, trade and making their own laws. If a bicameral system is selected, every region should have a representative.

    3. Regional cultures, languages and traditions should be allowed to flourish. The attempt to make one ethnic group predominate creates resentment. We should prescribe common objectives, but accept and respect pluralism.

    As long as these are met, I’ll be happy to be a passive observer. Oh, and by the way, I do hope there could be a way to stop religious groups from meddling in matters of the state.

  5. Manolo, Resil Mojares’s paper delivered at the recent conference on Political Reform and Charter Change, says the Ilonggos (even before the birth of Salvador Araneta) first articulated the federalist dream. He says that in 1898, leaders in Iloilo formed the Federal State of the Visayas, anticipating that a Federal Republic of the Philippines, composed of three states — Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao — would be formed by the Aguinaldo government.

    Mojares further points out that in 1899, some “eminent” Filipinos submitted to the Philippine Commission a draft for a Federal Republic of the Philippines with 11 states. The Ilocano intellectual Isabelo de los Reyes also proposed in 1900 a federal constitution with 7 states.

    The Tagalogs, of course, were not dreaming of federalism but of a unitary state, with themselves at the helm.

  6. Thanks, Shiela. Can you send me a copy of Mojares’s paper? The thing is, those examples aside, the present proponents, I believe, heavily relied on Araneta’s thoughts. You can see them all over the leading suggestions at present (Araneta may have almost certainly been influenced by those historical examples).

  7. Allow me, if you must.I believe that the combination of Federalism and Parliamentarism is way going too far and would endanger our national political life because this kind of a platypus needs further experimentation and just like any experiments, the errors are sure to come. My fear is that the expected mistakes may possibly become more harmful to us, and would destroy before we had gained the desired objectives. We just could not afford to make mistakes.

    Parliamentarism–the pure and simple form of it–is I guess the one that we needed now, considering that the problem we need to address most direly at present is the convenience of kicking out someone at the top post without going through another messy people power revoltution. Federalism may solve some other problems like disenchantment from the Mindanoans but I guess we must take one step at a time. One problem, one solution. And besides it would cost so much to change our governance towards Federalism.

  8. This will be the third constitutional convention/commission/assembly in which Professor Abueva will participate… he was there in 1969?, 1986 and possibly 2005. If they couldn’t get it right the first two times, what makes everyone so sure third time lucky? I agree some things need to be improved, but changing our systems every 20 years is a little wacky, no?

  9. Interesting use of postage stamp to illustrate a personality. Are you a stamp collector?

    Thanks for providing insights about the current
    state of the country. Mabuhay!

  10. Here’s excerpt from article- A Chronology: The Ilonggo Nation that is relevant to above-comments of Sheila Coronel dated 7/29/05.
    (Complete text at: http:/www.ilonggo-nation.8k.com )

    “…-1898: November 17 – Gen. Martin Delgado proclaimed at Sta. Barbara, Iloilo the Provisional Revolutionary Government of the Visayas and Mindanao.

    This was later changed by the Iloilo elite to Federal Republic of the Visayas since they did not want to recognize the supremacy of Aguinaldo and the Tagalogs.

    They preferred instead a federal arrangement composed of – Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao as a logical substitute because of its indigenous elements….”

  11. Si eres cualquier cosa como mí, odias el pensamiento del gasto cuarenta horas a la semana en un trabajo del punto muerto. Las luces fluorescentes de zumbido, la gerencia idiota, el hecho de que necesitas despertar doloroso temprano – el único alto punto son que viene viernes cada semana. Dije tan a me, allí me consigo ser una manera mejor. ¡Una cierta manera de hacer el dinero que me deja fijar mis propias horas y hacer una cantidad cómoda del dinero!

  12. Nice read. I agree with Ramos’ trinity though. unicameralism will allow the government to speedily create and implement the necessary economic policies that are much needed by the restless public. A case in point that we can consider in this matter is a comparison between a democratic India and single-party state China. Both are indeed growing quickly but how successful are their governments in trickling it down to the common people. There is a huge difference in the way they carry out their projects and reforms. While the Chinese bulldoze away a village and move them elsewhere to create the necessary infrastructures, the Indians, and so do we on this matter, waste our time in courts settling compensations and fight our way to the sluggish judicial system. And unfortunately once the case is settled, the population had grown at a significant rate making whatever achievement negligible.

    Bottomline: We need an efficient government that can attend to the needs of the current population and carry out programs to ensure the future of the generations to come.

    On risks: Yes we do have to take risk and experiment. however whoever should draft the constitution should at least give an implementation period so as to avoid secession in the near future which may result in further instability in the country.

  13. i think federalism is somewhat a threshold for the filipinos to have a new system of government….we must give credit to the effort of Araneta…filipinos must accept the fact that democracy in our country nowadays is not suitable for filipinos for we were not able to meet this democracy ever since….

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