The notion that the Philippines’ change its form of government had already existed for quite some time, ranging from proposals of adopting a parliamentary form to the more recent, federal form of government.
Now, with the recent turnout of the 2019 senatorial elections paving the way towards the supposed shift of the Philippines from a unitary to a federal form of government; it becomes ever more apparent that we know what exactly is federalism and its supposed advantages and disadvantages over our current form of government.
To start, federalism, by definition, is a form of government where power is divided between the federal government (national) and its subsequent states (provinces); wherein a greater degree of autonomy (legislative, fiscal, and judicial) and representation is given towards its member states.
With that in mind, and in regards to the Philippines’ landscape, the main advantages of a federal form of government is that with its autonomy, it can create its own policies better suited to meet the needs of the state; while at the same time can bypass the needless bureaucracies in the present system, of which, can be said, hinder the implementation of effective governance, particularly regarding matters that require an immediate and responsive resolution.
Add to this, as mentioned, it also assures that there be a greater representation of the states in the national government through the Senate. By designating each seat of the Senate to its respective state, it eliminates instances wherein the Senate is saturated by legislators coming from the same place. Lastly, they are to be given access to a greater pool of resources through the larger retention of their tax collections, and a mutual fund intended to help other states that are lagging behind.
With that said, one of the immediate drawbacks of federalism is likewise its advantages, particularly its ability to bypass bureaucracies. By doing so, it also circumvents the supposed scrutiny that is involved in the decision making on this scale. Also, as is quite evident for most people, is its ability to further propagate political dynasties from taking the reins of society to further their own.
To summarize, the proposal to shift the Philippines from a unitary to a federal form of government comes from the reasoning that, it would best serve the interests of the nation as a whole; as it would help spur the growth of other regions in the country and would decongest the NCR.
By granting them access to a greater degree of autonomy, they hope that it would provide more localized and responsive resolutions and policies to better cater to the needs of that particular state and its constituents; instead of forcibly trying to implement a “one size fits all” approach towards governance.
But, despite the numerous, supposed advantages this would bring to the country, it is still eclipsed by the argument that federalism might just end up further cementing and consolidating the presence and power of the political elites. Add to this the numerous drawbacks of federalism such as the cultural divide it might present amongst the people.
As for whether or not federalism should be implemented or not, it’s complicated and needs more time to be thoroughly studied. For unlike the other success stories of federalism, which there have only been a few, we can’t simply look onto them and base our framework with theirs.
The Philippines is unique, as are the islands and people that comprise her. Being archipelagic in nature, and at the same time have numerous geographic barriers scattered throughout the land, while simultaneously experiencing more than three centuries worth of colonial rule and influence.
It goes without saying that, you simply can’t base the success of federalism from other nations, given that our entire history and culture is far from theirs; and that we should devote a greater amount of time trying to study the possible repercussions this might have upon our society.
Similar to that of the proposed tax reform at the time (R.A. 10963, TRAIN), it indeed was promising, but with a lack of scrutiny and insights, it has, quite evidently, been troublesome for most, detrimental for some, and debilitating for the rest.