TWO members of the Academe presented opposing views on whether or not the Philippines should change its system of government from the current presidential to a federal form.
Speaking before the Senate committee on constitutional amendments and reforms on Tuesday, Dr. Francisco Magno of De La Salle University proposed what he called “hybrid federalism” which, if implemented in a “democratic manner can offer the political space needed to guarantee true regional autonomy.”
Magno proposed amending the Local Government Code for the purpose of “increasing the internal revenue allotment (IRA) of local government units to enable them to effectively provide public goods and services to their constituents”.
He also proposed additional fiscal transfers in the form of performance grants to high performing local government units (LGUs) and equalization funds to low income LGUs.
He added that reginal development councils should be strengthened to address the uneven development in the country.
Meanwhile, Gene Lacza Pilapil of the University of the Philippines in Diliman cautioned the Duterte administration against the shift, saying it was “unnecessary and counterproductive” and citing data to support his claims.
He said that, “reforms in the Local Government Code can address the delegation of more power and/or resources from the central to the local governments in the Philippines without shifting to federalism.”
Moreover, Pilapil said that, “legislation can do it without the drawbacks, dangers, and divisiveness of overhauling the Constitution just to shift to a federal system of government”.
He said his basis was the institutional design literature in political science, which focused on questions the Philippines has been grappling with.
Pilapil also argued that there was no meaningful difference between a unitary government and a federal government on several key indicators: human development; economic performance; income inequality; democratic stability; quality of democracy; rule of law; and anti-corruption.
Pilapil also said that an overhaul was unbelievable as there was too much to be done to achieve the lofty goals that people talked about.
“Depending on which proposed federal Constitution you are reading in the Philippines, state or regional governments, constitutions or organic laws, courts, and bureaucracy, etc. would have to be created,” said Pilapil.
Pilapil also said that it was unsafe to change the government if those in charge of changing it would be the same ones who benefited from the old form.
“With existing vested interests from government officials who profit from the current unitary system, scholars warn that a constitutional overhaul may produce institutional Frankensteins that will combine the worst of the old unitary and the new federal system,” Pilapil said.
“Reforms are enough to improve local and regional autonomy and if there are errors in reforms, it is easier to address these if in the old setup than if in a constitutional overhaul,” he told the hearing presided over by Sen. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, committee chairman. MIGGY DUMLAO