QUEZON, Philippines – If supporting federalism is a way for local government units to say they want more resources, rejecting federalism is an excuse for political elites to hold on to power.
This was Rodrigo Duterte’s response on Wednesday, March 30, to rival presidential candidate Manuel “Mar” Roxas II, who recently criticized Duterte’s pitch for a federalist form of government.
Roxas had said calling for federalism is just a way for local governments to claim more funds and resources. (READ: Will federalism address PH woes? Pros and cons of making the shift)
Duterte shot back that Roxas’ statement is only “an excuse for them to hang on to power, Imperial Manila. They’ve always been there in one single office, they’re running the Philippines like an imperial [state].”
He also responded to Roxas’ claim that a shift to federalism would mean another layer of taxes, as in other federal states, wherein citizens pay taxes to the autonomous state they reside in aside from tax imposed by the central government.
But Duterte said double taxation is already happening in the current unitary form of government.
“Napaka-corny naman ni Mar (Mar is so corny). Even now there is double taxation, there is local tax and the national tax. Ano ba naman si Mar? (What’s with Mar?) Is he or is he not a student of government?” said Duterte.
Commenting on the present centralized system, the Davao City mayor simply said, “It sucks.”
In several campaign speeches, he has complained about the “tiny” Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) given by the national government to local governments units (LGUs).
LGUs depend on the IRA to fund their programs but Duterte believes LGUs would fare better if they were allowed to keep most of their income. In the current system, regions remit most of it to the national government.
Duterte’s alternative to the present situation is federalism in which governance is much more decentralized. States or regions are given autonomy in managing their own affairs, for instance, in health, education, economy, agricultural investments, and tourism development.
The national government would retain responsibilities over only aspects of nationwide-bearing like foreign relations and national security.
The “most outstanding feature” of federalism, Duterte has said, is that regions get to keep 70% of their income.
The additional resources would give regions more power to develop their economies and address the unique needs of their areas of jurisdiction, said Duterte.
Duterte’s running mate, Senator Alan Peter Cayetano, said that their version of federalism will give regions the reins over their economic development rather than entrusting them to national agencies in Metro Manila.
“More authority, more powers, more money to all the provinces and regions and allowing them to bid out their own projects. For example, why do all MRTs have to be in Manila? The Mindanao Railway System costs only P76 billion but it’s not prioritized. Trains in Metro Manila cost P900 billion but they spend on that first,” he said.
Cayetano challenged Roxas and Poe, another presidential candidate with qualms about federalism, to defend the status quo.
“How will you make the present system work? The present system works only for Metro Manila,” he said.
Then Cayetano reconsidered and said Metro Manila also suffers from the centralized form of governance and economic management.
“But even Metro Manila does not benefit because floods are worsening and it’s so congested. The more money you put in Metro Manila, the more problems for Metro Manila because more people move to Metro Manila,” said the senator.
Duterte’s advocacy for federalism is the “centerpiece” of his presidential campaign. If elected president, he plants to call for a Constitutional Convention to begin the shift to a federal form of government.
Candidates like Grace Poe have expressed reservations about federalism, saying it could further empower political dynasties. – Rappler.com
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