[OPINION | NEWSPOINT] A grand swindle

Federalism as the only means of ending poverty and social injustice is the most dangerous piece of fake news propagated these days.

In truth, federalism is just another form of government, and, like all the other forms, it works only in some cases and, even then, largely in patches. Moreover, any successes credited to it are the result of a long and never-ending experimentation and in no way prove the versatile virtues claimed for it. This attempt to mislead us about federalism and rush us into swallowing it is all part of one grand political swindle – indeed, “a leap to hell!” warns Hilario Davide, the former chief justice and one of the drafters of the present Constitution, which he has vowed “to die for.”

For one thing, federalism being totally alien to us, we will require a long and intensive process of instruction to enable us to form an informed-enough opinion on it. To federalize now, in other words, is to dive into our future blind.

Concededly, certain forms of government may be more suitable than others for certain sorts of society. But, going by the basic concept of federalism, we definitely are a poor candidate for it. Breaking up our nation into parts and leaving each part to operate freely on its own will only further entrench the very culture that has hindered our socioeconomic development; it’s a culture in which dynasties and political gangs hog wealth and power and bestow benefits by patronage.

Only just begun, a Senate inquiry into the issue has already exposed oversights, ambiguities, and deficiencies in the draft of the federalist charter; these are loopholes that by themselves constitute a fundamental endangerment of our democracy. 

Fortunately, for all the endearment Duterte has attracted, the nation has remained mostly opposed to both constitutional change and federalization.

Actually, for all the promotional drumming for it, federalism doesn't seem a destination intended for us to reach with any urgency, but, rather, a mere element of a plot to lure us into an ambush along the way. The draft charter itself betrays that plot: It provides, as insiders themselves affirm, for an open-ended transition during which the holdover president presides as a constitutional dictator. What, then, stops him dragging out the transition to perpetuate himself in power?

The case recalls the prelude to the imposition of martial law in 1972. The year before, Ferdinand Marcos, his second and final 4-year term as president ending, stage-managed his own “cha-cha” – charter change – for a shift from the presidential to a parliamentary system of government, with him presiding over the shift under its own Transitory Provisions

How could the comparison escape anyone at all? Although dead and buried – buried a hero, not incidentally – Marcos, being a professed idol of Duterte’s, is an elephantine apparition in the room. The live elephants are Ferdinand Jr and Gloria Arroyo, the former president.

Ferdinand Jr – Bongbong – lost to Leni Robredo in the vice presidential contest, but remains as Duterte’s express choice to succeed him. Arroyo, now a member of Congress and a first-ranked Duterte gang mate – along with the Marcoses, and Joseph Estrada, another former president, now Manila mayor, and a plunder convict pardoned by Arroyo – she had tried her own cha-cha in her time, and failed. Now, with Duterte, she’s at it again, this time as a conspirator.   

The road to federalism thus littered with all-too-familiar malignant obstructions, why take that road at all? Why, indeed, when a far less risky and costly alternative is available, an alternative built into an existing law that already devolves power to the local governments?

In effect for even less than a generation, the Local Government Code (1991) has been, as laws of such transformative intent are to be viewed, on an experimental run, and, as might have been expected, it has turned in mixed results. In any case, the code has proved itself to basically work and, with the right lessons learned, changes and adjustments in the code itself as well as in its implementation can only improve its workability.

In fact, I am acquainted with groups that have begun applying themselves to the task; they are looking mainly to a more equitable allocation of revenue and a more efficient system of determining accountability and imposing sanctions. They expect to be ready soon with their proposals for the code’s refinements, with every hope of being able to help stem, if not stop altogether, this mad drive toward federalism – or something worse.

These proposals are predicated precisely on the proposition that a nation’s salvation lies neither in federalism nor in any other “ism,” but in good governance, and that good governance necessarily proceeds from good intentions. – Rappler.com