In search for unique Philippine model of federalism, Senate President Aquilino ‘Koko’ Pimentel III underscored on Thursday the need to adopt the best features of existing federal governments all over the world.
”I propose that we adopt the best of features of governments in Europe, North America, Australia and even Malaysia and adopt them to our needs,” Pimentel said in his keynote speech during the “Federalizing the Philippines” forum hosted by the Senate Economic Planning Office (SEPO).
Pimentel, joined by his father and namesake, former Senate President Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel Jr., said the Philippines can also borrow good points and ideas from the newly-emerging federations in South America and Africa.
”I am sure that their experiences will be a big help in crafting a federal government responsive to our needs,” the young Pimentel said.
”It is important to learn from the experiences – whether good or bad – of existing federations,” he added.
While there is no single model of a federal system in the world, Pimentel said there are common attributes that characterize federal systems.
These include: distribution of powers between central and constituent units; the participation of constituent units in central decision-making; the constitutional autonomy of constituent units; accommodation of diversity; fiscal equalization; and, intergovernmental instruments.
Pimentel said he and his father share the vision of President Rodrigo R. Duterte to shift the form of government from parliamentary to federalism to grant the wishes and aspirations of the various groups, tribes and peoples, particularly in Mindanao.
”The highly centralized and unitary system that we have had for more than a century has resulted in an imbalance in the distribution of resources among the LGUs. And most importantly, it has hampered the speedy development of most areas in our country. This has to change,” he said.
On the mode to change the 1987 Constitution that would give way for the shift of government to federalism, the older Pimentel agreed with the observation of President Duterte to adopt constituent assembly.
”The President is right that his original constitutional convention proposal is expensive because of election nationwide… While probably the same thing, it is not the same with a constituent assembly which means the Senate and the House can decide to change the Constitution but still subject to the people’s will through plebiscite,” Nene Pimentel explained.
He proposes to create 11 states with Metro Manila to remain the Federal State Capital.
Under his proposal, Luzon will have four federal states composed of Northern Luzon, Central Luzon, Southern Luzon and Bicol.
Visayas will also have four federal states comprising Eastern Visayas, Central Visayas and Western Visayas and Mimaparom (Mindoro, Marinduque, Palawan and Romblon).
Mindanao will be composed of three federal states: Northern Mindanao, Southern Mindanao and Federal State of Bangsamoro where, as Pimentel proposed, the Sharia law will be imposed on cases involving Muslims.
Koko Pimentel, meanwhile, said President Duterte has tasked the Partido Demokratikong Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) to take a lead in advocating for a federal system of government.
”In compliance thereto, the party convened our leaders from across the country in a Conference on Federalism and Charter Change to consult them about moving forward in building a Federal Republic,” he said.
The young Pimentel said they also convened Study Groups composed of experts, scholars and practitioners to help the PDP-Laban draft its position on the proposed federalism.
”Federalism’s complex nature demands careful study,” he said.
Aside from the two Pimentels, Dr. Ronald Mendoza of the Ateneo School of Government, Dr. Maria Ela Atienza of the University of the Philippines Department of Political Science, and Local Government Development Foundation executive director Prof. Edmund Tayao graced the forum on federalism. (Jelly F. Musico/PNA)