Federalism in the Philippines

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Emilio Aguinaldo and Apolinario Mabini intended the Philippines to be divided into three federal states, Luzon, the Visayas and Mindanao.

Federalism in the Philippines (Filipino: Pederalismo sa Pilipinas) is a proposed form of government in the country.

History[edit]

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This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
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The concept of a federal government for the Philippines was first suggested by José Rizal, the Philippines' national hero. He outlined his vision of federalist governance on his essay "Las Filipinas Dentro de Cien Anos" (The Philippines a Century Hence) that was published by the Barcelona-based propaganda paper La Solidaridad in 1889.[1]

In 1899, Filipino revolutionaries Emilio Aguinaldo and Apolinario Mabini also suggested dividing the islands into three federal states.[2]

One of the first proponents of federalism in the Philippines in the 21st century is professor Jose Abueva from the University of the Philippines who argued that a federal form of government is necessary to more efficiently cater to the needs of the country despite its diversity.[3] The primary goals of a constitutional amendment is to increase decentralization, greater local power and access to resources most especially among regions outside Metro Manila which has long been dubbed as rather imperial.[4]

Aside from Abueva, senator Aquilino Pimentel Jr. is a prominent supporter of federalism who, since 2001, has advocated for federalism. He sees the proposed system as a key component in alleviating the Mindanao crisis and appeasing Moro insurgents. According to Pimentel, even though federalism was never intended to appease any followers of any specific ideology of religion, it will also hasten economic development, since resource and financial mobilization is upon each state's or province's discretion without significant constraint from the central government.[5]

However, in 2009, after Senate and House resolutions supporting charter change were released, an estimated 13,000 to 15,000 people gathered in Makati to protest against these executive department-deriving proposals for constitutional reform. This was due to speculations that Philippine president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo would use such amendments to extend her hold in office.[6] In addition, Pulse Asia published in the same year their survey regarding public support for the proposed charter change; the survey reported that four out of ten Filipino adults, or 42% of all respondents, opposed the amendment, with 25% still undecided and 33% in favor. Pulse Asia furthered that from 2006 to 2009 there was no significant change of sentiment against the charter change proposal, although indecision increased by 6%.[7]

In late 2014, then-Davao City mayor Rodrigo Duterte launched a nationwide campaign calling for a charter change for federalism. During his visit to Cebu City in October of the same year, Duterte stated that federalism will facilitate better delivery of services to the people.[8] He also saw the current system as "antiquated"[9] where distribution of public funds is disproportionately biased towards Manila. Aside from the economic aspect, federalism is also seen as the best means to address problems in Mindanao which suffers the most from ethno-religious conflicts.[10] Duterte added that the current unitary form of government has not worked well given the ethnic diversity in the country.[11] In spite of initially rejecting several calls for his candidacy for the 2016 presidential elections, he cited his organizational reforms if he were to become president. Parallel to his campaign for federalism, Duterte planned to privatize tax collection and abolish the Congress to make way for a unicameral legislature, contrary to the originally proposed Joint Resolution No. 10.[12]

Movements for federalism further intensified from when the draft of the Bangsamoro Basic Law was submitted by Philippine president Benigno Aquino III to the 16th Congress on September 10, 2014.[13] From approval, this law establishes the Bangsamoro as an autonomous region with its own parliamentary government and police force.[14] Approval of the Bangsamoro structure would provide federalism proponents and supporters added confidence to clamor for the national government to enact reforms towards a more decentralized system for the rest of the country.[9]

In May 2016, President-elect Rodrigo Duterte stated that a plebiscite on the proposed replacement of the unitary state with a federal one will be held in two years.[15] On December 7, 2016, Duterte signed Executive Order No. 10 creating a consultative committee to review the 1987 Constitution.[16]

Initiatives[edit]

Under President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo[edit]

Joint Resolution No. 10[edit]

The resolution may require the revision of 14 of the 18 Articles of the 1987 Philippine Constitution and the addition of two new articles. It sought to adopt a federal and presidential form of government with a bicameral legislature. This proposed resolution was backed by 12 senators of the Philippines: Aquilino Pimentel Jr., Edgardo Angara, Rodolfo Biazon, Pia Cayetano, Juan Ponce Enrile, Francis Escudero, Jinggoy Estrada, Gregorio Honasan, Panfilo Lacson, Francis Pangilinan, Ramon Revilla Jr. and Manuel Villar.[17]

In 2008, senator Aquilino Pimentel Jr. proposed Joint Resolution No. 10, which would revise the current 1987 constitution and have created eleven autonomous regions out of the Philippine Republic, establishing eleven centers of finance and development in the archipelago.[18]

The proposal would result in the creation of eleven "states" and one federal administrative region.[19][20]

Within the joint resolution are certain proposals such as election of senators based on states, senators representing overseas voters and the state governor and vice-governor as one team. The Judicial and Bar Council which screens nominees to the judiciary would be abolished. Geographic locations of the three branches of the government would also be reconsidered. In the proposal, the legislative department would be transferred to what would become the State of Central Visayas while the judicial department would be moved somewhere within the State of Northern Luzon. The executive department would remain within the federal administrative region of Metro Manila.[21]

House Concurrent Resolution No. 15[edit]

Rep. Monico O. Puentevella on May 7, 2008, filed House Concurrent Resolution No. 15 which supported Senate Resolution No. 10 backed by 16 senators. Unlike the Nene Pimentel Senate Resolution, Puentevella included the option of holding a constitutional convention, but excluded the People's Initiative mode.[22] Prospero Nograles, a self-proclaimed advocate of federalism, on May 1, 2008, announced: "This federal system of government is close to my heart as a Mindanaoan leader and I'm sure most of the leaders in Mindanao will agree that we have long clamored for it. Senate Resolution 10 is a pleasant surprise because the Senate has a long history of opposing any move to amend the Constitution."[23] The joint Senate resolution called for the creation of 11 federal states in the country, by convening of Congress “into a constituent assembly for the purpose of revising the Constitution to establish a federal system of government.”

Under President Rodrigo Duterte[edit]

Renewal of Pimentel's proposal[edit]

Federalism advocate, Aquilino Pimentel Jr. renewed his campaign. In May 2016, Aquilino 'Nene' Pimentel Jr., stated in an interview with Teodoro Locsin Jr. and Tina Monzon-Palma that a North Mindanao state may be separated into two distinct states, namely, Northwest Mindanao and Northeast Mindanao.[24]

While Pimentel Jr.'s earlier proposal for a Federal Philippines was to include the area currently governed by the Cordillera Administrative Region to the Northern Luzon state, Pimentel mentioned on August 2017 two possible setups for the Cordilleras under a federal government at the North Luzon Federalism Summit: An autonomous Cordillera region within the Northern Luzon state or the region as a separate federal state from Northern Luzon due to the existence of a long-standing autonomy movement in the region and a provision in the current Constitution for giving the Cordilleras autonomy. He also made the same pronouncements during a live interview with journalist Karen Davila.[25] After the abolition of the Negros Island Region on August 9, 2017, there have been several regional movements driven by the Negrenses in support of the unification of the twin Negros provinces (Negros Occidental and Negros Oriental) under one federal state.[26][27]

In January 2017, under a federalism forum, Pimentel clarified twenty-eight points, namely:

  • (1) the Cordillera will have its own federal state;
  • (2) the boundaries of Northern Luzon state still needs to be clarified as the state includes two distinct regions;
  • (3) Masbate will be included in the Central Visayas state;
  • (4) the Northern Mindanao state shall include the entire Zamboanga region, the entire North Mindanao region including Bukidnon, Agusan del Norte, Butuan City, Dinagat Islands, and Surigao del Norte;
  • (5) the Southern Mindanao state shall include the entire Soccsksargen region, the entire Davao region, Agusan del Sur, and Surigao del Sur;
  • (6) Minparom (Mindoro, Palawan, Romblon, and Marinduque) shall be classified as a Visayan state and not a Luzon state as it is geographically part of the Visayas, which Pimentel says is "contrary to the beliefs of Imperial Manila";
  • (7) the Bangsamoro state is the most important as it is vital to peace in Mindanao and Minparom;
  • (8) Shariah law can only be applied in the Bangsamoro state if the two parties are Muslims, but if one or both parties are non-Muslims, national law will always apply;
  • (9) Scarborough Shoal/Bajo de Masinloc shall be part of Central Luzon state through Zambales;
  • (10) the Philippine territories in the Spratly Islands shall be part of Minparom state through the municipality of Kalayaan, Palawan;
  • (11) if the bicameral Congress is retained, then the members of the House of Representatives will voted the same way as its is today;
  • (12) if the bicameral Congress is retained, the members of the Senate shall be voted, not nationally anymore, but per state, where each state shall have six Senate seats, the Federal Capital (Metro Manila) will have six Senate seats, and the overseas Filipino population will have nine Senate seats, for a total of at least 87 Senate seats, which provides proper representation to all states;
  • (13) the Supreme Court shall be mandated to have a decision on a case within 2 years from its filing;
  • (14) the Court of Appeals, Sandiganbayan, and other appellate courts shall be mandated to have a decision on a case within 1.8 years from its filing;
  • (15) the RTC shall be mandated to have a decision on a case within 1.6 years from its filing;
  • (16) the City and Municipal courts shall be mandated to have a decision on a case within 1 year from its filing;
  • (17) each federal state shall have a Federal Governor and Federal Vice Governor; (18) each federal state shall have a Federal State Legislature, whose members members shall be representatives from every province, highly urbanized cities, and sectoral groups;
  • (19) warlordism and political dynasties shall be prohibited by the Constitution itself;
  • (20) federal states shall have 80% of their respective state's revenues, while the federal government will only have 20%;
  • (21) an Equalization Fund shall be created by the Constitution so that federal states that are in dire need of additional fund can be helped by the federal government;
  • (22) there will be a unified educational system, but the indigenous peoples and Muslims shall be allowed to input certain educational resources into their educational system to better serve their peoples;
  • (23) the Federal Executive Department will hold office in the Federal Administrative Region of Metro Manila;
  • (24) the Federal Legislature will hold office in the Federal State of Central Visayas;
  • (25) the Federal Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court will hold office in the Federal State of Northern Mindanao;
  • (26) secession will not be enhanced under the federal form of government as it is a crime under the Constitution;
  • (27) the Bangsamoro state shall be divided into two autonomous regions, namely, mainland Muslim Mindanao and Sulu archipelago, as the two Muslim areas are distinct from each other in terms of culture; and
  • (28) the Philippines will include its claim in Sabah under the federal form of government. Pimentel, however, did not clarify that the Philippines can only claim the eastern half of Sabah.[28]

In January 2018, Pimentel suggested the inclusion of the Malaysian-administered territory of Sabah as a Philippine federal state in itself to assert the Philippine claim over the disputed territory in a way "acceptable under international laws".[29]

In February 2018, under a new federalism forum, Pimentel noted that new information have been funneled in regarding federalism in the Philippines and the actual want and need of the people in a federal form of government. In the forum, he clarified and revised six points from his initial forum back in January 2017, namely:

  • (1) the proposed Northern Mindanao state may be divided into the Northwest Mindanao state (the entire Zamboanga region, Misamis Occidental, Lanao del Norte, Iligan City, Misamis Oriental, Cagayan de Oro city, and Camiguin) and the Northeast Mindanao state (Bukidnon, Agusan del Norte, Agusan de Sur, Butuan City, Dinagat Islands, Surigao del Norte, and Surigao del Sur);
  • (2) If the Northern Mindanao state is divided into two states, Agusan del Sur and Surigao del Sur will shift into the Northeast Mindanao state from the initially-proposed Southern Mindanao state;
  • (3) The president and the vice president shall continue to be elected through a nation-wide election, but they must be elected in tandem;
  • (4) the qualifications for president, vice president, and members of Congress shall be the same with the current Constitution, but with the addition that the candidates must at least have a bachelor's degree from a college/university recognized by the government;
  • (5) the term of the elected president and vice president shall be six years without reelection; and
  • (6) a former president is not eligible to run for the presidency anymore as the new Constitution shall limit the term of a president into one term only.[30]

Alvarez proposal[edit]

In 2017, House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez's vision for a federal Philippines called for 14 states: 7 in Luzon, 2 in Visayas and 5 in Mindanao. He also proposed that the capital of the Philippines under a federal government should be somewhere in Negros island saying that it would be accessible to all people from the three island groups while he added that the state's territory does not have to be contiguous.[31] Alvarez has hinted that the new capital may be established between the towns of Kabankalan, Negros Occidental and Mabinay, Negros Oriental. Indigenous groups are in favor of the proposal, but are wary of the possibility of a 'no term limit' for politicians, which is a grave scandal in many Filipino indigenous societies, especially in the Cordilleras.[citation needed] In February 2018, Alvarez reiterated that he shall input an indigenous state in the Cordilleras in Luzon and an indigenous state in Mindanao, whatever federal set-up is approved by the President.[32]

Proposed states by House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez (2017)
Luzon Visayas Mindanao
  • Bicol
  • Ilocos
  • Metro Manila
  • Mimaropa
  • Central Luzon
  • Southern Tagalog
  • Unnamed I.P. State (Igorot)
  • Eastern Visayas
  • Western Visayas
  • Eastern Mindanao
  • Western Mindanao
  • Unnamed Moro State (Sulu Archipelago)
  • Unnamed Moro State (Maguindanao / Lanao del Sur)
  • Unnamed I.P. State (Lumads)
Term Usage of Autonomous Community[edit]

Some lawmakers have proposed the usage of "Autonomous Community" instead of "Autonomous Region" or simply "State" due to the reason that the terms "autonomous region" and "state" have garnered negative sentiments from many ethnic peoples.[33]

2018 House Sub-Committee 1 proposal[edit]

The Sub-Committee 1 of the House of Representatives Committee on Constitutional Amendments proposed that a federal Philippines would comprise five states. Each states to be led by a premiere as its executive head will have a State Assembly according to the proposal. The proposal has been hit by massive criticism due to general lumping and a lack of representation. According to the proposal, politicians will have 'more than' two consecutive terms, making them eligible to run for office with no term limit.[34][35]

Proposed states and capitals
House of Representatives Committee on Constitutional Amendments
(Sub-Committee-1 proposal)
[36][37][38]
Metro Manila
Luzon
Visayas
Mindanao
Bangsamoro
Bangsa sug or Tausug Bangsa Sulu[39]

League of Provinces proposal[edit]

In February 2018, the League of Provinces of the Philippines (LPP), whose members are the 81 provincial governors, gave its support to the country's shift to federalism, but stated that the 81 existing provinces should be converted into “independent states”, instead of regional lumping.[40]

Con-Com proposal[edit]

Consultative Committee 2018 proposed charter[41]
Federated regions (17)
National Capital Region (Metro Manila)
Ilocos
Cagayan
Cordillera
Central Luzon
Calabarzon
Mimaropa
Bicol
Negros
Eastern Visayas
Central Visayas
Western Visayas
Northern Mindanao
Davao
Cotabato
Caraga
Zamboanga
Asymmetrical regions (2)
Bangsa Tausug (or Federal Sultanate of Sabah Spratly Palawan Sulu)
ARMM (or Bangsamoro)
Federal Sultanate of Sulu Sabah Spratly Zamboanga Palawan[42]
Zamboanga Peninsula, Sulu Archipelago[43][44][45][39]

In April 25, 2018, the consultative committee (Con-Com), created by President Rodrigo Duterte to propose revisions to the 1987 Constitution, agreed that the starting point for the federalism discussions will be the establishment of 17 federated regions and the National Capital Region, the proposed federal capital region. The 17 federated regions will be Ilocos, Cordillera, Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon, Calabarzon, Bicol, Mimaropa, Eastern Visayas, Central Visayas, Negros, Panay, Caraga, Northern Mindanao, Davao, Soccsksargen, Muslim Mindanao, and Zamboanga.[46][47]

In July 4, 2018, the Consultative Committee (ConCom) tasked to review the Constitution unanimously approved the draft constitution which would shift the present government form into federalism. Under the approved proposed constitution, the Philippines will be divided into 18 federated regions, where the National Capital Region (which initially was suppose to be a 'capital region') will now be a federated region as well.[48]

Tenure and eligibility for re-election of incumbent officials[edit]

The draft constitution formulated by the Concom 'allows the president to assume all the necessary powers of government – executive, legislative, and judiciary – to prevent the breakup' of the proposed federated republic, according to Consultative Committee chairman Reynato Puno.[48][49] An July 6, 2018, it was revealed by ConCom member Julio Teehankee that under the proposed federal constitution, Duterte and Vice President Leni Robredo may run again for president for two consecutive terms or an additional 8 years in office after 2022, paving the way for a possible 14 years in office.[50]

This was met with opposition from some critics, including lawyer and former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay and Albay province Rep. Edcel Lagman.[51] It was feared that the proposed charter would enable an authoritarian regime similar to that of Ferdinand Marcos during the Martial Law era. Hilbay found it suspicious when a copy of the draft charter was leaked by an unknown source, which the commission said was "not final". In a statement, he said that the proposed constitution was “overtly designed to secure, if not coerce, popular anointment of the Consultative Committee’s handiwork which was approved without the benefit of prior extensive local consultations.”[52]

Later however, Teehankee stated that he "misspoke" during the interview, saying that the president and vice president are barred from running, and assured that their terms will not be extended, referring to Section 16 of the draft charter, which was not yet available to the public at that time.[53] In contrast, Concom member and former senator Aquilino Pimentel Jr. said, “Theoretically it is true (Duterte can seek re-election), but in Digong’s case, I am convinced that he does not want to run again. He has been saying that once it is approved, he will resign.”[54]

Rodrigo Duterte has also announced that he had no intention to serve beyond his term, and that he is willing to step down earlier than 2022, in case the shift to Federalism pushes through. He then asked the Consultative Committee to include a provision that prevents him from seeking re-election, which was subsequently added by the Concom.[55][56][53]

Public opinion and awareness[edit]

Generally, Filipinos' stance on a shift to federalism is mixed. These are reflected by nationwide opinion polls conducted by Pulse Asia and Social Weather Stations (SWS). By the end of March 2018, 37% of Filipinos agree, while 29% disagree, when asked if they are in favor of a federal system of government, based on a survey of 1,200 adults aged 18 and above by SWS.[57] Opposition to Charter change (cha-cha) went up from 44 percent in July 2016 to 64 percent in March 2018, and the opposition to federalism went the same way, except by a larger margin—from 33 percent to 66 percent.[58]

Meanwhile, in June 2018, a Pulse Asia poll answered by 1,800 respondents showed 67% being against charter change at the present moment.[59][60] However, of those who opposed Charter change, 30 percent said the Constitution should not be amended now, but could be changed sometime in the future, while 37 percent said it should not be changed “now or any other time.”[60] Support and awareness for federalism is strongest in Mindanao and within the Filipino Muslim community.[61][60][57]

The Philippine government cites lack of information as the reason for low public support. Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque stated that, “For this reason, we cannot expect our people to support an initiative, which they know only little about. There is clearly much work to be done in terms of spreading awareness and knowledge on the aforementioned issue." The Philippine government has repeatedly presented its intention to drive up its effort to educate Filipinos about federalism.[62][59]

Position of parties on Federalism

The ruling political party Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-LABAN) is currently the main and strongest advocate of federalism in the Philippines.[63][64][65] PDP-Laban currently only allows pro-federalism politicians to be admitted to the party.[66] In contrast, the opposing Liberal Party is mostly against the movement. Incumbent Vice President Leni Robredo, who is the current party leader, has expressed her opposition towards charter change and federarlism.[67][68] This sentiment is shared also by various opposition senators and representatives, including Senators Francisco Pangilinan and Antonio Trillanes IV.[69] Left-wing political parties such as the democratic socialist Akbayan and the more radical Bagong Alyansang Makabayan have also voiced disapproval against charter change.[70]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]