Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A Case for Federalism in the Philippines (Cha-cha).

Reasons why the Philippines should accept Charter Change, 'Cha-cha', and adopt a federal form of government:

The Senate

Under the current plans for federalism, the Philippines will be divided into eleven states. One reason why this is a good idea is that Senators will be chosen to represent, and be elected by, individual regions of the Philippines. Currently, Senators are elected at a nation-wide level, and as a result of this and: the Philippines' geography of being an archipelago of islands (difficulty with traveling between them); ethnic diversity within the Philippines with multiple languages; and the Philippines' low development status, Senators are largely celebrities or relatives in famous Filipino families, and part of the Filipino aristocracy.

If Cha-cha is even roughly based on the American model, then Senators will be voted from each state. Especially notable is that each Senator will have to live in his state, for several years before seeking election. The Manila-based aristocracy could be a tad reluctant to live in poorer parts of the Philippines. A Senator from, type, MINDANAO, would have a greater interest in seeing that the violence in the region stops and that more of an effort to develop his state is put in place by Manila, since his property and life would be at risk. So, if Senators are voted locally and by their own people, they will have more of an interest in developing the state in which they reside. More development in a state, the more safety--because people will have decently paying jobs and tax money will be used more efficiently. The more safety and development, the more wealth (pride for the Senator who gets to boast of how great his state is), and greater clout for the state (and Senator) in Congress (because more people will move there, and the economic impact of the state will be larger). Senators won't just be some rich brats who are practically clueless about what is occurring in far-flung parts of the country, and frankly just have the job for the perks. Instead, the Senators would be drawn from the local populations. The state electorates would stand a greater chance of actually knowing the politician they're voting into office, and the Senator would be directly accountable to his electorate, and would live among them. He'd have pressure on him to deliver. So the Senate would be staffed by people who actually have something to gain or lose depending on how much effort they put into serving the interests of their state.

Shutting up the Muslims

Actually reluctant about this, because judging from global conflicts, Muslims seem to respond to greater autonomy in separatist struggles by deluding themselves into believing their violence was the source of victory, and they then just fight more violently and for more land. That stated, federalism in the Philippines would make the Mindanao Muslims more responsible for their states' development. And hopefully, given that Southeast Asian Muslims tend to be more peaceful than their Arab counterparts, a Muslim majority state in Mindanao will actually bring peace and not more bloodshed. And any majority Muslim Philippine state would still be bound by the rights of all Filipinos to freely worship as they choose. So NO enforcement of sharia involuntarily in any area of life.

(Other) Corruption

Along with the corruption from the Senators--a big issue in the Philippines--being curtailed by federalism, as stated above, federalism will hamper corruption in general, too. States where there is more corruption will perform more poorly (taking into account things such as population, resources, potential, etc.) than states in which there is less corruption. Less corrupt states will attract more business, more people, and have more developed road, water, electrical, rail, etc. systems because taxes will actually be spent on public projects. Corrupt states will lose business, have bad roads, electricity, etc., and because of the loss of business--and population as people migrate to more developed states (free and completely legal migration between states, as opposed to international migration from the Philippines to another country)--corrupt states will receive less and less tax money. Less tax money would lead to less income for corrupt politicians and officials lining their pockets with taxpayers' pesos. Tack onto this that the electorates of badly performing states will demand progress and the same developmental status as the more advanced states. Eventually, corrupt state officials will be forced to clamp down on corruption if they want to make any money, and will have more incentive to reduce corruption in their state. They won't be able to blame far-off Manila as much; the state governments will be more accountable.

Arroyo's Term

Some have argued that federalism will allow President Arroyo to remain in office longer. Personally don't see this, but even if that is the case, so what? Under Arroyo, the Philippine government has undertaken massive and necessary tax reform which has brought more money into the government so that the government can spend more on much-needed roads, energy, sanitation, and other construction projects. And even with the fishy Internet network deal with China, Arroyo is definitely no more corrupt than many of the Filipino Senators. Even if federalism gives Arroyo a few more years, the benefit of a federal Philippines more than makes up for a little more of Arroyo (by a long shot).

So, in conclusion......

Actually would support Arroyo's apparently earlier vision of a Philippines with a parliamentary, unicameral system of government moreso than federalism*, but as that no longer seems to be a choice, federalism in the Philippines is still a huge step up from the current system which makes it far too easy for politicians and government workers to be corrupt or incompetent (or both) and drive the Philippine economy and development into the ground. Federalism provides the opportunity for a more locally-attuned and locally-driven Philippines where officials will be held more accountable for how they govern.

*Even more than a unicameral legislature, would especially support the Philippines ditching democracy altogether and becoming an authoritarian society until the country is developed. But fat chance of that happening.

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Found this article interesting? Check out:
History: The Roadmap to the Future.
History: The Roadmap to the Future--Africa.
History: The Roadmap to the Future--Asia.
History: The Roadmap to the Future--Europe.
History: The Roadmap to the Future--Latin America.

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