Federalism needs careful study, says professor

IS the Philippines ready to shift from a unitary to a federal form of government?

While a federal form of government could mean stronger regions, the public should also “understand the nature of the underlying political institutions,” especially the critical institutions of the bureaucracy and political parties.

“Study and understand the pre-existing conditions. There is no one-size-fits-all reform. Each country has its own distinctive historical configurations of power and authority,” Australian professor Paul Hutchcroft said in his presentation during a forum on the proposed federal government being pushed by the Duterte administration.

Hutchcroft, a political and social change professor at the Australian National University, asked the participants whether federalism would undermine the oligarchy and enhance long-term development prospects beneficial to the public.

If federalism pushes through, Hutchcroft said that critical to its success are stronger regions.

“So why not begin this process of strengthening now, working with national government agencies already de-concentrated to the regional level?” asked Hutchcroft.

And if the proposal would not push through, he said, the major accomplishments will have an extremely positive impact on the promotion of both national development goals and local autonomy.

Stakeholders yesterday gathered at the Marriott Hotel in Cebu City to continue to discuss issues surrounding the proposed federal government being pushed by the Duterte administration.

The forum “Federalism 101: Examining the Economical, Social, and Political Viability of Federalism in the Philippines.” was held at the Marriott Hotel in Cebu City.

The forum was attended by representatives from the academe, government, business, and civil society in Cebu City.

Alex Brillantes, Jr., a professor at the National College of Public Administration and Governance at the University of the Philippine, said the public should also look at the readiness of the institutions and their capacities, management, bureaucracy and leadership, among others.

It is critical for all concerned institutions, such as the government, private parties, and the academe, to continue the dialogue and come up with “minimums” under a federal set-up.

“We have to avoid misinformation and dis-information and suggestions that federalism is the silver bullet,” said Brillantes.

“We have to manage expectations. It is an option and is the best logical option given the historical moment of devolution in the country,” he said.

Among the “excellent opportunities” that the federal government could offer include continuous capacity-building for local government units, village youth councils, and administrative reforms.

“The shift to a federal system of government in the Philippines should be seen in the context of our continued search for the appropriate politico-administrative mechanism and institutions that are responsive to our development needs,” said Brillantes. (GMD)
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