Wednesday August 15, 2018

Aguilar: ‘Pepe, dede, ra-lismo’

Against the current

ALLOW me to take an interest in Mocha’s joke that recently got her into trouble, so as to shed light on the real issue of constitutional change, something she failed to do. Her song was actually a poor attempt at simplifying a concept that may just change our lives either for the better or otherwise. She paid a high price for it though, and I don’t see any point adding up to the flame of the unforgiving millions lambasting her in social media. No, that is a dead end.

This article will not be talking about her “pepe” and “dede” rather on “pe-de-ra-lismo” or federalism itself. Indeed, federalism is not a household concept and a lot of Filipinos do not understand what it really is. Even Mocha who graduated from a reputable university in the capital city seemed clueless about this new big term being debated upon by lawmakers. Its high social acceptability, however, could probably be attributed to the fact that Duterte wanted it, and if he wants it then it must be good. I mean, how else can we explain why no president before him ever found support in their clamor for charter change when federalism itself is a form of charter change?

What then is federalism? This is better understood by comparing it to a unitary government such as ours. I remembered differentiating these two concepts five years ago in my column, so let me share again the gist of it. You see, a country can be centralized or decentralized. This depends on the geographical limitations or how culturally diverse a country is.

In a unitary government, the power of the state is centralized. As such, the laws of our land apply to all of its territories. Laws are uniform and every region is compelled to adhere to them. For example, the income tax rate here in Cagayan de Oro is exactly the same in all parts of the country. In the same manner that the punishment of murder in Cebu would be the same to that in Butuan or Dipolog.

A unitary government promotes fundamental and general interests. In a way, it is good especially for poor provinces since even if they don’t have much income, they get subsidized by the central government taken from the income of the richer cities. In our context, we call that IRA; we get a share of the national budget regardless of whether our LGUs earn or not.

Yet a unitary government proves to be at a disadvantage if the place is geographically divided and there are existing diverse cultures. I mean, why else would our Muslim brothers push for the Bangsamoro law? That is because some of our laws don’t quite fit with their culture. And they too have every right to live in the culture they grew up with. This is where federalism comes in.

As opposed to unitary, federalism embraces regional autonomy. Each region is given the freedom to rule their land the way they want them. In a federal government, a region can have a set of laws that would fit to their cultural beliefs without having to impose them on other regions. Just imagine how rich our culture would be if the Bisaya, the Ilocanos, the Tagalogs, and the Maranaws will be given the freedom on how they can develop their places.

With federalism, our cultural nuances are recognized and respected. With federalism, our local resources get harnessed to its maximum with the locals enjoying the fruit. I mean, don’t you wonder why almost all natural resources come from Mindanao yet we are the poorest region in the country? That should stop. It’s high time we get to enjoy the fruits of our land. With this system, progress is very fast since each region only deals with its own.

As to leadership, in federalism we are ruled by our own local leaders. Come to think of it, we never really had enough Mindanaonons in the senate, that’s the reason why we never get prioritized. And it also explains why Duterte and Pimentel wanted this federal government in place because they very well know that it’s high time we get our share of the pie.