WE are caught in a vicious cycle. We need a politically enlightened citizenry to be rid of self-serving dynasty politicians that are causing us all our troubles. But for us to grow politically mature we need to get rid of politicians who control and manipulate our country’s institutions of participation, accountability, and rule of law to keep us dependent on their degrading patronage.

How break the cycle? How get rid of patronage politics even before we are politically mature enough to see its evil? Answer: Go whole hog for federalism.

We can do this because President Duterte’s anti-establishment ways have opened ordinary folks’ eyes to their dire situation and its causes. It takes a degree of political maturity to appreciate the President’s and PDP-Laban’s socialist drift. In any case, it is time to go down another road. It is totally insane to stay on the present one and expect to get to a better place.

We know it’s time because the bitter opposition of patronage politicians to the current administration tells us they are acutely aware that the President is hitting them where it hurts the most, at the very foundations of their power to abuse democracy’s institutions of participation, transparency, and the rule of law.

There may never be another opportunity for Filipinos to dismantle political dynasties. These elephants in our little room must go. They have choked and trampled to death more people than this administration ever had or could.

Federalism gives us the opportunity mainly to insert in the new constitution self-executing provisions that ban political dynasties and, among others, create genuine political parties, not the fake ones we have now, and ban private funds in election campaigns so competent and sincere but poor candidates have a chance of being elected. We must learn our lesson and make these provisions self-executing and not contingent on an implementing law that the legislature might never enact.

One caveat, therefore, is that the new constitution must not be crafted by the current congress in session as a constitutional assembly. It would be the height of stupidity to expect dynasty politicians to commit political suicide with self-executing provisions that strengthen our institutions of participation, transparency, and the rule of law. Cosmetic reforms are what we will get from them.

A constitutional convention is in order. There is no guarantee political dynasties will not use guns, goons, and gold to rig the election of delegates. That simply means we have to muster all the maturity we can to insure that this time around they are unable to do that.

Federalism is an opportunity that we cannot afford not to grab to break out of the vicious cycle.