Tell it SunStar: Perils of federalism

I AGREE with former chief justice Hilario Davide, Jr. when he said that a shift to federalism was a lethal experiment, a fatal leap, a plunge to death, a leap to hell.

The leap to federalism is not for public interest but a desire of our leaders to perpetuate themselves in power. At a time when national unity is needed, federalism will encourage tribal or regional differences. At a time when a strong nation-state is desired, federalism will only promote the rise of strong and well-entrenched provincial despots.

In his advocacy for federalism, former chief justice Reynato Puno said that the Philippines was a “failing democracy under a unitary form of government.” He concluded that the 1987 Constitution should be scrapped by adopting a federal system to solve our problems.

Puno conveniently forgets that the present Constitution is not the source of our national malaise. The cause of our problems is the corrupt political dynasties which have ruled this country for decades. According to Dr. Ronald Mendoza of the Ateneo de Manila School of Government, 81 percent of our governors, 70 percent of our mayors, and 78 percent of our congressmen are members of political dynasties. They have enjoyed concentration of too much economic and political power.

These are the same politicians who will continue to rule this country if we adopt a federal system. Will these corrupt and selfish leaders under a new federal system solve the problems of corruption, chronic unemployment, massive poverty and criminality that have blighted this hapless land?

Those who are seduced by the siren song of federalism cited the U.S. as an example of political and economic success. They argue that the U.S., which is composed of federal states is prosperous. Ergo, we must also adopt federalism. The citation is misplaced because of the historical contrasting situations of the two countries. The original 13 states of the U.S. came together to form a federal system precisely to gain strength. But the reverse is true in the Philippines because the present unitary state is converted into a federal state. This will cause the fragmentation, if not the break-up of what was once a nation.

Those who want to join in this lethal experiment for federalism hope that if federalism fails, we can turn back to the unitary system. They must listen to retired Supreme Court Justice Vicente V. Mendoza, a noted constitutionalist, who said:

“Should the federal system thus formed fail, there will be no turning back and returning to the old system. The break-up is more devastating in its effect on the component states than on the states in a federal system formed by the coming together of independent states. While the failure of this latter type of federation will simply mean the return of the component states to their former status as separate independent states, in the case of the Philippines however, each component state will find itself without moorings and become prey to annexation by other states. God forbid the break-up will not presage the spread of strife throughout the land.”

I am confident that our people will not join our leaders in their tragic decision to leap to hell. – Democrito C. Barcenas
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