Wenceslao: Time to speak out

THE more I listen to politicians who are proponents of federalism, the more I oppose the idea. Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and his lieutenants in the House of Representatives and members of the administration party PDP-Laban have also come up with proposals on charter changes that seeks to undo much of the progressive provisions of the 1987 Constitution. If they have their way, we could end up with a federal setup that is not only messy but also primitive.

This has prompted former senator and PDP-Laban founder Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel Jr. to come out in the open and chide the “nonsense” that these politicians are proposing. The “nonsense” Pimentel mentioned are actually proposals that are meant to prop up the personal and selfish interests of the proponents. But many of these politicians are with the Duterte camp and could get what they want, unless well-meaning citizens start making their voices heard.

One development that could ease our worries is the recent formation of a 25-member constitutional commission that would advice Congress as a Constituent Assembly (Con Ass) in drafting a new federal charter. The group will be headed by former Supreme Court chief justice Reynato Puno, who is pro-federalism but is honest and sensible. Pimentel is in the group as well as members of the academe.

This should put a stop to all the “nonsense” that members of the House are coming up with. There is no need to mangle the constitution in instituting a federal setup. The problem is that the constitutional commission’s function is merely advisory, which means that the final say would still be with Congress. But at least with the commission, plus the senators, the House would be reined in.

Even then, I still don’t see something good in a federal setup that retains the political setup dominated by political dynasties. By extension, political dynasties have not been broken because their economic ascendancy in their turfs have not been broken also. Unless a thoroughgoing change in the economic setup in the proposed federal states is mandated, then the worst may even happen to us.

Under the federal setup, another level of bureaucracy would necessarily be put up on top of the current local government units and below what would be a federal government. That bureaucracy would be filled by members of political dynasties in the towns, cities and provinces of a federal state. Not only will their stint be funded by the federal state, it would be difficult to change them once they are in power and in control of the government machinery.

This would especially be true in a generally feudal setting like Mindanao that is prone to the surfacing of warlord types of politicians. Remember the Ampatuans in Maguindanao that also control politics in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao? It was only after the massacre in Maguindanao that their ruthlessness and corruption were exposed at the national level.

That’s one of my main beefs against the federal setup. I encourage the others to start speaking out now. Who was it who said that the only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing?
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