Tell it to SunStar: Discoursing federalism

AMIDST all the debates and discourses on Federalism is a missing piece: a serious discussion on the theory behind the proposed system of government.

Here, “theory” includes the philosophical assumptions behind the political positions including those that are ethical in nature. These assumptions serve as the basis or even the postulates of our claims.

The tendency of public opinion is to overly focus on the “practical” leaving little if not “no room for the theoretical.” It is important not to fall into the trap set up by proponents who would like their audience to take their world like a religious credo in the name of practicality or pragmatism. While to some extent political propaganda is understandable but it would also be dangerous to merely believe in unexamined assumptions especially if they are overly loaded with self-interest.

The case of federalism is not an exception. Federalism is not just a neutral system that can or should be imposed without critique or discussion. It has ethical presuppositions, including assumptions on how people could best relate or deal with each other. Political philosophers know very well that ultimately – that which we call “political” only makes sense and meaning because of a certain kind of “happiness” that we envision.

The problem that I see with many proponents of federalism (and their critics also) is that they limit themselves to promises and even projections of a “better” Federalized Philippines. We are not told however why in the very first place federalism emerged, why certain states chose to adapt the system, and why some people and theorists believe that in certain cases a unitary system is not suited to a certain group of people.

This is important because in the final analysis, a system of government is good only an insofar as it satisfies and meets not only the people’s deeds but also the direction of their imagined community.

Unfortunately, we do not hear from our legislators or even from our local academics explain anything in this level of discourse. All verbal gymnastics on the issue are motherhood statements fashioned in ideological terms. A closer examination of them, however, reveal that some of those who dream of federalism want to take over the ship because of their agenda.

Democracy requires deliberation. Discussions on any proposed system should not be decided merely on the basis of regionalistic biases, recycled arguments and claims to economic prosperity.

Unfortunately even some universities and spaces of learning where these theories should be developed are as clueless as our politicians. There is no denying that symposia have been organized here and there. The discussions are limited and have not taken off for a more critical interrogation of our assumptions.

Academics, instead of taking the lead end up as receivers of marketing strategies for or against federalism. This is not only sad but also ridiculous. If there is any institution that should not be swayed by political promises, it should be the academe.

We need deeper discourses on federalism!--Rhoderick John S. Abellanosa
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