A Boholano’s View

boholano-thumbPresident Rodrigo Duterte champions shift to Federalism. This was one of his most important proposals for substantive institutional change in his heroic and popular campaign for the presidency.

Our Centrist Democratic Party of the Philippines: Ang Partido ng Tunay na Demokrasya has been a vigorous champion of autonomous regions in transition from a highly centralized Unitary System to a future Federal Republic of the Philippines. We felt we had ideas and experience to contribute to the reforms under our new President towards federalism.

We in CDPI had been strongly supporting the vigorous campaign of the MILF and President B.S. Aquino III for the proposed Bangsamoro Autonomous Region as a major reform towards building other autonomous regions. We saw all this as a welcome and hopeful development towards a future Federal Republic.

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Defeat of the proposed Bangsamoro Autonomous Region Law. Unfortunately, the sad outcome of the  Mamasapano massacre in January 2015 discouraged the prospects of the approval of the proposed Bangsamoro Autonomous Region Law. The fast approaching national elections in May 2016 raised strong opposition to the bill. And outgoing President B.S. Aquino III was fast weakened as a lame duck chief executive and head of state.

Present prospects for a shift to federalism? It’s timely to learn from the wisdom of Dr. Peter Koeppinger, former Representative of Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS), 2009-2014. From him as a wise counselor to our Centrist Democratic Movement that became the Centrist Democratic Party of the Philippines in 2012, let’s consider his timely advice.

And now I quote Dr. Peter Koeppinger extensively for the rest of this column.

“There is a kind of magic triangle of real democracy: this is the essence of lessons learnt from successful as well as poor performing and completely failing democracies during the last 100 years all over the world. Only where the three elements of inclusive democratic participation, parliamentary form of government and subsidiary state structures come together, democracy is functioning successfully and sustainably in modern countries.

“The Philippine democracy is, and I quote here former Chief Justice Reynato Puno, “a pure façade on top of dynastic patronage structures”. It cannot work to the satisfaction of the citizens, because There is no inclusive democratic participation, no parliamentary form of government, and no subsidiary state structure in the Philippines.

“The Centrist-Democratic Vision for the Philippines is to introduce in a consequent way all these three elements of real democracy in a fundamental reform of the Philippine Constitution, based on the noble values of the 1987 Constitution, but correcting the wrong institutional set-up of this constitution which made the Philippines after the EDSA-Revolution a failing democracy.

“Federalism has to be built on inclusive democratic participation,

  • with an electoral system in which through strong proportional elements all groups and minorities have a fair chance of being represented,
  • with a system of principled political parties owned and operated by citizens, with transparent internal democratic structures and financial independence from dynasties,
  • with an electoral process in which the laws against vote buying and other forms of undemocratic manipulation are strictly implemented and observed.

“If  federalism is established without this inclusive democratic participation, regional states will be controlled by powerful dynasties or even warlords – and not by the people in the regions.

“There is a second requisite. There are numerous studies showing clearly the superiority of the parliamentary system over the presidential system, especially in countries after periods of dictatorship. If federalism will not be combined with parliamentary form of government on national and regional level,

  • the regional administrations will be marred by blockades between the administration and the legislatives, leading to horse-trading between the administration and the members of the legislative on each and any strategic and legislative project instead of effective government;
  • furthermore the persons on top of the regional administration will be unaccountable as there is no effective control until the next elections.”

“It does not improve the situation of our people to get federalist structures with no effective and accountable government.

“When the experts from the Philippine Government and from MILF drafted in 2013/2014 the Basic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region, they considered very carefully how this autonomous region could function in the future for the benefit of the people and for a stable, democratic development. With the clear dangers of potential warlords and patronage structures destroying the new political entity before their eyes, they came jointly to the conclusion to draft it as a parliamentary form of government, built on a new, partly proportional electoral system with principled political parties.

“In the upcoming constitutional reforms these issues have to be taken into account. Otherwise the new structures will be built into the clouds, they will be nothing but big words and we will give the people the stones of continuing corruptive state structures instead of the bread of effective democratic governance.” Dr. Peter Koeppinger

By Jose “Pepe” Abueva



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