NENE PIMENTEL: 12 STATESÂ IN PHIL FEDERAL SYSTEM
By: Bingo P. Dejaresco III
MAKATI- Â The main proponent of the Federal System of Government in the Philippines, former senate president Aquilino ” Nene” Pimentel, outlines 12 states that will comprise the Federal Government of the country.
He made the statement in a speech before businessmen and entrepreneurs at the New World Hotel here last Wednesday.
Since the political party’s inception in the 1980’s the PDP, co-founded by Pimentel- had always advocated for a federal system rather than a unitary form of government.
With the election of a PDP party man asÂ Philippine president in Rodrigo Duterte, the prospects of seeing through a federal system in this generation has never been closer to reality than today.
President Duterte himself asserted he would leave the presidency once the federal system is in place and retire for good in Davao which he ruled for two decades.
In the federal system, Bohol will be included in the State of Central Visayas to likely also include Cebu, Negros Oriental and Siquijor.
The 11 other states would be: The States of Northern Luzon, Central Luzon, Southern Tagalog, Bicol and Minparom (5 in Luzon) and the other two in the Visayas to be the States of Western Visayas and Eastern Visayas.
Mindanao will have three states in Northern Mindanao, Southern Mindanao and the Bangsamoro.
Metro Manila will be the Federal Administrative Region.
BENEFITS OF THE FEDERAL STATE
Since the colonial times, governance has been centralized in Manila and environsÂ leaving the rest of the nation in various states of underdevelopment. Because of this neglect, there has been a wide gap in wealth and opportunity in the countrysides and urban centers -leading to the Muslim and insurgency rebellion which has cost the nation plenty for decades.
Pimentel showed statistics that most of the manufacturing activities as well as the LGU share in the taxes apportioned by the national government have been concentrated in Metro Manila and the so-called CALABAR zone (Cavite-Laguna and Batangas).
Pimentel was also the author of the Local Government Code of 1991 that proved that decentralization works. More LGUS are now sovereign in their role to raised their own taxes and fund Â their socio-economic services like roads, hospitals and classrooms, among others.Â
The Bangsamoro State may have a slightly different take considering the uniqueness of the Shariah Law which is not exactly a copycat of the Philippine constitution.
The elder Pimentel whose son Koko is currently the senate president, said that those states who are less endowed than others will not be left behind as there will be an Equalization Fund to be administered by the Federal state government.Â
Where those states who less endowments will receive more.
MANNER OF INSTALLING THE FEDERAL STATEÂ
Pimentel said there are three ways of changing the form of government to Federal type. One is through “People’s Initiative” which is cumbersome. This was attempted by the government of president Fidel Ramos in his term with dismal results.Â
Another is the “Constitutional Convention” which is costly and tedious. In his book “Federalizing the Philippines”, Nene Pimentel explainedÂ that if the route will be through this manner, there should be a clear time line- a deadline- Â for the Concon to finish the transition law to federalism.Â
The third and more preferred one is through a “Constituent Assembly” with both the Senate and the Lower House voting. However, Pimentel suggested that both chambers should vote separately as independent bodies.Â
In April of 2008, senator Pimentel, in fact, filed a bill reverting the country to a federal state of government where 18 of 24 of his Â senate colleagues sided with him. The Bill, however, has not gathered traction in the Lower House from that time till the elections of 2016.
Now with the Duterte Coalition lording it over at the Lower House, it probably just needs an “urgent” certification from the Palace to make it move. However, the Senate is still expected to vote more independently than the House.
FORM OF FEDERAL GOVERNEMNT
The exact type of Philippine Federal State could be a hybrid among the many types of federalism found in many countries. “It should reflect the tradition and culture of people”, Pimentel assured.
In his blueprint, Pimentel sees a total of 82 senators -each region having its own senate. Â In some systems, there are the senate and the lower House called the National Assembly which has vast powers.Â
There is also the presidential-parliament type with the former making policies and the latter governing the day to day affairs of government.Â
There will be a clear split between Policy Making and Administration.Â
Much of the IRA will be distributed in the states and not centralized in “Imperial Manila” as currently done through the various government agencies under the president under the present system. This has made the president under the unitary form the “biggest dispenser of pork”.Â
The fund allocation in the federal system will be based on Population and land usage Â of the states to be nurtured Â by the Equalization Fund.
Under the Pimentel Model, the country will have one PNP and Armed Forces, one flag and currency. Education, health and infrastructure will be funded by national taxes and delivered at the LGU level. Â LGUs will define their own internal policies and agricultural priorities.
The whole theme of Federalism is the acknowledgement of the fact that there is no sovereign who knows better the needs of the people and how to deliver the solutions than the local governments. Therefore they should also have the “power of the purse” in pursuing their developmental goals.
The decentralization of power and finance will, therefore, solve many of the serious problems of pockets of underdevelopment especially in the rural areas.
According to NEDA, this resultantÂ regional prosperity will help reduce poverty to its target of 16% by the year 2022 and help create the Filipino middle class.Â
Aside from championing the cause of the LGUs through the Local Government Code of 1991, Nene Pimentel was one of the 13 “Magnificent Senators” that kicked out the American bases in Subic and Clark. As senate president, he likewiseÂ figured prominently in the impeachment case against then president Joseph Estrada.
Everything seems to have gone full circleÂ as his son Koko is now the senate president and the main battering ram for Federalism in the Upper Chamber.Â