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    LOGODEF organized a Capacity Building Program for the Municipality of Tuba, Benguet
Federalism Seminar at UST

Evolving the Right Model for a Working Philippine Democracy

Last 9 November 2016, LOGODEF in partnership with The Political Science Forum, the sole political organization in the University of Santo Tomas, held a seminar about the current state of Local Governance, and the prospects of Federalism. The seminar was held at the Benavides auditorium in the University of Santo Tomas. 

Last 9 November 2016, LOGODEF in partnership with The Political Science Forum (TPSF), the sole political organization in the University of Santo Tomas, held a seminar about the current state of Local Governance, and the prospects of Federalism. The seminar was held at the Benavides auditorium in the University of Santo Tomas.

The seminar was attended by notable resource speakers who were experts on the different aspects of Federalism, and Local Governance; Dr. Francisco Magno of the De La Salle Jesse Robredo Institute, Atty. Benedicto Bacani of the Institute for Autonomy and Governance, Prof. Eric de Torres of the University of the East, Mr. Jonathan Malaya of the PDP-Laban Federalism Institute, and Dir. Novel Bangsal of the Congressional Policy and Budget Research Department.

Mr. Juancho Martinez, President of TPSF, and Prof. Jazztin Manalo delivered the welcoming remarks for the seminar, hoping for an intellectual discourse for the good of local governance.

 

The need for systemic reforms in the Philippines

Dr. Francisco Magno presented his lecture on “The Need for Systemic Reforms in the Philippines”. Dr. Magno reiterated the concept of the Principle of Subsidiarity, in reference to Local Governance; he also advocated that a Democracy is a system that requires the institutionalization of Devolution and Autonomy. Dr. Magno enumerated 4 key components of Reform: 1. More devolution and autonomy, 2. More equitable systems of finance, 3. Transparency & accountability, 4. Federalism & empowerment of the Local Government Code. In line with this the conditions to have a successful decentralization, there should be adequate financial resource, actual empowerment and enough power to influence decentralization, a working legal framework, and lastly, adequate capacity to perform adequate services. As for regional governance, Dr. Magno states that this level of governance requires coordination especially with environmental and health matters. More so, political boundaries should be transcended if a regional government would be put in to place, and to empower and capacitate LGUs so as to deliver.

An initial draft of a semi-presidential federal model

Prof. Edmund Tayao then introduced P.R.E.P’s initial draft on a Federal Semi-Presidential Model and welcomed insights and questions about the working draft from the students. Afterwards, Mr. Jonathan Malaya then supported the draft by discussing his lecture entitled, “Working for Real Reforms: Why Now is the Time.” As the tragedy of Typhoon Haiyan, the aftermath and efforts taken by the government, it exemplifies the need for recalibrating the Philippine Government, hence a proposal to federalize. Mr. Malaya enumerated a number of examples of how Local Government Units have yet to fulfil their full capacity.

Autonomy, peace and development: triggers of political reform

Autonomy arrangements or a federal constitution may be more appropriate than a unitary constitution in managing multi-ethnicity and a plural society. President Rodrigo Duterte, a former Local Chief Executive in Mindanao, advocates resolving the “Mindanao problem” which is mainly caused by social divide and cleavages. However, Atty. Benedicto Bacani reminds us that Federalism is not a magic pill, there has to be more than the idea of ‘Federalism” to solve the problems of Mindanao. Reforming into a Federal system in resolving the Bangsamoro conflict should 1. be carefully examined, 2. have considerations on asymmetry, and 3. reframe the debate. Atty. Bacani then closes his presentation with the words, RIGHT FRAMEWORK, RIGHT TIMELINE, AND RIGHT STRUCTURE.

 

Philippine readiness: Decentralization and health and education outcomes

Dir. Novel Bangsal then presented an examination of how health services (a devolved function), and education services (tangentially devolved) worked in the decentralized system. Issues on health are rooted in the financing, and capacitating LGUs to provide necessary technical equipment and manpower, there were still substantial improvements especially in health expenditures. However, the sustainability in delivering health services is problematic. On education, data shows that as the regions get farther from Metro Manila, LGU expenditure on education dramatically gets lower and lower, and that MOOE transfers aren’t easily downloaded to schools. In a nutshell, apart from fiscal and financial lapses, both of these services whether devolved or tangentially devolved, have their own respective issues because of the kind of inter-governmental relations in use. If only these very critical services were more empowered to LGUs, they could have used their full potential and fulfil the principle of subsidiarity. The lesson from this is – path to federalism should not be conceived as rigid structures but evolving processes – in order to balance the motives of shared rule (unity) and self-rule (diversity).

 

After the presentations, a critiquing session was set in place. The panel of reactors was composed of Faculty members from the Political Science department, Ms. Marielle Marcaida, Ms. Anna Aquino, and Atty. Rigor Pascual. The arguments of the reactors were all channeled into the direction of remaining in the status quo, having agreed that Federalizing in a short span of time as directed by the President would be too risky, and should rather look at other options than Federalism. The panel of speakers received criticisms well and responded with clarifications regarding their efforts in studying Federalism.

The seminar was officially closed by the Faculty of Arts and Letters Dean Michael Vasco, with words of wisdom from John Rawls’ concept of fairness.