The ongoing conflict between the DILG and Governor Gwen Garcia of Cebu has highlighted one of the fundamental problems we have in our system of government: too much centralization. Here you have a sitting governor (who is to end her term in six months) being disciplined for an offense that happened a long time ago. The punishment is too harsh and really unnecessary and out-of-place. Justice has not been served. Rather than fault Gwen for her quixotic decision to continue fighting, we should rather look at the system that has allowed this to happen.
I am a member of the CoRRECT Movement, and our ultimate goal is to reform our system of government by rewriting the 1987 Constitution. We do not claim that fixing our problematic constitution would magically also fix our problems, but it is a prerequisite. We just can’t move forward until we fix our constitution. We have three planks: economic liberalization (free markets), evolving federalism, and a parliamentary form of government.
Our second agenda, evolving federalism, is what’s most relevant in the present discussion. It is really about decentralization, and what it means exactly is allowing each region to have its own government. We believe in the principle of “subsidiarity”, which Wikipedia definesÂ thus:
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“Subsidiarity is an organizing principle stating that a matter ought to be handled by the smallest, lowest, or least centralized authority capable of addressing that matter effectively. The Oxford English Dictionary defines subsidiarity as the idea that a central authority should have a subsidiary function, performing only those tasks which cannot be performed effectively at a more immediate or local level. The concept is applicable in the fields of government, political science, cybernetics, management, military (Mission Command) and, metaphorically, in the distribution of software module responsibilities in object-oriented programming. In political theory, subsidiarity is sometimes viewed as a principle entailed by the idea of federalism.”
Federalism, the idea of dividing our nation into its different regions, each with its own government, does not mean that each region will be its own country with its own national defense, completely independent from Manila. We want Manila to keep some of its present powers, but we want to LIMIT those powers to the barest minimum. In particular, we want to limit the power of Manila to that of command and control of the national military, including the duty to protect the country from invasion, natural calamities, and local insurgency; the power to decide the level of national taxation and the collection thereof; and finally the power to protect individual rights through the national judiciary. The national government may enact new laws, but those laws will have to conform and not be in conflict with a new constitution. All national government powers not defined in the new constitution are RESERVED for the regional governments, and if not defined for the regional governments, are then RESERVED for the people. The idea is to limit the encroachments of the national government into local government.
In this kind of system, the national government will not have the power to suspend, much less dismiss, any local official. The DILG cannot punish somebody just like it punished Governor Gwen Garcia. In fact, in this kind of system, there is no need for a national government department such as DILG (Department of the Interior and Local Government). If a local official abuses her office and tramples the rights of any one person, then such person can sue the local government officer by filing a complaint with any of the national courts. It can be argued that, in this case at least, the role of the DILG is no different from that of the national courts, and all we have done is add more cases to the national courts. (Our over-backlogged court system is another issue, which our constitutional changes will also fix, but that’s another subject.) There are several differences between the DILG handling the situation, and a court doing it:
- In a formal trial, the accused or at least her lawyer would have been present in all proceedings;
- Whereas the DILG, being a political body, cannot throw away cases that are politically motivated, any court can dismiss frivolous cases; and
- In a formal trial, the only criteria for judgment would be national laws, which would be limited to the protection of individual rights; contrast this with the DILG, which has to concern itself with all the gory details of governance, as shown by its ruling in this case. In short, the DILG meddles in the affairs of local governance, the judicial court would not.
The national judicial system will be the final arbiter of disputes, but each region, if its finances allow it, may set up its own local court system. The local court system will be subject to both the national constitution and regional laws. (This will then have the added benefit of fixing the Bangsamoro issue once and for all.)
Each region may also enact its own taxation. Fear not that each region will then fleece its inhabitants by too high a level of taxation. Each citizen of the country will not lose his/her ability to move from one region to another, therefore regions that tax too much WILL see their populations decrease. By increasing taxes too much, their revenues would therefore decrease instead of increase.
Most people also fear that each regional leader can then easily abuse the new powers. The question these people should ask is this: can you trust the Manila central government more than you can trust your own local leaders? Who would be more difficult to watch, your local leaders, or national government leaders?
Our geography which is made up of thousands of islands, our different cultures (from the well-known frugality of the Ilocanos to the colorful festivities of the South), and even our history all cry out for a federalist system of governance.
A good friend (Edgar Millan) wrote more than a year ago:
“… The Ilocanos of the north had their own history starting with the Ilocos Revolt in 1661 and the Great Rebellion in 1762 led by Diego Silang among many others. Then of course, there was Juan Ponce Sumuroy who led a revolt in Samar in 1649 and the famous Francisco Dagohoy, the Bol-anon who led an 85-year revolt in Bohol in 1744.
“In truth, the short-lived Malolos government had feeble authority over the revolutionary movements in the Visayas and Mindanao. The Provisional Revolutionary Government of the Visayas and Mindanao, established on Nov. 17, 1898, in Sta. Barbara, Iloilo was fueled by federalist tendencies. These clashed with the unitary and centralized tendencies of the Malolos Congress where Tagalogs overwhelmingly outnumbered representatives from other regions. The Visayans resented attempts by Malolos to assert its authority and the Luzon force was regarded as an “invasion” force by the Visayan revolutionaries led by their supremo Gen. Martin Delgado. As for the turn of events the following ocurred:
“On Nov. 17, 1898, at the plaza of Santa Barbara, Delgado proclaimed the Provisional Revolutionary Government of the Visayas and Mindanao. He raised the Philippine flag sent by General Emilio Aguinaldo. It was the first time that the Filipino national flag was hoisted outside of Luzon Island. When the flag reached the top of the bamboo pole, the air reverberated with cries of Viva Filipinas! Fuera EspaÃ±a! Viva Independencia! The band struck up the Marcha Libertador composed by General Delgado’s brother Posidio. The provisional government was later replaced by a Politico-Military Government on Nov. 23, 1898, composed only of the Visayas, because the Visayan leaders finally preferred instead, a federal arrangement composed of –Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao, as a logical substitute because of its indigenous elements.
“With the merger on Dec. 2, 1898 of the Independent Republic of Negros and the Cantonal Government of Bohol (established in August-1898); the Panay government that included Romblon (part of Capiz), based in Iloilo was renamed Federal Republic of the Visayas, patterned after the U.S. Federal and Cantonal government of the Swiss Confederation. On April 28, 1899 President Emilio Aguinaldo abolished the Federal Republic and appointed Delgado as the civil and military governor of Iloilo Province under the central Philippine government. He waged guerrilla warfare against the Americans on Panay Island.”