Questions that must be asked before any talk of federalism in the Philippines starts

One of the main campaign promises of then-presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte was to push for federalism in the Philippines. He claims that it will make the delivery of basic services faster, and it is the only solution to the secessionist problem in the southern Philippines.

The word “federalism” traces its root to the Latin foedus, which means pact or covenant. Apparently so does the word, “confederalism”. Another root word found in dictionaries is the Latin fidelis, loyalty.

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From the point of view of another language, the German word Eidgenossenschaft – which is the word used to describe the Swiss Confederation – literally translates to oath fellowship.

With these key words in mind, we ask: Where in our history does it show, that the Philippines is an entity formed by a pact, or oath fellowship?

As it stands, it is generally accepted that the Spanish explorer Ruy Lopez de Villalobos came up with the name Las Islas Filipinas in honor of the man who would eventually become King Philip II. Before the Philippines existed, you had several tribes who tolerated each other, occasionally tried to wipe each other out, most likely didn’t have a common language, and seemingly were content with minding their own businesses and fiefdoms.

The Philippines, as an entity is best described as…

…no more than an artificial state originally created by the Spanish crown mainly for the purpose of consolidating and streamlining colonial administration of its assets in the region. The former countries of Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia, and now internally-unstable Rwanda, come to mind when one thinks of what the Philippines is all about — an agglomeration of fiefdoms that remain stuck together for the purpose of keeping alive nostalgic relics of 19th Century “nationalist” thinking and not for any real practical or measurable ends befitting a modern 21st Century society.

My impression of federal states, at this point, is that the bigger union, the bigger entity, has been well-defined, before the component entities go their own separate ways. In other words, the component entities have already come together to form a whole that is bigger than themselves. They see something in the federation/union worth becoming part of it for.

Do Filipinos have a history, a reputation for coming together, to make a bigger whole?

Unfortunately, the answer is no. Whenever Filipinos come together in contemporary society, they define themselves by their region first before anything else. They prioritize their own egos over the greater good, and are predisposed to think in terms of “me-first”. They tear each other down, and the resulting collective is smaller than any of the parts.

So, it seems that any history of coming together, forming a covenant, and establishing a bigger whole by themselves is virtually unknown in the Philippines.

Why then, are we federalizing under these conditions?

A phrase that seems to come up in the local discussions is, “break up into independent entities”. It seems to me then, that the move for federalism, despite having an ultimate intention of “empowering the regions”, is also pushing for the “kanya-kanya (to each his own)” framework that accompanies it.

But the prevailing framework is already kanya-kanya. The provinces are generally left to fend for themselves now (Visayas and Mindanao can more strongly attest to this), and are only called to attention when something is needed from them. Or when a celebrity hails from a particular locale.

What makes that framework any different from the already prevailing mentality? Why are we going to undertake a costly change in system, if the mentality remains relatively unchanged?

Breaking up one big nothing, results in, well…nothing! Zero divided by x is still zero!

In my opinion, the advocates for federalism are pushing a solution, and expect it to be successful in a top-down fashion. But real and lasting solutions to a society’s problems are directed at the root. And the root here goes deeper than the awful setup found in the country’s body of laws; it goes straight to the dysfunctional culture of Filipinos, a society of people that, quite simply, never could come together on their own.

The push for federalism is aimed at solving political and economic imbalances found in the current system. But the cultural component needed to make federalism work, at least the way it has worked in other countries, is seemingly not present here.

I guess, a question that really must be asked, and evaluated thoroughly, is:

Can a socio-cultural problem be solved by political means?

Filipinos need to plan their next steps carefully. The environment for change is already there; it is up to them whether this change will be ultimately beneficial or not to them.

15 Replies to “Questions that must be asked before any talk of federalism in the Philippines starts”

  1. Filipino’s are really good at TWO THINGS: COPYING THAT WHICH THEY LIKE AND FUCKING UP EVERYTHING ELSE. My best guess is that this chance to break from the ties that bind into something beneficial to the entire country will be squandered like the winnings of a cock-fight attendee on Saturday night.

  2. Nice topic that you’d made it here, FallenAngel. And yes, there might be a pros & cons if we will shift our country into a federal form of gov’t, and the most cons of it is our country is a 100% regionalistic. The reason? Our country is an archipelago nation just like similar to our neighboring country, Indonesia (but lucky for us we only have 7,100 islands here but in the Indonesia is about 13,000 islands), and then we have thousands of different ethnics, cultures, religions, languages and races. And how we could unite our country under a federal form of gov’t if we’re already been ethnically, racially, culturally & religiously divided for a long time and also our country’s geography is a disadvantage unlike other federal states like United States, Canada, India, Australia, Russia, Switzerland, Belgium, etc.? So this will be a huge problems for pro-fedralists Filipinos out there like President Duterte, Pimentel, Cayetano, etc.

    Well, I’m also in favor to this kind of federal system in our country provided that there should be a better solution to these problems that we’re facing in our country today (besides crimes, poverty & corruption). So in order to do that, there should be a safety net for pursuing a federalism in our country without further division (kanya-kanya) that could burden more on our country’s problems in the future. The best one example to make a better federal form in our country is to follow the Singaporean style of multiculturalism policy like this article that I read it recently:

    …And then we could create what kind of federal system that we must have in our country whether will it be a presidential/federal or a semi-presidential/federal or a parliamentary/federal type of government.

    And another one [but this will be an option] is that instead of democracy, our country should introduce this new kind of political system that I do believe this will be an ultimate solution to a long time national problems (e.g. corruption, political dynasties, epal, traditional politics, etc.). And this new type of political system is known as Demarchy (or also known as Sortism). If you want to know more about it, just click these websites or google the word “Demarchy”: and

    Hopefully this will be a greater solution to pursue a federalism in our country.

  3. The Philippines was not a country of tribal fiefdoms, before the Spaniards came.

    Ancient Filipinos built the Bannawe Rice Terraces.This monumental task cannot be built by one tribe , only… They have ancient alphabets and writings. They have laws, also, like the Code of Kalantiao…they traded with other countries , like China…

    It was political propaganda done by the Spanish colonizers, to state that we are some sort of uncivilized tribes…

    Divide and conquer was how they took hold of our country…

    The U.S., Germany, Mexico , etc…have Federal governments. You can study, how these countries governments work.

    I think Germany has a good Federal government. It is very transparent and it is working.

    I don’t believe that the present Cory Aquino’s constitution is fitted for the Filipino people.

    It is time to scrap it !

    Remove all the pictures and names of the Aquinos in our government. They are narcisists !

  4. The article is 100% CORRECT! In one place, the writer shows the historic and sociological dysfunction in the Philippines. There’s the mentality of 1. SELF 2. Family 3. Ethnic origins. As stated the country is an artificial construct that instead of coming together is a number of fiefdoms. The Tagalog Ethnic Group shoves down the throat the supposed national history and there’s resentment from the Visayas and Mindanao. I saw that resentment in full bloom in Cebu City and the National Anthem used the older ENGLISH WORDS! Yes, the writer, is correct it has to start at the roots and NOT the traditional Filipino Approach of top-down.

  5. for president duterte to succeed and get the trust of the pilipinos, de lima should be jailed without bail to the max for the crimes she did to the people. people were waiting for that.

  6. Changing the way our country is governed (deliberately mismanaged) nationally and locally is an absolute must and should be a priority for any incoming president.

    Something that matters to the average Joe almost daily is local public servants. So a quick shout out to Vice Mayors, well actually vice any position really, and Barangay Captains. Stupid job (ha) titles, utterly useless positions and mostly stupid useless occupants feathering their own nests. For example, the barangay captain here is generally driving around very drunk, telling absolutely everyone how important he & his family are, and be careful because he’s only using this menial position as a stepping stone to bigger things. Does nothing, no one likes him but everyone is scared of him & his family. Any system change can’t be any worse…please…

  7. Will Federalism solve the excruciating slow, expensive, tedious justice system that favors the moneyed and the powerful ?

    Will it lower the costs of court litigation whose lawyer’s appearance fee is three thousand pesos and acceptance for a mere ejectment case is ten thousand pesos?

    Would Federalism encourage the aggrieved citizen to go court to seek justice?

    Those who are pushing Federalism, why don’t you be honest enough to admit that it is all about political power ? That it is all about the politicians in the South greed for power that have been denied of them in the past, right?

  8. Federalism should be able to maintain unity among all. But this does not mean that we should boycott regional voices and the voices of ethnic groups.

  9. The sociocultural problem of kanya-kanya you speak of is already there thus making it easier for Federalism to succeed. If you think the impoverishment of provinces will not be solved because of this, then you have not been educated properly about the Fed plans some Duterte supporters are advocating for.

    This kanya-kanya attitude will prove that by enriching themselves first before other places, giving more opportunities for locals in their regions first so they won’t travel to Manila or abroad then A LOT of problems will be solved one by one.

    Traffic? Check.
    Congestion? Check.
    Brain death in jobs? Check
    OFW population? Check
    Manila as center of all funds? Check

    Federalism means equal opportunity for all that we won’t need Manila anymore to be cultured and educated or to get the perfect opportunities AS federalism will bring it right where Filipinos homes are — their provinces. It’s not about being regionalistic or socio-cultural sentiments; that’s a given! What you failed to discuss is the socio-economic impact such a change will provide.

    This is not anymore about perspectives that Federalism won’t change anything because we’re already regionalistic; you failed to look at all the variables I mentioned above beyond theorizing, you cited in your article. Look at the ground, hear and feel the real thing in the provinces and see where non-Manila centric Filipinos are coming from.

    Only then will you understand.

  10. I am willing to debate with anyone who is for Federalism. The 1973 Constitution (which Cory hijacked) with its unicameral parliamentary system is far superior than what DU30 is proposing.

    DU30 arguments of threatening the Filipino People of dire consequences if his Federalism is not approved is intellectual dishonesty.

  11. With President Trump possession to eradicate radical Islam anywhere in the world might lead DU30 as one of the collateral damages in USA’s pre-emptive strike against this threat to open societies in the world. With Putin and Xin Jiping against radical muslims who advocate Islamization of nation states, where would those who give concession to Radical Islam go?

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