Federalism permits non-centralization of power, allowing regions to exercise the powers currently subjected to monopoly by the elite few, as emphasized by Consultative Committee (ConCom) head Wendell Tamayo and ConCom member Atty. Antonio Arellano last Thursday during the Usapang Federalismo in Finster Auditorium.
“Federalism solves the problem by giving the power back to the people and back to the government that is closer and more accountable,” Tamayo said.
“We have given so much to so few in the government; it’s time to reverse the situation… Let us give back power to the people; let us give back power for the people.
“What federalism provides… is actual power… Actual power that cannot be taken away by a central government,” he added.
Atty. Arellano presented the history of the political situation in the Philippines, illustrating pre-colonial Philippines to the creation of the democratic and free 1987 Philippine Constitution.
He said that before the Spaniards came to the Philippines, the archipelago was not one political unit, like what the state has today.
“The archipelago was not one political unit. It is actually a scattering of small political units,” he said.
Atty. Arellano further traced the constitutions established during the tenure of different presidents: Manuel L. Quezon in 1935, Ferdinand Marcos in 1973, and Corazon Aquino in 1987.
The 1987 Philippine Constitution, drafted as the Freedom Constitution after the dictatorship of Marcos, is the present constitution of the state.
Federalism in the Philippines
Moderator Atty. Romeo Cabarde commented that the federal structure was a “natural” for the Filipinos.
“Federal structure is very natural for us… so this is like a going back to our natural habitat,” Atty. Cabarde said.
Tamayo agreed with Atty. Cabarde, saying that before the Spaniards came, what the Philippines had was akin to federalism.
“What is not natural to us is the unitary system, which was actually abused by the colonizing power, and that is the Spaniards,” he said.
Atty. Arellano stated that there is no one model of federalism, and what the Philippines will adopt is different to that of the United States.
He added that federalism in the Philippines will not create different states, but regions under one single Philippine state.
“Ours is a single state. Ours is a federalism under a single Philippine state. We are not creating states… we are merely adopting a different structure of government for the same Philippine state,” he said.
Currently, the three branches of government are vested in the central government: the executive, legislative, and judicial branch. Final decision is done by the central government.
For Atty. Arellano, the federal government promotes welfare and common good in the region because of the distribution of powers.
Tamayo explained the different grants of power to the 18 regions: exclusive, shared, and reserve.
“Exclusive powers are powers that are granted solely to a unit of government upon the exclusion of all others. Meaning, no one can exercise an exclusive power except the one granted the power.
“An exclusive power is granted to the federal government and the regional government. That is why, you have a list of areas where the federal government will have exclusive jurisdiction, and that is on Section 1, Article 12,” he explained.
Shared powers, under Section 4, Article 12, are powers that are not given exclusively to a region or the federal government.
“Why is it made that way? Because of the nature of the power. If we enumerated all the powers that are shared, and you forget something, the regional government can claim that that is exclusively theirs,” Tamayo said.
Reserve powers are powers that are neither exclusive nor shared, but not exactly prohibited.
Tamayo added how the people, under the proposed constitution, will have more power to exercise their democracy through plenary powers.
“Under this constitution, we enhace the power of the people to exercise direct democracy under Section 6. The people now will enjoy plenary powers. You can actually enact laws, you can actually repeal laws, you can modify laws through people’s initiative.
“Under the 1987 Constitution there’s a people initiative provision, but it has never been successfully done. Why? Because it’s hard! They make it hard. Under the proposed constitution, it is easier to contact people’s initiative. Because there is power to the people,” he stressed.
The ConCom is President Rodrigo Duterte’s charter change committee who were tasked to review the 1987 Philippine Constitution.
ConCom released its final draft of the proposed federal constitution last July 17. If implemented, a Transition President and Vice President will be elected in the May 2022 elections, and Duterte will be prohibited from running, as stated in Article 22.