Preparing a Debate Framework on Federalism

Manila Bulletin, March 6, 2018 | Go to article overview

Preparing a Debate Framework on Federalism


By Florangel Rosario Braid

Let's take advantage of the growing interest in the subject of federalism and use this in developing a framework of federalism, Philippine-style. This is what constitutionalists and other experts have been trying to propose by saying that we need a "hybrid" that is suited to our culture and existing physical, political, social, and economic realities.

In other words, we may borrow some of the features of the federal systems of other countries but we do not transplant the entire structure of a particular country regardless of its success. If we agree on this premise for a start, I think even the skeptics and critics of federalism will give a fair hearing.

From some leaders of the administration, there appears to be differences in preference on a critical issue. The President prefers a federal-presidential form while others have expressed the more common structure which is federal-parliamentary.

From these expressed opinions, let's begin to develop the needed framework for a debate. The latter is essential and let's allow as many sectors of society to undertake this exercise. Right now, it is happening but primarily from academe and the more enlightened professional and civil society groups. This has to be a nation-wide exercise that should take place in various forums - over media, coffee clubs, barangays, and various public gatherings. The usual structure of these debates is that of defending the pros or advantages and the cons of federalism.

But this would merely enhance the already ongoing conflict among various groups and further divide our already fragmented population. Also, this may be a simplistic way of doing it as there are many variations of federalism.

Atty. Michael Yusingco writes about insights that he gained from speakers and participants of the Eurac Winter School on Federalism at the University of Insbruck, Austria. One, he noted, was that our search for a more finite definition of federalism may come to naught because federal systems around the world are not alike. Which means that the federal parliamentary or federal-presidential or other variations when adopted by individual countries, still undergo changes in its implementation. Our Philippine advocates' discourse centers on "federalism coming and holding together, comparative federalism, and competitive federalism. …

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