THE dream of federalism is as old as the Republic itself. Cebu-based historian Resil Mojares writes that in 1898, even before the revolutionary government of Emilio Aguinaldo had established its presence in the Visayas, leaders in Iloilo already formed a Federal State of the Visayas, anticipating the formation of a federal republic with three states — Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. 

In 1899, when the Americans were establishing their rule throughout the archipelago, a group of Filipinos, says Mojares, also submitted to the Philippine Commission a draft constitution for a Federal Republic of the Philippines, which would divide the country into 11 states. The following year, Ilocano intellectual Isabelo de los Reyes proposed a federal constitution with seven states, each named after Filipino heroes (Burgos for northern Luzon, del Pilar for central Luzon, down the line to Soliman for Mindanao).

These proposals were not heeded for understandable reasons. Aguinaldo was fighting a war and so needed a strong republic (another not-so-new term) with a strong center. The U.S., too, was cool to the idea, because it needed to consolidate its rule throughout the islands. But federalism is a dream that refuses to die.

The calls, from the 1970s, for a Republic of Mindanao (with its own currency, the Mindanao dollar), were the martial-law versions of this dream — the strong centralized authoritarian rule of Marcos naturally whetted federalist aspirations. In Cebu, as Mojares writes, the federalist call became more intense after Ceboom of the late 1980s and the realization by local leaders that they had a thriving economic base that was weighed down by its links to the center. For sure, there is a popular yearning for federalism, a yearning that through the years has also been exploited, domesticated and thwarted by politicians of every stripe.

Today President Arroyo is resurrecting the federalist dream, as part of a package of constitutional changes designed to save her embattled presidency. The leaders of the House are also endorsing it, although they, especially Speaker Jose de Venecia, are really more interested in a parliamentary system that gives their kind — politicians with a patronage and electoral base in the districts — both executive and legislative powers. For de Venecia, a shift to a parliamentary system offers a back route to the prime ministership and protects the monopoly of political power by traditional politicians, most of them members of political clans, from the incursions of media and movie stars into what was once trapo territory.

In fact, the draft constitutional amendments proposed earlier this year by the Speaker’s allies in the House committee for constitutional amendments hardly mentions federalism, except to say that a federal form of government would be installed within 10 years after the approval of the amended constitution. Not surprisingly, it gives the new parliament the power to divide the country “into as many ‘independent states’” as it deems fit, and to define the powers of those states, while reserving for the federal government powers on national defense, monetary policies, and “such other powers as it may deem imperative.” (Click here for House Concurrent Resolution No. 04, authored by Rep. Constantino Jaraula, which embodies the vision of constitutional change of the Speaker and his allies.)

The proposed constitutional amendments in the House spell out de Venecia’s dream: an all-powerful unicameral parliament or National Assembly, which will elect a powerful Prime Minister, who will choose his Cabinet mainly from the elected representatives. All members of the parliament will be elected by single-member districts; there is no mention of party-list or proportional representation. There will also no longer be any limits on the number of parliamentarian’s terms, which will each be four years rather than the current three.The President, elected from among the members of the National Assembly, will have only ceremonial functions.

Only yesterday, in a press conference held by some Lakas congressmen with federalism advocate, the respected academic Jose V. Abueva, did the Speaker’s allies give more details of their vision of a Federal Philippines. In launching the Movement for a Federal Philippines, the congressmen said there will be 12 states which would have taxation and lawmaking as well as executive powers, with the federal government being limited to defense, police, foreign relations, monetary policy and communications.

Abueva has been chosen by the president to be a member of a Consultative Constitutional Commission for Charter Change, composed of eminent citizens who would consult with people around the country and submit their inputs to Congress. A long time advocate of constitutional reforms, Abueva has proposed a federal-parliamentary system of government composed of 11 states, with a president as symbolic head of state, a powerful prime minister who is head of government and a bicameral parliament. The House of the People will have 300 members, most of them elected at the district level although 60 to 80 members would be selected by proportional representation. The Senate shall be elected from members of the states assemblies, meaning that they will be representatives of their states or regions. The parliament members will sit for four years and will elect the prime minister from among themselves.

Abueva’s proposals for federalism, unlike the Jaraula resolution, are more defined and articulated. They also include measures for electoral and political party reform. For your weekend reading, read Abueva’s proposal here.

Even as the talk of cha-cha snowballs, the reality is that without Senate approval, the proposal to convene Congress into a constitutent assembly to draft a new constitution is dead in the water. But the congressmen’s persistence, and the mobilization of popular support, especially for federalism, might yet succeed in creating enough political noise to keep the issue in the media and in the national consciousness in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, the public focus will also be on the impeachment, and the energies of the opposition and a whole range of political movements will be aimed not so much at charter change but at holding the president accountable.

This makes the charter change advocates in the anti-Arroyo camp fume. Joel Rocamora of the Institute for Popular Democracy, who has worked for constitutional reforms for many years, is mad that the President is now mouthing the same “arguments that many of us who advocate constitutional reform have been saying for years.”

“Now the same arguments (are) being soiled by the barf of her desperation,” he rants. (Read that piece here, as well as an earlier, more sober article, called “Cha Cha pag wala na si Gloria.”

30 Responses to Dreaming of federalism: Weekend readings



July 29th, 2005 at 6:46 pm

As what Hyatt 10 said GMA is using Charter change initiatives to evade persistent questions about her credibility and trustworthiness. Let us keep ourselves focus to the CORE. What bring about this distracting and nuisance topic of Charter Change – IT’S THE CHEATING, LYING and STEALING initiated and perpetuated by GMA, ang pekeng pangulo.



July 29th, 2005 at 8:45 pm

Looks like the scale will be tipping back and forth for the next few months. The question is whether either side will make enough progress to tip the scale completly. Meanwhile, the Filipinos will just have wait and suffer.

Between the executive and legislative branches, do you think anybody has enough time to concentrate on their real duties?



July 29th, 2005 at 8:46 pm

As much as I would like to, i am not going to comment anything regarding con-ass or cha-cha, to do so would be like being “fished-in” by GMAs media diversionary tactics.

Why not concentrate more on compiling and researching more evidince to strengthen the impeachment effort. If justice is already served we are ready to discuss charter change.

We can can do more service by documenting more paper trail and other incriminating documents. The Garci tape is only a tip of the iceberg. Let us coordinate with pinoys abroad to locate the whereabouts of Garci or to report of any sightings (ala UFO) etc….



July 29th, 2005 at 9:09 pm

Talk about starting the great diversionary debate on charter change… here it goes. Research, research and research… ooppps! Impeachment? What’s that?


Abe N. Margallo

July 29th, 2005 at 9:17 pm

For a starter, I would like to share here a piece first published in the moribund and on April 10, 2001.The artcile, originally titled “Federalism: A constituional response to secession” is now contained in my book BUILD or PERISH! (UST Publishing, 2005).

A constitutional response to secession

by Abe N. Margallo

The last time our constitution underwent an overhaul was in 1986 after the Marcos regime was ended following a dramatic wave of people’s power led by Cory Aquino.

Foremost among the changes introduced were the limitation of the presidential term of office to six years without re?election, the abolition of death penalty, and, more prominently, the premium put on human rights and on the Philippines as a “welfare state” where the state is called upon to act as Parens Patriae. That was the temper of the times in response to the political, economic, and societal malaise that so afflicted the country.

During the 1973 constitutional revision and shift to a hybrid parliamentary system under the shadow of martial law, President Marcos cited seven threats to the Republic: Communist revolutionaries; rightist coup; secessionist movement in the south; private armies and political warlords; the criminal elements who take advantage of the situation; the oligarchy who sought to maintain the status quo; and foreign interventionists.

In expounding on the limits of his martial law powers, Marcos conceded, “martial rule could not, in the long run, secure the Philippine Republic unless the social inequities and old habits which precipitated the military necessity were stamped out.”

The Mindanao conflict has generated a recent rumbling to amend the charter with a number of senators proposing the adoption of a federal system of government as a constitutional option to solve the Mindanao problem. I find this issue as deserving a full debate.

To dismiss it as nothing less than an attempt to “balkanize” the country, as former senator Raul Roco once put it, glosses over the merits of federalism that has sustained for more than 200 years the existence and integrity of the United States, the most prosperous and the strongest nation of the world.

It is apposite to take note that this proposal to adopt federalism appears to follow the historical trend towards fuller autonomy for local governments. All that the 1935 Charter provided on the subject of local autonomy was to limit the executive authority to the exercise of “general supervision” over local governments, thereby denying the executive the more pervasive power of “control.” On the other hand, the 1973 Constitution declared as one of its fundamental principles that: “The State shall guarantee and promote the autonomy of local government units, especially the barrio, to ensure their fullest development as self?reliant communities.” That was not all.

The 1973 Constitution in fact devoted an entire article (Article XI) to local government mandating therein the enactment of a local government code. The present Constitution further expanded the 1973 provisions likewise in a separate article dedicated to local government while creating in addition “the autonomous regions in Muslim Mindanao and in the Cordilleras consisting of provinces, cities, municipalities, and geographical areas sharing common and distinctive historical and cultural heritage, economic and social structures.” Consistent however with the “unitary” form of government, the present Constitution provides that “(a)ll powers, functions, and responsibilities not granted by this Constitution or by law to the autonomous regions shall be vested in the national government.”

In certain federal forms of government such as that of the United States, powers not granted by the constitution to the national government are deemed reserved to the states. The fundamental difference lies there. However, it is not “balkanization” contrary to how Senator Raul Roco views it.5 It is autonomy in its truest sense.

The one fundamental principles of federalism that could have a mollifying effect on the secessionist movement in Mindanao would be the concept of shared or dual sovereignty.

What this means is that states are sovereign, separate and independent in relation to each other and the national government. As such the people of the states, functioning as “laboratories of democracy,” are free, subject only to restrictions in the constitution itself or in constitutionally authorized statues enacted by the national legislature, to define and experiment the moral, political, cultural and legal structure of their lives and to meet the needs of the people according to their own desires and creativity.

Under this concept, for instance, interstates relations are handled much like foreign affairs, i.e., states can negotiate and enter into treaties with other states. The states may also decide to adopt for its local government units such as the municipalities, the mayor?council governments, commission governments, council?manager governments, the barangay governments or similar and other forms of governance that reflect the distinctive nature of the constituents.

“Policy borrowing” is one of the important features of federalism. According to this practice, the states are free to develop and experiment their own educational, law enforcement and economic development policies, or to borrow from the several approaches employed in different states to address the same problems. States learn from the successes or failures of those programs, thus helping to ease administration.

The other significant trend in federalism today is the “devolution” of administrative control over programs from the national to state and local governments. Devolution is empowerment not separatism. The decentralized decision?making process provides greater proximity to the people, compelling governments to be more responsive to the concerns of the citizenry.

There is also evidence supporting the finding that fiscal decentralization reduces corruption, a salutary effect of federalism that only those who benefit from corrupt practices could possibly abjure.

Arguably, a perfect constitution is not a warrant to solve the ills that scourge a society. There is thus no guarantee that federalism will work for the indigenous people, the Christians, or the Muslims in Mindanao. For, except possibly for the concept of shared or dual sovereignty, the other benefits of federalism as above discussed might well be approximated even under the present unitary system.

The Russian constitution, for example, is an excellent piece of document that enshrines the fundamental aspirations of a people. But so far it has not also served as a flattering measure of the nation’s political stability and economic growth. Both in form and in substance, the Philippine Constitution is equally commendable. Nevertheless, even the U.S. Constitution, without the passion and commitment of the founding fathers and the succeeding generations to build and secure a just and tranquil society based on the ideals they believed in, and to safeguard that society against those people intent to trifle with it, would have become just another empty shibboleth.

American society, as any other, has had its own share of great debilitating crises such as sectional loyalty and hardened class lines. But its collective will has refused to hand down its great legacy in a pauper’s will by simply reinventing the basic blueprint of its society without being so framed and indulged in by the forthright action, driven by the voice of their conscience, of independent individuals dedicated to its ideals. That collective will is being put to test once more by the widening gap between the needy and the affluent in its society as well as in the global village its influence holds sway. But, then, there are certain faceless people who are out there, picking up the cudgels again.

Ideals committed into actions will allow a constitution to endure the test of times and the various frailties of human society.



July 29th, 2005 at 10:43 pm

Oh, well why not… strengthening and polishing the Local Government Code would tantamount to Federalism – and that would be cheaper and sufficient for Philippines. Localized law, revenue generation, taxation, education, police power, judicial etc..

If you want a full blown Federal government, that would be very expensive, in the end you have to create a central power of government to police the different states and monitor interstate transactions (aka Washington, FBI, IRS, BCIS, CDC etc.).

In the end it is better to talk about Impeachment, possible prosecution of COMELEC officials, Military Officers, Policer General and Public official involved in election 2004 cheating. Why not investigate the alleged kidnapping of COMELEC officer. Investigate the role of NAMFREL and overhaul its mandate – probably replace Raoul Concepcion and Guillermo Luz (these guys are anti-thesis of democracy). Investigate Campaign Financing laws (and also the use of Public Funds and Facilities during election).



July 29th, 2005 at 10:57 pm

korek ka jan tol



July 29th, 2005 at 11:00 pm

Federalism?? It is like switching to another religion. Are we going to be more pious if we switched to Buddism? Yung Mali ba ay magiging Tama. Yung pagnanakaw ba ng Boto tuwing election ay Maitutuwid? Yung mga nagkasala nung nakaraan na election ay mapaparusahan? Is GMA going to be impeached and prosecuted?

Is Karma the ultimate answer to all?


concerned citizen

July 30th, 2005 at 7:41 am

impeachement muna bago yang chacha. concentrate more on impeachement please. calling the attention of all congressmen be it minority or majority. lalo n gma allies. people are all watching you. now that signatories are published in this blog we have the idea of who these conressmen are. kung may balak pa kayo sa 2007 election magisep isep na kayo. for sure this chacha will take more years before it will push through. malabo sa senado at hinde pa masyadong welcome sa tao. ang perception ng tao sa ngayon ay impeachement muna. gigil na gigil na mga tao. kahit pa magtuloy tuloy si aroyo d ba sabi nya till 2010 ang term nya? tagal pa noon. lalong maghihirap pilipinas kasi ayaw na nga ng tao sa kanya. sabi popularity contest ang surveys? but of course madam president. tao nagdadala sa gobyerno. ano ka ba pag di ka na sinoportahan ng tao wala ng kwenta kahit anong gawin mo walang epekto. goverment are the people not you mrs aroyo. no to chaha for the moment. impeach gma now!


Abe N. Margallo

July 30th, 2005 at 8:22 am

ZORROS: As much as I would like to, i am not going to comment anything regarding con-ass or cha-cha, to do so would be like being “fished-in” by GMAs media diversionary tactics.

ABE: I guess this is a tactical move that many concerned Pinoys are considering to adopt. In some ways, this may be similar to the position now being taken by many people power practitioners not to march in the streets at this stage there being no clarity as to: 1) who will replace GMA if she is ousted (the immediate goal), and 2) what to do next (the vision), given the potency of the system in place to subsist.

You will recall that when People Power II has swept GMA into power, there was at least the sense of anticipation that something would turn out quite right. Now we know that GMA blew her chances.

Today, instead of anticipation and expectation, there is this sense of dread and equivocation from day one (except possibly those who have already plans “for themselves”). But for those who like to see a more meaningful Philippine society, the difficult dilemma lingers: Is it better to preserve against the worse or take the risk to change for the better.

The dread, the inaction and the cynicism appear to preponderate not so much as the answer to the question is unknowable at this point as GMA’s breach of the expectation is so callous and her sense of accountability for it so flippant that someone like you is surely at a loss whether “betrayal of trust” in the constitutional sense is even sufficient to describe the conduct of the President. Well, so much has been said and blogged about GMA’s “lapse in judgment” here and in other forums and I’m not going to belabor it any further for the purpose of this reply.

Anyway, I have always thought that true federalism complements high-powered democracy and that the latter is the anti-thesis of oligarchy or of its other guises. That you have changed your position somewhat after my post on federalism above is to me an indication of your perception of the salutary nature of federalism. This goes to show that dangling federalism not only to the “hooting few” in the Batasan but in effect to the larger community outside of it is as clever as a Machiavellian ploy of wagging the banner of the promised land of New Society. Marcos’ Bagong Lipunan was however an illusion. Federalism as an end is not.

So, specifically, you seem to have this subset of a dilemma for now: Shall I be apathetic to a salutary end which is federalism, to avoid being ambushed or “fished-in” by GMA’s diversionary tactics?

Once more, I would like to think of your situation in terms of the tentativeness of people power practitioners to run the parliament of the streets at this juncture. In one of my posts here (“A season to be jolly”), I have justified this behavior by postulating that people power is a real power and very extant (the energies expended in PCIJ is one veritable proof) but what we are witnessing is in fact the more positive dimension of the power, the “communicative” rather than the “hooting” aspect of it, that people power practitioners are wising up, or thinking through matters critically instead of acting precipitately, and that they are also beginning to realize that maybe they should be making fundamental political decisions by themselves when called for instead of entrusting that function to an agency or political personalities who could turn out to be just another cheating and stealing leader or perhaps worse.

But, now, if they do not take overt action, would they lose the war of attrition?

I guess what I’m trying to point out is that the power can be “held off” (yes, CONCERNED CITIZEN, “no cha cha for the moment,” that’s fine too), and that stand is possibly in the concept of civil disobedience or election boycott, as a counter-tactic against the erring regime as well as a strategic scheme versus any pseudo-movements vying for power. However, please remember that the larger issue is not GMA (because she too will pass away soon, not later) but how to attain the higher end of high-powered democracy through federalism for instance, among other means.



July 30th, 2005 at 10:08 am

Gma has stated that peop;e power is over. I don’t believe so. People of the country are very much interested to get rid of the corrupt administration we have at present and obviously led by our president. The only reason she is surviving is because of the military who is in her pocket and as corrupt as she is.The administration with the military do not care about the people of the Philippines and only advance their cheating, stealing, and keeping their power at whoever expense and sufferings.



July 30th, 2005 at 1:33 pm

Your title is correct. I’ve long been dreaming of Federalism… mor e freedom…more independence from the political center called manila. I’m sure there are many Filipinos from the provinces who share my thoughts. Can’t our politicians for once do something with the national interest in mind? By this time, we should have matured as a people…tumatanda na tayo, ganon pa rin?…nag-aaway? tumitingin lang sa sarili ? Frankly, I’m sick and tired of the seemingly never ending mud slinging of Filipino politicians. Is there a charter where the our people can outsource politicians from other countries?



July 30th, 2005 at 1:44 pm

Let the congressmen handle both impeachment and Charter Change. Let them maximize their brains which weren’t really used in the past years…para rin sulit ang pagamit ng taxes na binayad natin (which were partly used to pay for their salaries). To ensure that there are no biases, there should be a body of credible intellectuals from the private sector who shall review their work…



July 30th, 2005 at 2:42 pm

Funny thing this political acronym Con Ass. Does it stand for “Conned by Assholes” or “Consumate Asswipes?”

But so much for being flippant, change in government, much like a change in diapers, is necessary despite being messy and malodorous.

So now to federalism. Drumbeaters have always pointed out that federalism is the cure all antidote to highly fractitious nation, as exemplified by great US of A. A blogger, Mr. Margallo, is even emphatic, we should not “gloss over the merits of it as it has sustained for more than 200 years the existence and integrity of the United States, the most prosperous and the strongest nation of the world.” The problem with observing the political development of a country half a world away, even with its sheer size, is that you gloss over. It’s a given.

So what did this Mr. Margallo glossed over despite warning us that we should not gloss over. First is that he failed to mention that federalism in the US was almost wiped out when the Civil War was initiated by the southern Confederate states in 1861. The Confederates didn’t want their way of living changed (slaves tending the cottonfields while the white master sips bourbon in his mansion) that was why they said screw the Federation, we reckon to do everything by ourselves thank you very much. It just so happened that the northern Union states had the military and industrial might to smash the rebelling states into smithereens. And smash them they did as illustrated by Gen. Tecumseh Sherman’s March to the Sea campaign where he left a 300 mile swath of death and utter destruction. Final death toll: 620,000. A hefty price to pay for a newly born federalism.

Second, it was not federalism per se that brought about the prosperity of the US (despite its declining state). Remember, it was only during the turn of the last century when the US went dead broke. If it was not for the CENTRALIZATION of resources for the war effort during WW2 where the US aggregated in a national scale both labor and materiel that their economic and military production skyrocketed.


mell ditangco

July 30th, 2005 at 2:58 pm

Sorry off topic.

I am one of the co-founders for pinoy-rin. i just wanted to relay to you a message from Deanie Ocampo, she wants to get your contact info. Please contact me at thanks.



July 30th, 2005 at 4:26 pm

The story was uploaded in the Kyodo News wires on July 28.

Arroyo’s constitutional shift clouds impeachment outlook+

Three Philippine presidents have floated the idea of federalism in the last decade as a solution to simmering political crises – from the Islamic secessionist movement in the south to disenchantment of provinces with “imperial” Manila’s apparent monopoly in decision-making.

But federalism as a cure to the Philippines’ shaky U.S.-style presidential system never gathered steam from the public or national leaders.

Analysts say politicians are comfortable with the political clout given to them by the present setup.

And not until embattled President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo urged Congress for a constitutional shift to a parliamentary structure have calls for federalism has been revived.

“It’s time to start the great debate on charter change,” Arroyo said in her annual state of the nation address to a joint session of Congress on Monday.

She outlined changing the constitution from presidential to parliamentary government and from a unitary to a federal system.

“Perhaps it’s time to take the power from the center to the countryside that feeds it,” Arroyo said.

Under a parliamentary system, lawmakers can vote out a sitting government, a relief for a country that has seen two “people power” uprisings in less than two decades and at least a dozen coup attempts.

Arroyo announced Wednesday she would create a consultative body to study charter changes, but she failed to mention a time frame or whether she would be willing to give up the presidency early.

“A presidential system is inherently unstable,” political scientist Jose Abueva said.

Abueva, head of the Citizens’ Movement for a Federal Philippines, said the Philippine presidential system does not allow for reelection, which weakened accountability mechanisms and tempted several presidents to cling to power by “extra-constitutional means.”

He added that the national government is “highly centralized” and “unresponsive to the needs of the people in the various regions and local communities.”

Proponents of federalism are optimistic it will put to end the recurring political upheavals that have retarded economic growth. It will also aid in the self-determination of the country’s Muslims, who have waged decades of separatist war.

“There are various forces in Muslim Mindanao that have been consolidating to establish an independent country. The creation of a federal system in the Philippines can cure that,” former assemblyman Homobono Adaza said, adding the political party he formed 30 years ago has called for federalism.

While local governments have enjoyed local autonomy since 1991, the “devolution of government powers was virtually useless” as they were ill-prepared to finance the power devolved into them, Adaza added.

He said federalism would bring development in the countryside because functions of the Manila-centered government will be diffused into the provinces, including tax powers.

But the public is wary, believing the same breed of politicians that perpetuated political dynasties and patronage politics would dominate a parliamentary system.

“The public sentiment is affected by their perception of the present members of the Senate and the House of Representatives. If they don’t think well of them, they will be suspicious of changing into a parliamentary system,” Abueva said.

The proposed constitutional shift has met fierce opposition in the Senate and most of the senators believe there would not be enough votes to endorse a constituent assembly that would draft a new constitution.

The opposition sees Arroyo’s move as a “dilatory tactic,” saying Arroyo should be held accountable for crimes she allegedly committed, including election fraud, corruption and obstruction of justice.

“Charter change is being used now to prop up and prolong Arroyo’s much-despised presidency and to steal the thunder from the broad movement seeking her removal from office,” said Satur Ocampo, a congressman and anti-Arroyo leader.

There is also a question of whether Arroyo could effectively lead the way to change because her popularity has plummeted to historic lows over the allegation she cheated to win the presidency.

A few hours before Arroyo’s speech to Congress, opposition lawmakers filed an impeachment complaint against her on vote-rigging charges.

But only 42 of the 236 members of the House signed the impeachment complaint Monday, short of the 79 required for a Senate trial.

Still, opposition lawmakers believe more impeachment votes will come as justice committee weighs the merits of the complaint.

“It may not be Arroyo who will bring about a federal and parliamentary system, but I believe that there will be many changes that will happen in the Philippines,” Adaza said.


P.N. Abinales

July 30th, 2005 at 8:10 pm

Abe, just one response to the insightful comments you wrote in 2001. First, it may be necessary to revise and update the argument that federalism is necessary to prevent Mindanao separatism. While the belief that Mindanao has had been always at the wrong end of all deals vis-a-vis Manila has spread to even the so-called Christian provinces, there is really no potent force to bring this sentiment to the next phase: active political (and perhaps military) push for separation. The MILF is all ready to talk peace, the MNLF is virtually a spent force, while the Americans have contained the Abu Sayyaf. The Muslim politicians shout to high heavens about separtism and preserving the Muslim identity, but at the ground, they are working closely with Manila to try to craft some form of lasting peace in Mindanao (while pushing for their own interest). I saw this last April as I watch Gov. Ben Loong of Jolo assert the need to preserve Moro identity but also discussing development plans with Jess Dureza and aid with the US-AID people.

Hence, one of the premises that prompted calls for federalism — Mindanao secession — is not there anymore and this perhaps may make the discussions of the alternative much “better” and even manageable.

We are thinking of including a panel on federalism/parliamentarism in the upcoming conference of the Philippine Political Science Association (in Bohol!) and I would like to propose to my colleagues that we invite you as well as Prof. Mojares.

P.S. But a note of caution: American federalism was built on a history of a bloody civil war, and over two hundred years of local state power (up to 1901, the Secretary of State was really just that — a secretary). It was only at the beginning of the 20th century that the federal state began to assert its control over Congress. The Russian constitution was also a compromise document where the “Republics” agreed to remain with the “Russian” commonweath. And already Ukraine and Lithuania are trying to break away and join NATO and the European Union.




July 30th, 2005 at 10:17 pm

This is just another political pay-off being made by PGMA to appease her political patrons.

A change in the form of government is not and will not be the solution to our political problems. It is the change in the attitude and moral values of the people running the government that will solve our political problems.



July 30th, 2005 at 10:24 pm

Walang anumang uring gobyerno na alam kong naging masama sa kapakanan ng mga tao, kahit pa ang komunismo, masama ito dahil ayaw nila na pati pagakain nila ay kontrol ng gobyerno, hindi ka puwedeng magmay-ari ng maraming bagay, mabuti lang ito para sa mga namumuno, dahil sila ang nakikinabang…subalit kung ipatutupad ito ng talagang nakapaloob sa tunay na layunin ay mabuti ito… Ang demokrasya, republika, etc… Maligaya ba ang mga mamamayan dito, di ba hindi rin? may maganda kang bahay nanakawan ka, pag minamalas ka pinatay ka pa,, nahuli ang nanloob, ang pumatay , ika nga , kaso, anak pala ni Senador, adik kasi, kaya malakas ang loob… .. minsan si meyor pa pala ang may kagagawan, ang negosyo sino ang mas higit na nakikinabang di ba yung may mga koneksiyon, ngayon alin ang sinasabi nating maganda,,,, Lahat ng ito ay maganda…. Ang hindi maganda ay ang mga namumuno,,, kaya kahit na anong sistema ng gobyerno ang ihain natin sa sambayanang Pilipino, parehas din ito,, dahil ang mga nagpapatupad ay hindi parehas…… Sa papel lang maganda ang uri o sistema ng pamahalaan… Sige subukan natin, pero huwag na tayong umasa na naroon ang kaginhawan, hindi totoo yon, ang totoo kung handa ng magbago ang mga namumuno, yan kahit anong sistema ng gobyerno pupuwede, subalit kung iyon at iyon pa rin amg mga taong uugit dito ay nag-aaksaya lamang tayo ng panahon, salapi, at pagod… huwag na lang…. Gumuhit na lang tayo sa lupa… o kung sino ang lumagpas sa guhit, taya…. hehehehe…



July 31st, 2005 at 10:36 am

I dont know about this federalism. why need power for local officials if they have it courtesy of the local government code? the economic boom of these provinces doesnt need to depend on central manila. THEY DEPENDED ON THE LOCAL OFFICIALS YOU VOTED FOR. dont blame the kind of government that we have instead blame your local economic woes to the idiots you have as mayors, governors and gang. one thing also, It will prevents some well meaning people who doesnt have enough money but are well meaning to serve the people from running for local seat because of these so called political dynasty.

just my thought



July 31st, 2005 at 11:52 am

don’t wanna pop your bubbles, folks for federalism. but in an interview i saw on tv. i forgot who, pointed out that the national govt would get left holding the bag as far as our huge international debt is concerned. Good point. if somebody knows an answer, i wanna hear it.
As they say, the devil is in the details.


Abe N. Margallo

July 31st, 2005 at 12:32 pm

P.N. Abinales,

I think I wrote the above article during he first three months of GMA’s presidency while: it was yet too early to speculate on how the new administration would approach the effects of the “wristband” policy of Erap in Mindanao; MILF was out of the loop; Abu Sayaff, yet a band of “local bandits”; and Nur Misauri, roaming free between Manila and ARMM in shiny leather jacket but complaining of TA (Tripoli Agreement) and FPA (Final Peace Agreement) “impurities” (e.g., “the majority rule” requirement in the plebiscite that was held to form the ARMM in “Christian majority” territories).

I’m not sure if MNLF is “virtually a spent force” or Abu Sayaff has been “contained” by GI Joe (the last time I’ve heard their “mass base” remains strong), but if MILF is IN, and is ready to talk peace, then bless all the peacemakers.

Anyway, it was unstated in the article but in my other blogs surrounding it, I remember arguing that a “purified” TA and FPA would have virtually created a federal state out of ARMM if the political will on the part of GRP was there to grant genuine autonomy. The article then, while arguing for federalism for Muslim Mindanao, was in fact also promoting the merits of federalism for the other regions in the archipelago, a good reason then as now.

However, given the perceived motivations of the Charter change initiative today and the announced preference for a constituent assembly by the GMA government, if the intention is really genuine to grant fuller autonomy to other regions than Muslim Mindanao and the Cordilleras, it make sense to go first for a piecemeal Charter amendment (instead of something close to an overhaul) such as by granting the other regions equal autonomous status as the two constitutionally mandated and, in addition 1) recognizing that the regions shall have “reserved powers,” meaning powers not specifically delegated to the national government shall be reserved to the regions or the people, 2) removing the power of general supervision by the President over the autonomous regions and instead requiring the coordination of the national and regional governments, and 3) empowering the regions to define the structure of their government and those of their local government units. These powers may be enough for the regions to serve as “laboratories of democracy.”

I do not see any compelling reasons now for a shift from a presidential to a parliamentary form of government as regards the obligation of the state to provide the people a decent life with all the social services they are entitled to. It there is “the will to develop” on the part of the powers-that-be, the economic elites in particular, the country will develop regardless of the form of the government.

Now, if there is any provision that needs immediate extraction from the Charter, a matter more imperative than the proposed shift to a federal or parliamentary form of government, it is the so-called expanded certiorari jurisdiction of the Supreme Court under Article VIII, Section1, paragraph 2 of the Constitution. This provision, as utilized now by the current Court, has the potential of allowing the Supreme Court to assume greater despotic powers than Marcos could have arrogated unto himself under martial law.

I’m guess your timeline (as well as KIMOSABE27’s) on the development of American federalism is a bit off. But I’m physically away from my source right now to check the detailed historical facts and besides this post is beginning to be too long again. I will make additional post about it later.

Certainly I’m pleased by your invitation but for now I’ll be honored to submit a position paper for the consideration of your Association.

Seriously, I’m hoping PCIJ will offer to host an on-line version of the conference so that that PCIJ bloggers can participate on a moderated basis.



July 31st, 2005 at 4:01 pm

The problem with trying to keep up with a blog discussion, for an OFW, is that you don’t have the luxury of time to further expound your insights on the matter. What you can do, at best, is to provide a slice of reaction countering the gist of a previous blog entry.

In my case, I reacted to Mr. Margallos’s 4 year old comment (almost a derision) on Raul Roco’s observation that federalism will “balkanize” our country. Mr. Margallo, instead, enjoined us not to gloss over the merits of federalism as it propped up the existence and integrity of superpower USA.

Such a comment is not only a callous disregard of an accurate political observation but a dangerous endorsement of a totally incompatible alternative. Dangerous, because it simplifies a complex historical process (the interaction between the states and the federal government and the dynamics vis a vis the pursuit of their versions of national interest) and it overlooks the pitfalls.

To counter, I noted two pivotal events in US history where the foundation of federalism: the autonomy of member states, was put into the test. I mentioned the American civil war and World War II where I posited that autonomy of states resulted in divisions and bloody confrontations and that the centralization of resources (including decision making) resulted in victory in a two front war and pump primed their economy to unprecedented heights.

I should have also included the Civil Rights movement in the 1960’s where the
black movement was spared from being decimated by white supremacists (supported by the local state apparatus, Gov. Wallace of Alabama was the poster boy) by the intervention of a national agency: the FBI, as well as the army and the national guard.

I should also have included the recently concluded US presidential elections where losing candidate John Kerry, during his concession phone call, mentioned to Dubya Bush that the US is a greatly divided nation. How can’t it be? The numerically (population-wise) and economically inferior red states are the ones calling the shots in shaping the nation’s interests (even values) instead of the numerically and economically superior blue states.

I should have included a dozen more cases or so (the disproportionate allocation of Homeland Security funding for the states etc.) but then this is just a counter posit to an earlier position, and not a stale mentioning of a timeline on how federalism evolved (more like mutated) in the United States.



August 1st, 2005 at 2:39 am

Changes needed (ordered in importance)
1) People/citizens – we should be proactive instead of reactive. The evil doers are winning because we turn a blind eye when it is not that is affected. This makes us one of Jesus despise most, the lukewarm.
2) Civil servants/including the elected ones – We know most of those in government are rotten to the core. They should all be replaced or all our labors will be fruitless (we chip in our share, they pocket it).
3) Constitution – when a leader (president or minister) is doing a great job, we, the people, should have the option of allowing him to continue. Yes, Marcos abused this, but we need continuity in management. What is happening now is our hard earned tax money goes to waste because the one of the first thing a new leader in our country do when he take office is to remove all memories of his nemesis (regardless of the benefit it’s doing to the people). That goes from barangay captain, mayor, governor, all the way up to the president.

Before we start thinking of 2 and 3, we should first work on item 1.



August 1st, 2005 at 1:49 pm

I second the question of Garcigwen, paano ang hatian ng pambansang pagkakautang?

At bakit naman pagkadamidami– eleven(?) mini states. E di pagkaliitliit naman bawat isa. Talagang maliliit ang ating pag-iisip. Di na lang kaya sandaang microscopic states para naman talo natin ang US sa dami hehe.



August 1st, 2005 at 5:13 pm

Federalism gives the regions more autonomy in decision making and also allows the regions to keep most of their revenues instead of remitting it to the national coffers in Manila. Unlike in the Local Government Code which only focuses on decentralization of some functions of the national government to the local governments.

At present infrastructure and social services are heavily concentrated at the National Capital Region.


Abe N. Margallo

August 2nd, 2005 at 11:44 pm

The Whew! and the hehe theories

by Abe N. Margallo

The Universal Theory hypothesized by Philippine Inquirer editorialist and political hardballer John Nery (please refer to John’s blog in appears to jibe with my Plaza Miranda Theory by which I liken the political rumblings now going on to campaign activities in a run-up to an “un-election” process we call impeachment in a presidential system, an equivalent to the no-confidence vote in a parliamentary system (a not-so-irrelevant comparative analysis now). Everyone at this juncture seems to understand that impeachment is a political process couched in constitutional and legal formalities.

At the other extreme is the Numbers Game Theory, or the Miriam Defensor-Santiago, and now the Joker Arroyo Theory (Joker believes the critical application of the theory is in the House of Representatives, i.e., produce the magic 79 there).

The Dubya Theory (George W’s presidency was ultimately a 5-4 decision, remember, hence it may also be called the Black Robe Theory), can just be another numbers game (or “courtroom politics” as the more pragmatic ones would label it), but this time couched in arcane language; so one fitting substitute for it could be Numbers-Language Theory. (NB: Legal standoff in the actual operation of the Numbers Game Theory in the House may trigger early the application of the Black Robe Theory – and please refer to the expanded certiorari jurisdiction notes above.)

My earlier comments here may now carry the Hoarding Theory label stretching Marxian formulation (P.N. Abinales, please help), that People Power practitioners are “hoarding” the power, probably in the notion of “civil disobedience”; therefore the “inaction” is basically “action,” meaning, consciously or unconsciously, they don’t want to get involved in “alienated” politics, “alienation” being a state of powerlessness, (thus talking about cha-cha – or the merits of federalism or parliamentary system – at this point will work to diminish their “power of inaction”).

One dimension of the Hoarding Theory, as I have implied, could be the Anxiety Theory, the anxiousness about who will replace GMA and the much wide-and-long-ranging “what can be”?”

The Put-up or Shut-up Theory (specifically addressed to the “middle forces”) that high-profile political pundit Mario Taguiwalo has postulated has its counterpart in the Sloth Theory (something I’ve picked up recently from our awesome “street” historian, Pedro), perhaps a sub-set of the trite Ningas Gugon Theory or what Randy David has once suggested as The (Lack of) Follow-Through Theory.

Now, I’m beginning to be intrigued by Mario T’s Chaos Theory (he has started incubating it in Newsstand).

Does anyone have any idea about the Whew! Theory? Hehe.

KIMOSABE27 please be patient then. Thanks.


Alleba Politics » Charter Change

August 5th, 2005 at 11:23 pm

[…] Credits to Manuel Quezon III and PCIJ for information on the proposed Charter Change. […]


INSIDE PCIJ: Stories behind our stories » Congress think tank warns on hasty shift to federalism

May 11th, 2006 at 4:31 pm

[…] Federalism advocates like Jose Abueva have repeatedly emphasized the “disadvantages of a traditional highly centralized unitary system and the probable advantages of changing it with a federal system to improve governance at the national, regional, and local levels.” (Read Abueva’s proposal here.) […]


Federalism: a constitutional response to secession | Filipino Voices

August 13th, 2008 at 11:30 pm

[…] April 10, 2001. When I reposted it in PCIJ on July 29, 2005 as a reaction to Sheila Coronel’s “Dreaming of Federalism,” it elicited some meaningful exchanges among commenters; it was also picked up, and a shorter […]

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