PSPC Co-Hosts Policy Action Conference on Federalism

The UP CIDS Program on Social and Political Change (PSPC), in partnership with the Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPEG), the UP-CSSP Department of Political Science, and Taiwan Foundation for Democracy, held a one-day conference last February 7, 2018 entitled, Key Issues on Federalism: A Policy Action Conference.

A conference on constitutional change that broadens the public discourse and brings in the people’s perspective on federalism and other national issues is sorely needed, according to CenPEG Director for Policy Studies, Professor Bobby Tuazon. Public surveys reveal that the public knows very little about the proposals to move to Federalism and about the 1987 Constitution as well. The debate on Cha-Cha has had government officials and political scientists talking amongst themselves. However, this matter is too serious to be left alone to them. As such, providing a platform where the academe, NGOs, civil society, and the general public can voice their concerns and insights is crucial to the process of constitutional change.

The conference’s keynote speaker was former UP President Professor Emeritus Jose V. Abueva. For decades, Dr. Abueva has been a strong advocate for federalism and in his keynote he critiqued the 11-state structure that is being proposed. Instead, metropolitan arrangements which are states that are organized based on their revenue generating capacity is what he recommends.

PDP-Laban Federalism Institute Executive Director Jonathan Malaya started the first panel with his presentation of the PDP-Laban Model of Federalism. Following him is PSPC Co-Convenor & UP-CSSP Department of Political Science Chair Dr. Maria Ela Atienza who shared the Department’s points on this debate which forwards the idea that maybe other alternatives, such as incremental reform of the 1987 Constitution, can help us better achieve the outcomes expected from Federalism. Former Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares critiqued three federalism proposals and selected certain provisions which highlights the tendency that efforts at amending the constitution are “attended by the imposition of self-serving political agenda.”

The second and third panel of the conference discussed national issues and how changing the system of government to federal will affect them. Dean Ronald Mendoza of the Ateneo School of Governance talked about political dynasties in LGUs and Professor Julkipli Wadi of the UP Institute of Islamic Studies shared his insights on the fate of the Bangsamoro Basic Law in light of the administration’s prioritization of Cha-Cha. The third panel began with Dr. Joseph Capuno of the UP School of Economics with sharing the country’s experience in devolution through the Local Government Code. Dr. Maragtas Amante, former UP Vice President, on the other hand, presented our experience on decentralization through the tripartite regional wage fixing scheme. To end the day’s presentations, Former DAR Secretary Rafael Mariano spoke on the prospects of President Duterte’s (Proposed) Federalism and its impact on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development.

Many of the speakers and participants expressed concern over the direction that the Charter Change is taking. Many think that Cha-Cha under this administration is just as untrustworthy and dangerous as many members of the Congress and officials of LGUs are actively campaigning for it. This administration is also known for being suppressive of any opposing body and so a free and democratic forum may not be possible as well. Dr. Joseph Capuno of the UP School of Economics said that, “There is a competition with unequal footing so you can already predict the outcome of the competition.”

In the future, the public may have to vote whether in support of Federalism or otherwise. It is crucial then that the public be made aware of the issues that surround the discourse. Members of the media, policymakers, and government officials need to be careful, complete, and accurate in disseminating information about this campaign. Framing Federalism as a form of government that, by nature, will rid our country of economic and political problems will only lead to the disillusionment of the public. What must be done is the broadening and strengthening of public engagement and involvement of academic institutions and civil society in this process of constitutional change.