“Communicating hope and trust in our time.”

- Pope Francis

Federalism and Mocha Uson

Atty. Ceferino Baquilod

By Ceferino Baquilod

The shift to Federalism is a flagship program of Duterte. He has indicated this even before he became president. He believes a change in the form of our government is the key to solving our country’s problems. He wants this to be part of the legacy of change he will leave behind.

Since most Filipinos are clueless on the concept of federalism, PCOO Assistant Secretary Mocha Uson took it upon herself, perhaps after slight prodding from supporters, to promote public awareness on the matter. The thought that Mocha would be discussing such intricate subject as Federalism was just too repugnant to many, including legislators, lawyers, and noted academicians. For how can Mocha explain a complicated topic like federalism when she has repeatedly demonstrated her ignorance even as to the most basic information, like the location of Mayon Volcano, her invoking her right to self ‘discrimination’ (instead of incrimination) at the legislative hearing, or her using a ‘fake’ military operations photo on one of her articles, just to name a few. She has also been dubbed as Queen of Fake News, and rightly so, in view of the innumerable fake and unreliable information she posts on her blog.

Mocha, despite strong criticisms on her capacity and credibility, went ahead and started disseminating information about Federalism by posting a video, which had her co-host blogger Drew Olivar sing and dance to a jingle ‘e pepe.. e dede…e pepe… e dede… ralismo’, complete with hand gestures pointing to the dancer’s private parts. After dancing, a script was read which likened federalism to a ‘rainbow’ (really?). It also cited examples of federal countries, which were mostly wrong. Mocha was lambasted by several lawmakers and members of the Consultative Commission, who considered the video as vulgar, cheap, unauthorized and inappropriate. Social media was flooded with postings by concerned netizens all expressing their disgust and disappointment. Even PCOO head Martin Andanar washed his hands saying he was unaware of it. As expected, Duterte saw nothing wrong with the video. Presidential daughter and Davao Mayor Sara however thought differently and asked Mocha to be circumspect. Mocha has been urged to apologize, resign or at least take a leave and not be a part of anything having to do with federalism. We doubt it though if she has the delicadeza to resign or even apologize. Some believe she is indispensable to Duterte because of her huge blog following. By the way, I was told too she has some youtube uploads which are ‘not for general patronage’. No wonder she has become quite popular among lonely OFWs.

What is Federalism?

Merriam Webster dictionary simply defines Federalism as ‘the distribution of power in an organization (such as a government) between a central authority and the constituent’. It means decentralizing government powers and sharing them among regional and local government units. The concept however gets complicated because of the variations and ramifications of this type of government. Right now no one really knows what kind of federalism will finally be presented to the people for ratification, if and when the time comes. The federal constitution draft which the Consultative Commission prepared will still undergo a long process and will be subject to review and approval by the appropriate constitutional body. There will be modifications and it may even be rejected by the senate based on what some of our senators have publicly announced.

Is Federalism the Answer?

Duterte and his supporters think that Federalism is what we need in order for our country to progress because it will give local governments more power and authority, specially as regards finances. On the other hand, those against Federalism, including yours truly, are saying there is no need to change the charter itself since under the current constitution, local governments already have their share of government powers. Moreover there is an existing law, the Local Government Code which provides in more specific terms the decentralization of government powers to cities, municipalities and barangays all over the country. If there are items lacking in the law, the most logical thing to do is for legislators to look into them and amend the legislation accordingly. It is the most commonsensical remedy. And way cheaper.

The approval of the Bangsamoro Law clearly proves the point that the power and authority of a local government can be improved without need for any constitutional change. Our legislators are supposed to enact laws or modify existing ones to address the needs of the people. To do otherwise would be to evade their mandate.

The Real Problem

Government corruption is the real culprit for most of this country’s woes. Sincerity in fighting corruption is paramount. When people see that corrupt public officials are merely recycled, or that the big fishes in the drug war are not caught despite their having been identified, or when they think that laws are blatantly disrespected, the fight against corruption becomes lame or at best, selective.

Instead of changing our form of government, we should change our corrupt leaders and get rid of all crooked public officials, no matter how close they maybe to the current leadership.

Federalism will never solve our problems if we remain ruled by the same dirty politicians and greedy public officials. With the way things are happening right now, there is a big chance we will still have them under the proposed federal government specially because they are the same people who are most interested in the charter change.

No matter how good government programs are, if they are implemented by corrupt officials, all will fail.

Why change the constitution?

In the light of the fact that decentralization of government powers already exists in the current Constitution and the Local Government Code, among others, why do they still insist on changing the charter? Some are saying the real reason behind the move to change the charter, is to extend the term of those in governance without need for an election. Hence, the talk of No-El or no election. Also, in case a new constitution is ratified, there will be a transition period which will automatically extend the term of current officials. Moreover, there is an opportunity for them to get the juiciest positions in the new government.

As mentioned earlier, the real problem of our country is government corruption and not the form of government. It is neither the current constitution, which is actually a product of lengthy deliberations and in depth study by legal experts and constitutionalists. Our government spent a lot of our tax money to come up with that charter. Why spend again when it is not needed? Why not redirect the billions of our taxes allotted for this proposed cha-cha, to education, healthcare, etc. Why don’t our leaders focus instead, on pressing problems like the current inflation, traffic mess, economy and poverty?

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