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States in our mind

I have it on good authority that House committee on appropriations head, Rep. Karlo Nograles, is a serious man. When he puts his mind to it, it will likely get done.
His wife, fashion designer Marga Nograles, candidly “exposed” the congressman’s true character at a casual dinner recently.
Rep. Nograles, 41, is three years older than her. They went to the same school as kids, and he was governor of their school. She says he has always been top of the class and school leader. She, on the other hand, is the more “relaxed” one — they balance each other out.
The son of former Speaker of the House Prospero Nograles sat as congressman at age 33. He took up Management Engineering in college and worked in a corporation for a bit before deciding to take up Law.
After law school, he went home to Davao, practiced law for six years and also served as his Dad’s chief of staff serving the district. The Nograleses, it is known, were political rivals of the Dutertes in Davao. But when Rodrigo Duterte proclaimed his intention to run for the presidency, Rep. Karlo was quick to declare his support. He tells us the rivalry in the past was purely political. When it comes down to it, they have the same heart for Mindanao, for the country.
As one of the younger ones in the House of Representatives, Congressman Nograles is one of the Mindanao leaders considered heavyweights in the House. He is also among those who favor the shift to federalism, saying, “Matagal na namin yang panawagan, (to have) more focus in Mindanao. Yung concept kasi ng federalism, kung ano ang kinikita ng region, magse-stay siya doon. Meron lang percentage ang national. Right now the set-up is lahat nasa national (We have long called for it so that there can be more focus in Mindanao. You see, what federalism will do is keep what the region earns within the region, giving only a certain percentage to the national government. Right now, everything goes to national),” he explained.
The proposal, he said, is to have five states in the Philippines – Luzon, Visayas, Mindanao, Bangsamoro and National Capital State.
“We’ll really be able to ensure that the money of the state will remain there for the development of the state. They can focus on the underdeveloped areas better. They will be able to ensure that they remain competitive. The concept of federalism is equal opportunity for all the states to develop.”
He added that it will be the state governor and the government for that state to decide where the money will be used. There will still be checks and balances in place, of course, Rep. Nograles assures, as there will still be audits.
His work in Appropriations has allowed him to see the limitations of the present set-up. “It’s only now that the budget is being spread out more,” he said.
The good thing about high technology now, he adds, is that it enables us to see which areas still really need the help. “For instance, Google Maps will show which areas need roads still...The system will show it. We can see which areas still need airports, school buildings. Those are ways we are able to ensure that the funds are spread out. We’re making it happen. I don’t know how they did it before.”
At the rate we have gone before, one wonders if it is truly time now to change the old system. While there are still misgivings about trusting regional wealth to only a few (most likely the same names and faces we have now, I bet), there is some sense in considering what a different way could bring to our islands.
What is important is to ensure that checks and balances are in place, and that corruption won’t further stunt the growth of long-ignored, long-neglected, long-bereft of funding places around the country.
I have a feeling Rep. Nograles — husband, father of three, man of immense focus and the author of bills geared toward free college education and feeding programs for school children — is putting his mind seriously into finding ways to help the regions grow into their own.
I hope he (as well as others like him who support federalism) thinks about the state of the entire nation, not just the sake of the states in their mind.
I hope our leaders today, young and old, will put a lot of thought into this idea of shifting forms of government. It is not an easy thing to do, and even less easy to take back if it turns out to have been a careless move in the long run.

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