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Waking up to reality

Speaker Pantaleon “Bebot” Alvarez in a TV interview, said a No-El scenario is possible, should there be a shift to federalism, adding that anything is possible.
Senate President Koko Pimentel, who belongs to the same PDP-Laban team as Alvarez, who apart from calling the Senate a slow chamber in Tagalog, said President Duterte’s term may be extended “if really necessary” during the transitory period during the systems shift to federalism, stressing that a term extension will “depend on the transitory provisions” as well as the notion that if in 2019, the draft Charter on federalism is approved, then the next three years will be the transitory period.
“We can extend the President’s term, one, if really necessary, and two, if he is amenable to it, and three, since that extension will be part of the new Constitution, the new Constitution is approved by the people themselves,” Pimentel added.
Both Alvarez and Pimentel appear to be overly optimistic that the federal form of government will be easily ratified by the electorate, even before the entire proposed draft is nowhere near being discussed in detail —even among the members of Congress, both the Senate and the House.
For instance, will there be more senators in the upper chamber, and will they be elected nationally or by district? Or will there be no upper chamber at all?
This would be a big problem with senators or politicians aspiring to become senators of the republic.
There are many senators who may be popular and known nationally, as they may be national brands, but they don’t really have a popular base or bailwick they can call their own.
They can win nationally, but lose locally, if such is the system.
For one, it is not even known whether it will be a purely parliamentary system, which calls for a separate head of state, which is the president, whether symbolic or not, and a head of government, which is the prime minister and whether it will be a Cabinet government, i.e., all the members of the Cabinet are the elected parliamentarians from either members of the party, or members of the coalition, since parliamentary governments usually come about through coalitions, if not enough members of the party in power have the numbers to form a majority government.
This is the usual type of parliamentary systems in Europe.
In France, the President is not merely a symbol. The President has a lot of powers and is in charge of Defense and Foreign Affairs. The Prime Minister takes charge of the running of government.
In the parliamentary system too, the prime minister is elected by the elected parliamentarians. Or, there is the federal system in the United States that has a bicameral congress and nationally elected president, which would be more along the political taste of the Filipinos.
There is now also talk about there being no election, something which most of the Filipino electorate abhor, as the voters look forward to every election year, which comes every three years under the present Charter.
Pimentel earlier stated that PDP-Laban wants to adopt a “uniquely Filipino” federalism model with two constitutionally established orders of government — a federal government and regional governments.
Proposals and plans for a shift to federal system can go on between Pimentel and Alvarez, but the fact is that not every politician is enthused about the talk of a federal shift.
And it is also not certain that the Filipino electorate will quickly embrace federalism.
If a shift in government form and systems is really in the cards, a better way to make a shift more palatable to the Filipino people would be to turn several regions in the country into autonomous regions and retain the presidential system.
As the complaint from these regions is that of “Imperial Manila,” there is no reason for these regions being autonomous not to be able to transform their region into a bustling and prosperous one.
Migration to Manila will also come to a stop, as the autonomous regions will be able to generate jobs for their residents.
The truth of the matter is that even as these leaders talk of coming up with a federalism shift, it is much too expensive for the Filipino taxpayers to maintain.
A Federal Government has to tax the nation states, which have their own laws and taxes, apart from which, each state must have a legislature, a judiciary and an executive branch led by a governor or a mini prime minister as they are in essence independent states although it will be the federal judiciary that has the last say in cases brought before it.
This means more taxes, with federal and state taxes added up. National and Federal Budgets are going to zoom sky-high, something which the present generation can hardly afford.
And like it or not, the Federal Government—at least at the start, will have to subsidize these states.
The question that must be asked is: Can the people really afford a federal system?

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