The government campaign for federalism has boomeranged. Instead of convincing people to adopt it because of its merits and advantages as a form of government for our country, more and more people including those who are initially inclined to accept it, have changed their minds and are now against it. Evidently, the government’s strategy is a big mistake. It is advertising and selling federalism like a consumer product rather than educating and informing the people on what it is, how it works and why it is more effective in improving governance of our country.
And so at this stage, after a careful and more thorough study of the system, I am also convinced that federalism is not really good for our country. It will not actually result in a more efficient government as envisioned by its proponents. Good, honest and efficient government does not really depend in the system but in people running the system. To me this is the more correct and valid view especially after seeing the kind of people running our government from the time we became an independent and democratic republic up to the present administration. Since then up to now, we are still ruled by the same kind of traditional politicians who consider public office as a proprietary position to promote their own personal interest rather than a public trust for the people whom they represent.
The existing unitary and presidential system of government should be retained. We should just try to improve some of its weak features that have come out over the years. First of all, we should have a more autonomous, independent and powerful local government units. For this purpose, Charter change is really needed. There should be decentralization of powers. The Office of the President and Chief Executive should delegate some of its existing powers so that the local government units should not be too dependent on it. Imperial Manila should be dissolved by transferring certain powers of the President which can be performed more efficiently by the heads of the local government units. They should be given more autonomy. A committee should thus be created to make an in-depth study of the specific powers that can be devolved to the town and city mayors as well as provincial governors.
Indeed, we already have this kind of local government in some parts of the country like in Mindanao and Northern Luzon inhabited by our indigenous people, particularly the Muslims and the Ifugaos. Recently, the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) has already been enacted by Congress. Apparently the BOL will help our brother Muslims attain their long held desire to have more autonomous government without relying much on the Central Government. The government in the Cordillera Autonomous Region also has similar features as the Bangsamoro Region which can likewise be improved with the passage of a new law. And so it is also about time that a law be passed or provisions added to our Constitution, for all provinces, cities and municipalities to have governments patterned after the governments of our indigenous people.
To insure that this hybrid unitary system of government will work for the best interest of our country, our Constitution should likewise be improved and amended. Among these amendments is the strengthening of the prohibition against political dynasties. The Charter itself should already provide the specific details of the prohibition like the definition of political dynasties, the extent of the prohibition and the term limits of the local officials belonging to the same family and other provisions that will insure the equal opportunity for public service to all Filipinos.
Another amendment that should be studied and introduced is the structure of the branches of government. Instead of the present presidential form with three separate and independent Legislative, Executive and Judicial branches, we can shift to the parliamentary system where the members of the Cabinet in the Executive Department are also duly elected members of the parliament. Under this system the Executive and the Legislative bodies are practically merged so responsibility can easily be pinpointed especially in the implementation and execution of laws. In this way, blame-passing that we are now experiencing will be avoided and it will be less expensive. Such form of government will also be more conducive to stronger autonomous and more powerful local governments.
Of course our government expenditure will be further reduced if we will have a unicameral instead of the existing bicameral legislative body. If our Parliament will only consist of a unicameral assembly, duplication of work will likewise be eliminated. Proposed laws will pass through the legislative mill only once unlike in the present bicameral system where bills are discussed and approved by the two houses before it can become a law. Obviously if we have a unicameral assembly the grinding of the legislative mill will be faster and more efficient. Furthermore, all the members of the parliament will be elected nationally instead of the existing system where the members of the Lower House are elected by district or through the party-list representative.
If we adopt the parliamentary system with a unicameral assembly, we should also change the existing multi party system into a two-party system. In a two-party system, it is easier to determine the minority and the majority party and power politics will be avoided as members choose the parties they will join through their platforms and principles rather than through the party which has the power and control of the government. In this way our election will be cleaner and less expensive because power politics will be eliminated.
Hopefully, these proposals will be considered when we change our Charter.
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