con-ass for federalism, NO! con-ass for BBL, YES!

read edilberto c. de jesus’s Con-ass for federalism?

The shift in political structure is major surgery. What benefits will federalism bring, and by what means will they materialize? Which limbs or organs will the surgeons amputate? What foreign elements will they implant?  How much will the operation cost? How long is the expected period of convalescence? The doctors prescribing the cure have not yet given a comprehensive explanation of the process to the patient.

…  Federalism, for instance, seeks to address the disparity in regional development and prosperity. The taxes extracted by the national government from the regions and the often tardy and inequitable flowback of budgetary resources to local government units present only one source of disparity.  It also stems from the difference in God-given resource endowments among LGUs and the stewardship practiced by their respective political leaders, many of them during decades of dynastic rule. Political restructuring will not magically give poor, badly governed LGUs more natural resources or better leaders.

Research has demonstrated that even if they retained all the 2015 revenues they raised, 88 of 93 provinces (95 percent), 87 of 152 cities (57 percent), and 1,937 of 2,044 municipalities (95 percent) could not support even half of their operating costs.  National-government efforts to improve the fiscal position of the poor LGUs through the 1992 Local Government Code have not succeeded. Success can come only if the richer LGUs, whose control over their resources federalism will reinforce, voluntarily agree to share their wealth. Changing systems will not necessarily displace current LGU leaders or their political priorities.

The benefits of the change are hypothetical, but the higher cost of running a federal system is inevitable.  Education Secretary Leonor Briones, once the national treasurer, has expressed doubts that the government can sustain these costs.

The experience of other countries gives us more understanding also about the risks of undertaking a systems overhaul. The first risk is the constitutional change process itself, which erases anything good in the old constitution and leaves a blank slate on which anything can be inscribed. Joaquin Bernas, SJ, and former chief justice Artemio Panganiban have both sounded this warning, which has led other analysts to prefer the piecemeal amendment of the Constitution, focusing only on provisions that have become dysfunctional.

This fear also reinforces the argument that an elected constitutional convention (Con-con) should craft a new constitution rather than legislators convened as a constituent assembly (Con-ass). Even if we naively assume that serving congressmen will robustly resist the temptation to promote personal interests, they would likely be more prone to focus on immediate political concerns. A Con-con would allow for a more diverse, deliberative body that will have a better chance to take a longer-term, more inclusive perspective to produce a constitution to which unborn generations of Filipinos will be subject. Is this not worth the investment in a Con-con?

read satur c. ocampo’s Differing views on con-ass may check federalism rush

…the larger concern over Charter change and the proposed shift from unitary to a federal system of government is the meagerness of the information made available to the public on what the precise proposed changes are. What is made known is that there are two drafts submitted to the House: a Resolution of both Houses filed by two congressmen, and a draft constitution for a federal system prepared by the PDP-Laban – the ruling party led by Pimentel as president and Alvarez as secretary-general.

read al s. vitangcol lll’s Charter changes must broaden the power of the people, not of politicians

I got a copy of the draft Constitution of the Federal Republic of the Philippines, as proposed by the federalism institute of a major political party.

… The proposed amendments are all in broad strokes and generalizations, making it subject to various legal and technical interpretations. What is obvious is that “preference for Filipinos” was removed from the National Economy and Patrimony article. How about foreign ownership of our lands?

read florangel rosario braid’s Are we ready for constitutional change?

… it is generally known that in countries with a federal structure, each state would have its own laws (and constitutions which would complicate the administration of justice. Imagine having different ways of dealing with concerns such as death penalty, divorce, abortion, and similar controversial issues. An example is the United States with 51 states and with varying policies on certain issues.

The shift to federalism would involve expense of billions of pesos in the setting up of state governments to support the cost of human resources, infrastructure, and additional layers in the bureaucracy.

read frank e. lobrigo’s Visible roadblocks to federalism

Rappler reported that as of the end of June 2017, the Philippines’ foreign external debt amounted to $72.5 billion. Converted into pesos at P50 to $1, it comes up to a whopping P3.625 trillion — roughly equivalent to the country’s annual national budget. Alongside this foreign debt is the domestic debt reported by the Bureau of Treasury at P4.152 trillion as of August 2017. With the administration’s “build, build, build” economics, the external debt should be expected to balloon in due time.

Amid the federalism frenzy among its advocates or proponents, no one is explaining to the public how a federal government with a diminished share in the national income pie will deal with the humongous foreign and domestic debts. No one is explaining how the constituent regions will equitably partake in the debt burden.  Any default on the foreign external debt will negatively impact on the economy. The country ably deals with its loan obligations because of the fusion of incomes from the affluent regions even with the concomitant fiscal dispersal to the nonaffluent ones. The vaunted economic progress under a federal form of government might just be buried neck-deep in the foreign and domestic debts.

read luis teodoro’s Conspiracy 2018

Effecting the shift is one of the Duterte campaign promises that seems to be following his timeline, unlike his pledge to end the illegal drug problem within six months. No one can blame the more skeptical for suspecting that that’s because everyone in the regime stands to benefit from what its own people would decide should go into the amendments or even into a new constitution, since the plan, as announced by Mr. Duterte’s henchmen in Congress, is to convene that body as a constituent assembly rather than to call a constitutional convention to which delegates would be elected at large. The expense of the latter has been invoked to justify the former. What’s closer to the truth is that the regime is not going to risk the election of non-regime friendly delegates to a convention.

read artemio v. panganiban’s What Alvarez wants, Alvarez gets

… four hurdles to speedy Cha-cha. The first is the “thinking” Senate, which, according to Sen. Panfilo Lacson, cannot be dictated upon, not even by the President. The senators will not agree to decide in only three months. Neither will they assent to joint voting, especially if the Con-ass would abolish the Senate.

The second is the Supreme Court, which may not go along with a joint vote. But if it does, the first obstacle would be simultaneously hurdled.

The third is the lack of popular support for federalism. The latest opinion surveys show either ignorance of or objections to it. Verily, the proposal is still vague and complicated. Of the several models floated, none has gained traction. If at all, they merely added to the confusion.

… The fourth: The 1987 Charter requires the plebiscite to “be held not earlier than sixty days nor later than ninety days after the approval of such amendment or revision.” Can the speedy Con-ass comply with this tough timeline?

what alvarez wants, alvarez gets?  but why?  because alvarez wants only what president duterte wants?  but  in september 2017 the president practically begged congress to pass the BBL asap, he would be certifying it as urgent.  and we know what happened to that: the president was ignored.  sey ng ilang representante at senador, unconstitutional daw kasi ang BBL, (because?) the relationship of an autonomous bangasamoro region with the national government would be asymmetrical, correct me if i’m wrong, and in that asymmetry allegedly lies danger of secession, que barbaridad!    

que awful indeed.  unthinkable even.  IF true.  pero kahit sabihin pa nating true, for the sake of argument, then go ahead and do a con-ass — but a con-ass properly done, i.e., separate voting (let’s have some thinking, please!) and a con-ass dedicated solely to amending / addressing provisions pertinent to BBL and the imagined secession scenario.

NOT a con-ass meant to fast-track a shift to federalism on grounds that such a shift would make BBL moot and academic.  please, no.  BBL is a matter of justice — we have debated it enough.  alvarez’s desired shift to federalism is another matter altogether, to decide which requires, nay, demands, all the trappings of a constitutional convention (a duterte campaign promise, btw) and, necessarily, an engaged media in the service of an engaged people for the sake of informed votes come the plebiscite.  it’s the only acceptable way to go.


  1. AMELIA HC YLAGAN: …In a small, developing country like the Philippines, would it be wise to be a late-entrant into federalist government, creating a plurality of centers of unpredictable and unreliable independent power at this tenuous time of world political economics?

    Currently, there are about thirty federal states, including the United States, Canada, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Belgium, Australia, South Africa, Nigeria, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico, Argentina and Brazil — none as small an economy, and of land and people as the Philippines.