Centralism versus Federalism

Philippine languages per region

The Philippines is a centralistic state, a legacy of Spanish colonialism. Latin countries are very centralistic, even to the extent of suppressing local traditions and languages. France did this during the French revolution, Spain still tries to do this towards its regions even after Franco. But is this appropriate for an archipelago, for a country with so many local traditions?

It might be better to give the regions more representation in order to make the nation more flexible, even encourage economic competion between regions. What must be guarded against are separatist tendencies. Therefore I have a proposal for a decentralized, federal organization of the Philippines:

  • National level: keep legislation, national security, central databases such as NCSO, Land Titles, control over strategic natural resources etc.
  • Regional level: handles economic incentives, education and culture (coordinated among regions to ensure compatibility) and tourism promotion
  • Local level: handles citizen services (helped by national databases), small and medium-sized business promotion, and barangay-level mediation

Being an SAP expert, this is similar to the three-tier SAP model: database server (national), application server (regional) and user interface (local). It would ensure that matters that need to be controlled nationally are kept national, things that have to be close to the citizen are close to the citizen, and regions can compete with one another economically, in attracting tourists, and in promoting their professional and vocational talents. The entire nation would benefit.

More ideas as food for thought and further brainstorming:

  • Why not abolish provinces and replace them with cantons like in Switzerland – smaller than provinces but composed of several local government units (LGUs)?
  • Why not give nation, regions and cantons the power to raise their own respective taxes and spend them, with some central auditing?
  • Why not change the setup of the Senate, make it a body that has two Senators per region, giving regions a stronger voice – and more prestige?
  • Why not move the Supreme Court to Cebu, the Congress to Davao, the Senate to Baguio so they always have cool heads, keep the President in Manila?
  • Why not have a national language for all, a regional language for every region, with optional languages also accepted cantonally for those who need them?

Accomplish more real unity by accepting diversity instead of fighting it and thereby alienating large parts of the country – like what is happening now. These are ideas worth thinking about.

Irineo B. R. Salazar, Munich, 27. May 2015

21 thoughts on “Centralism versus Federalism

  1. http://www.quezon.ph/2006/08/09/the-explainer-separation-of-powers-and-checks-and-balances-sources/#comment-31582

    August 10, 2006 at 10:52 am (UTC 8) Link to this comment
    I personally enjoyed your first piece on the origin of parliament. However I was disappointed by the fact that in your discussion you never dealt with the rationale for government in the first place. The origins of representative government started with the early parliament of the tribes. The chief, usually had a council of elders, his privy council, the forerunner of cabinet and he usuually shared power with his fellow warriors as the central government. Chiefs were decided on the field of battle. Please note that up to the early part of the 19th century dueling was as an accepted form of resolving disputes. Families, clans then became communities then towns. You cannot separate the rationale for government from the form of government. Hence your presentation comes out superficial.

    You have to combine John Locke with Montesquieu. Property rights and the protection of property rights and the giving up of some natural rights in favor of an institution is the basis of the social contract of representative government. The breakinbg of that social contract is the basis for revolution. The rationale of government’s existence is economics. The economic base.

    Your not enjoying the Federalist papers is quite understandable since it clearly shows the mindset of both Madison and Hamilton who were discussing the dialectical history of man’s development.

    It shows very clearly in Article I Section 8 of the U.S. Constituion which are the economic provisioons of the the same.

    Hamilton’s influence in those two sections is very apparent. He became the First Secretary of the Treasury of the U.S. and was the architect of the dirigist principles of the newly formed Republic. In principle he wanted the U.S. built along the lines of Athens and Sparta combined. A commercial republic but backed up with a strong military force (national military force) Their democracy then was a form of democratic centralism.

    Please note the changes that brought forth liberal democratic systems was liberal economic principles and the industrial revolution. The Age of Capitalism…

    For that you have to credit Adam Smith and Karl Marx.

    Geroge Will the conservative columnist of the Washington Post always loves to comment that the idea that there are over a hundred and fifty nation states (the U.N. membership) in the world is false.

    John Locke, Smith and Marx all agreed that the price of commodites correlates to the labor input.

    Marx was not an economist but he was a sociologist. He correctly pointed to the fatal flaw in industrial capitalism. Overproduction and obsolecence. -Modern speak – deflation and depression.

    Smith rightly brought out the fact of efficiency in “free” markets with the big “IF” at the the start of his every theory.

    Marx correctly pointed out his analysis based on the anatomy of society (class system or the human food chain))and the constant clashing of power and wealth and its influence on the market. Hence Stiglitz won a Nobel prize in economics pointing out the lack of symmetry in economics. Meaning- humans do not all think alike.

    That brought forth Keynes who offerred the solution – to prevent depressions you simply inflate. That is where the challenge lies today. Exporting inflation is also known as imperialism. The poor countries know it as free trade. It is said Keynes died of stress after the formation of the first Bretton Woods agreement when the Americans refused to go with the idea of a neutral international currency that he had called Bancor.

    Please note:

    First published in 1776, The Wealth of Nations is generally regarded as the formulation of contemporary economic thought. Adam Smith a Scottish professor of moral philosophy, expounded the then- revolutionarry doctrine of economic liberalism.. The book’s importance was immediately recognized by Smith’s peers and later economists have shown an unusual consensus in their admiration for his ideas. Combining economics, political theory, history, philosophy and practical programs, Smith assumes that human self-interest is the base psychological drive behind economics and that a natural order in the universe makes all the individual, self-interest strivings add up to the social good. His conclusions, that the best program is to leave the economic process alone and that government is useful only as an agent to preserve order and to perform routine functions,is now known as laissez-faire economics or non-interventionism. In noting for the first time the significance of the division of labor and by stating the hypothesis that a commodity’s value correlates to its labor input, Smith anticipated the writings of Karl Marx. Like Marx’s Das Kapital and Machiavelli’s The Prince, his great book marked the dawning of a new historical epoch. Edwin Canaan, economist.

    “Adam Smith’s enormous authority resides, in the end, in the same property that we discover in Marx: not in any ideology, but in an effort to see to the bottom of things.”
    –Robert L. Heilbroner, economist who worked with J.K. Galbraith.

    Forms of government are superfical the essence is the rationale or substance of governance. Hence you take your list of weak and or distentegrating states and you will see poor economic stats. The per capita income of every country is a simple measurement that mesures how high the ladder of industrial development a country is. Weak economics weak government.

  2. Where are we “Zamboangueno” in that map and why the whole of Zamboanga Peninsula only belongs to the Cebuano Ethnic Nation? Hopefully, they will leave Zamboanga City as it is the home of the Zamboanguenio Ethnic Nation, alas also deserves to have their own Federal State where they can legislate their own language to be their official language, the language in their government, banking, education, commercial, tourism, et.al. gracias.

    I do support not just about Constitutional Reform and Shifting from Presidential-Unitary System to Federal-Parliamentary but also Economic Reform to be Liberalize for a more Competitive Open-market which allows DFI 100% ownesrhip of their OWN Companies when wishes set up in our country. this will also prevent any Oligarchs to benefit from it. because the current Economic policy is protectioniost in nature which allows only DFI to own 40% of their OWN companies while their local partners will own 60% but who are these local partners? no other than the Oligarchs! only them benefi from this economic protectionism.

    though for step by step reform and correction, I might go first for:

    1.) Economic Liberalization: Remove the 40/60 provision, in order to attract Direct Foreign Investors to set up their multimillions companies in our country such as Electronics, Technologies, Banking, etcetera. this will also creates lots of decent-paying jobs for the people. so its like, If we can bring them all in, why do our people need to leave just to go outside the country?

    2.) Evolving Federalism: Economic and Insfrastructure should NOT only be around IMperial Manila as it is today but it has to spread throughout the country. now, we need Evolving Federalism to DECENTRALIZE Imperial Manila and Empowering and Spread out rapidly the economic and instracture developement and progress throughout the regions;

    3.) Shifting to Parlaimentary System: in order for the two to succeed, we need a more stable nd superior of System of Government that encourage competent leaders to become more competent rather than becoming an idiots and trapos. this will also discourage people with NO whatsoever Political accomplishment o should I say people who are only using their fame, parent’s fame and accomplishment, et.al. from entering government…

    • don’t worry – I just took the best map I could find. In my suggestion Zamboanga and Davao could be cantons in their respective regions. You have to balance between local, regional and national interests and administrative efficiency.

      The main reason for federalism for me would be to give people more real participation in the nation – today the nation is mainly either oligarchs or intellectuals – the common people are often left behind and not really part of it.

      Your other suggestions also make sense, but I would make cantons focus on SME promotion, regions on medium-sized industries, the nation on large industries. Parliamentary has the advantage of promoting personality politics less.

  3. Neither here nor there
    Irineo, remember SPQR of the Romans? Also the the symbolism of the Roman fasces? Wooden sticks tied in a bundle by straps – the sticks will the Filipino people in discreet subcultures and geographies, tied together by the straps of National SECURITY and nationalism.

    • The bundle of sticks is also the symbolism used by the Bulgarians – strength in unity, coming from the old story of the dying 7th century Bulgarian Khan Kubrat who asked his sons to break a bundle of sticks. They tried to, all of them young and able-bodied as they were failed. The father untied the sticks and broke them one by one.

      I mentioned that story in my article http://filipinogerman.blogsport.eu/what-is-filipino/ and also the American motto “E Pluribus Unum” – out of many, one. I also in a comment to that article mentioned, closer to home, the Indonesian national motto “Bhinneka Tunggal Ika” – Unity in Diversity, coming from an ancient Javanese poem. The Swiss idea of an “Eidgenossenschaft” = “oath community” I also like – a culturally and linguistically diverse community bound by the medieval Rütli oath of Wilhelm Tell.

  4. more economic power to regions, I would say if not federalism, and more latitude over SME promotion to LGUs. Maybe a combination of national, regional and local taxes would also do wonders – where every area gets its own money directly and does not have to beg for it to be returned from Manila which is what I gather is today’s setup.

    Cantons instead of provinces – a canton would be 1/5 to 1/3 the size of a province, much handier meaning closer to the people and not too big to guard against too powerful governors. In fact it might even make sense to then replace cities and municipalities by cantons altogether, about 2-3 times the size of a city or municipality.

    So the setup could be regions -> cantons -> barangays. But changing a system takes time, so decentralization of taxation and some jurisdictions might be a start.

  5. I was just in Switzerland last week so quite appreciate your reference to cantons. They are very happy with their system there and it meshes compatibly with their history and culture. The Philippines has to find a better system of government that will still be compatible with its own history and culture. Manila can still be the center, but things definitely need to be decentralized in terms of local economic projects, tourism, attraction of foreign investment, infrastructure, education, etc.

  6. this is federalism.
    if federalism will not happen, then the govt can give more economic power to LGUs. it’s like a form of federalism but it’s not.
    about the national language, well, it can be English like what LKY did with SG so that no favor on a particular ethic group. like now, everything is in favor of my ethnicity, tagalog. even tv shows are in tagalog.

  7. Arroyo’s Fifth SONA mentioned Federalism.

    The economic progress and social stability of the provinces, along with the increasing self-reliance and efficiency of political developments and public services there, make a compelling case for federalism. [Applause]

    Perhaps it’s time to take the power from the center to the countryside that feeds it. [Applause]

    I recognize that our form of government will be the decision of the body constituted to undertake charter change. But we should consider that legislation could be quickened and laws made more responsive to the people under a parliamentary system, similar to that [applause] of our progressive neighbors in the region.

    But even as we make a serious start in charter change, I hope we can still work together on other initiatives to the lasting benefit of our people. [Applause]



    The NDF’s reaction


    Under the behest of opportunist Ramos-De Venecia tandem, Arroyo seeks to change the Charter to remove remaining protectionist economic provisions and pave the way for all out foreign monopoly exploitation of the country’s vital state assets and natural resources. Arroyo is dancing to the Cha-Cha tune to push for the implementation of fascist policies like the National ID System and the Anti-Terrorism law to legalize her regime’s ongoing attacks on the political and civil liberties of the people.

    Arroyo proposes Federalism as panacea to purportedly bring “development” in the countrysides. Feudalism—landlord domination—is the main problem of the Filipino peasantry. It is even made worse because of the impact of the all-out liberalization of the agriculture sector which has left Filipino peasants and small agricultural traders bankrupt. Federalism can hardly address the basic problems facing Filipino peasants: usurious land rent, tenancy, low prices of farm products amid high cost of basic commodities and landgrabbing.

  8. Your ideas on federalism e.g. moving the other branches of government from Manila to big cities and establishing a Federal Senate and a Regional Senate was discussed in this Senate Resolution but not yet resolved.

  9. I would add the option: Don’t change the government structure, (a)change the values and (b) invest in rapid development of modern urban centers in Cebu and Mindanao (Davao to Cagayan de Oro), while continuing to upgrade Manila infrastructure. The value that needs to be built up is skill-based competition with appropriate rewards, and the value that needs to be diminished is working for favor, family and friendship. Success will bring unity.

    • The BBL could be a blueprint for federalism while we’re at it… why not give regions similar organic laws? What is good for Bangsamoro could be just as good for others.

      P.S. see also my latest comment on civic society – my Eureka about the Philippines. It is all about respect and making everybody feel equally important. With regards to BBL but also in so many Philippine matters – including the very real consequences being marginalized has always had in the Philippines which means this stuff may seem needy but isn’t being based on high power distance.

    • Love that gravatar image. 🙂 That the real you?

      Respect and everyone feeling equally important . . . may indeed be the secret to more harmony, more unity, and less nonsense. Maybe laws are needed, but I’d think policies, an executive announcement of the development of three commercial hubs, along with significant infrastructure development, for Cebu and Davao/Cagayan de Oro, might do the same thing. If it is carried out visibly and forthrightly. I do believe one of the weaknesses of the Aquino Administration is the management of public perceptions.

      I’d also be afraid of formalizing the divisions, and disruption from change. More disunity. Hiccoughs in the economic machine.

    • The gravatar image could be the real me, just like Karl Garcia could be Bart Simpson in disguise. 🙂 Well I need a shave once again and to go to the barber…

      My idea “move the Supreme Court to Cebu, the Congress to Davao, the Senate to Baguio so they always have cool heads” could also be helpful, symbolically but not only. Make the national institutions less Manila-centered in thinking, give regions a sense of importance. In addition to your policy and communication suggestions…

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