“Giginhawa ba ang buhay ko sa federalism?”
“Bakit parang minamadali ng gobyernong ito ang Charter Change?”
These are some of the questions that surfaced in a roundtable discussion (RTD) on Charter Change and Federalism last December 13, 2017. The Institute for Leadership, Empowerment, and Democracy (iLEAD), in partnership with the FNF for Freedom and the Ateneo Policy Center, organized the RTD which was attended by over 80 participants from civil society organizations, sectoral groups, media, and academe.
The RTD provided a platform for an informal discussion framed based on questions from sectors, communities, and citizens later linked to evidences and expert analyses forwarded by a panel of experts. The invited panel was composed of Ronald Mendoza, dean of the Ateneo School of Government who co-wrote the recently published “Debate on Federal Philippines: A Citizen’s Handbook” by Ateneo University Press; lawyer, author, and lecturer Michael Henry Yusingco; and Edna Co, former dean of the University of the Philippines – National College of Public and known advocate of local development and social justice. The RTD, through the issue experts, responded to the questions on the relationship of the proposed changes to the concerns of citizens and if these concerns can be answered by the proposed reform.
Prior to the event, the Institute likewise gathered preliminary insights and questions online, which raised a wide range of concerns from different sectors. The RTD targeted to engage subsets of these sectors in an attempt to examine the link of the proposals to grounded concerns and needs of the broad Philippine society.
Panelist Atty. Yusingco, however, pointed out that majority of the raised concerns actually reflect misconceptions about federalism. He reiterated that federalism is not a fixed and unchangeable idea, and urged the public to carefully look into the specific proposals and designs being laid out by key proponents. Dean Mendoza, who has done significant studies on Philippine governance and political dynasties, warned that the proposed system change may not work in addressing underdevelopment if we skip governance reforms in our local governments. He stated that well governed provinces, which are currently doing well, will likely continue to progress and challenge Imperial Manila, in terms of industry and growth rate. Badly governed areas, or those run by political clans, will remain with its pace and may even regress further.
Professor Co closed the session by presenting her recent study, “Natural Region as Fundamental Framework for Restructuring and Governance Reform” with co-professors Joey Regunay, Kevin Mark Gomez, and Mark Anthony Gamboa. The study introduces natural regions as an approach to regional delineations based on common resources. The study is an example of an alternative way of fixing systems without subjecting our Constitution to what she called as “surgery”. She added that the amendment of the Charter may result to losing good provisions that are essential in sustaining Philippine democracy.