On Federalism: A Synthesis

In contrast to animals who has desires, but no sense of duty, humans are always conflicted between reason and the urge to fulfill pleasures. This is a snippet of Immanuel Kant’s theory which states man is naturally selfish. 

If all men are naturally selfish, we run the risk when installing a few of them to power. Of course governments have to be run with members of the population, and depending on the type of government we opt to choose, the number of people in power will also vary. Is the degree of greed and selfishness correlated to the number of people you share power with?

This is where federalism comes in. Some group of wise people thought that perhaps if they distribute power to more people, power would be diluted and so degree of corruption would maybe lessen. I guess this is the principle behind the campaign for Federalism here in the Philippines, lobbied by President Duterte himself. 

“Federalism, including constitutionalism, can contribute to creating a system of functioning organizations by acknowledging the darker side of human nature and identifying ways to curb abuses of power.” 

[Quote by Peter Drucker, in a book of Maciariello and Linkletter entitled The Lost Art of Management last 2011]

Now if we look at this in a bigger picture, won’t more people in power mean more corrupt people? Maybe the idea lies not in the sheer number of people in power, but more on the degree of power given to them. In federalism, we try to decentralize the power from the national government and give it to the local leaders–those who are aware of the problems in their localities. This would also avoid “lutong makaw” policies (lutong makaw refers to pre-made plans decided by a small group of bureaucrats that does not necessarily go harmoniously with the target community). National laws may not translate very well in the distant country-side. Think: How would elect politicians know about the deplorable living conditions of the people who elected them if these bureaucrats comfortably sit in their velvet chairs inside air-conditioned rooms? 

We need leaders who are engaged to their communities, and we must empower these leaders to create and implement policies that is in harmony with the economic, political, and religious tides of the communities where they dwell. 

Over the recent years, we have already started decentralizing power here in the Philippines. For example, we have implemented the Katarungang Pambarangay, where instead of going to local and regional courts, the baranggay captain and kagawads can hear cases and conduct trials of small civil disputes (like unpaid loans and chismis complaints).We have also re-structured the Sangguniang Kabataan, and widened the age restrictions, so that the youth is more empowered and can better represent themselves in local issues. 

The negative points I foresee is when federal governments will try to compete against each other. And if for example some regions prove themselves better than their neighbors, people from the less progressive regions will flock to the more progressive one–making the former fewer in potential workforce, and the latter overpopulated.

Although Federalism is a promising endeavor, we have to admit that the Federal model is still a long-shot goal that needs more studies, reviews, and debates.Taking the discussion to the intellectual youth is a great way to hasten the process and better implement this major change in country’s governance.

God bless the Philippines.

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