Highlights: In the Opening Remarks by Dr. Romulo Miral, the proposal to shift to federalism was placed in the context of spreading benefits of growth and addressing highly uneven development among the country’s regions. In his Introduction to the lecture forum, Atty. Benedicto Bacani emphasized there is no such thing as best practices in federalism and what matters is whether the design (of government) addresses the context.
In the lecture/session “Understanding Centralization and Decentralization in the Political and Administrative Spheres”, Dr. Paul D. Hutchcroft presented basic considerations in opting for decentralization. The speaker gave three domains: (a) Central-local relations or the distribution of work and authority between central and local governments, (b) Representational Structures, referring to either a Presidential or Parliamentary System, and (c) Electoral Systems, concerned with plurality, proportional, party list, or a hybrid scheme of electing officials. Principles governing the path to political reform included (a) identifying the problems that need to be solved, (b) evaluating the capacity of administrative and political institutions, and (c) anticipating unintended consequences. The presentation highlighted the need to carefully consider these decisions in developing a system suited for the Philippines.
The second lecture/session “Overview of Federalism, Concepts, Types and Process of Establishment” saw Dr. Temario Rivera point out two main drivers of the adoption of federalism: one, decision made by pre-existing constituent states to address a classic threat (e.g. US in the fight with the British for independence); two, there are serious ethnic, religious, linguistic differences and federalism is necessary for integration. Dr. Rivera emphasized that the problem is not in defining boundaries between central and local authorities but in having a system that will address problems of interconnectedness (e.g. disaster can affect more than one region). He noted the importance of having a strong party system in a federal system for decision-making and policymaking.
In the third lecture/session entitled “Dynamics of Identity, Culture, Politics and Economics as Bases for Political Boundaries”, Prof. Ponciano Bennagen provided an anthropological perspective on establishing political boundaries. In the fourth lecture/session “Moro Case: Right to Self-Determination and Boundaries of Autonomy and Federalism”, Atty. Randolph Parcasio narrated a history on the concept of the Moro federal state, provided reasons for the armed struggle of the Moros, and cited related reform proposals by the MNLF.
During the fifth lecture/session on “Observations and International Experiences on Federalism and Boundary Markers of Federal/Autonomous Systems”, Mr. Rohan Edrisinha of the UN/UNDP spoke on the issue of federalism in South Asia and the options and lessons for the Philippines. He also elaborated on challenges with Federalism, one of which is fears that if powers are devolved to provinces, the largest groups there might discriminate smaller ethnic groups.
Dr. Miral closed the forum with the affirmation that the purpose of the series is for knowledge-sharing and that remaining questions will eventually be answered in succeeding fora.
Understanding Centralization and Decentralization in the Political and Administrative Spheres by Mr. Paul Hutchcroft, Ph. D., Political and Social Change, Coral Bell of School of Asia Pacific Affairs, Australian National University
Overview on Federalism: Concepts, Types and Process of Establishment by Mr. Temario Campos Rvera, Ph. D., UP Political Science Department
Moro Case: Right to Self-Determination and Boundaries of Autonomy and Federalism by Atty. Randolph Parcasio, Legal Counsel, Moro National Liberation Front
Observations and International Experiences on Federalism and Boundary Markers of Federal/Autonomous Sytems by Rohan Edrisinha, Expert on Constitutional Processes, UN/UNDP