Rizal the Federalist; Bonifacio the Unitarian

RizalBoni

by Erwin S. Fernandez

Abung na Panagbasay Pangasinan

(House of Pangasinan Studies)

Although José Rizal and Andrés Bonifacio met on some points in their politics, they diverged from their concepts of Philippine nation and government. In his classic essay, Filipinas dentro de cien años, Rizal predicted that the Philippines “will probably declare themselves a federal republic.” How and why did Rizal come to suggest federalism, which did not happen in the long run? I will trace the origin of his thinking in the context of his life and works. On the other hand, Bonifacio envisioned a “Haring Bayang Katagalugan.” Again, what were the sources of his idea of a unitary Tagalog republic, which when hijacked by the ilustrado nationalists led by Aguinaldo was transformed into a “República Filipina”? Although Rizal’s prediction did not materialize, the idea of a federal republic was resurrected in a draft of a constitution by a group of prominent Filipinos and submitted to the first Philippine commission, which I will examine. Finally, I will state the implications of this understated yet fundamental difference between Rizal and Bonifacio in Philippine historiography and in the continuing search for an alternative system that includes rather than excludes the marginalized, respects the diversity of the nation and empowers the people in their communities.

Pitting Rizal and Bonifacio would seem to invite a lot of flak from Rizalists and Bonifacists. But one cannot help because there is a growing consciousness among the younger generation how the present political system hinders rather than encourages growth in the countryside after more than a century of experiment in a centralized Unitarian presidential setup. Since both Rizal and Bonifacio are national heroes who fathered the Philippine nation, it is only proper to investigate what kind of political system they had in mind for the country after their eventual separation from Spain. Let me begin with Rizal.

Rizal and his República Federal de Filipinas

Rizal predicted that after a hundred years, the Philippines might become a federal republic. His prognosis did not materialize. What must have been the source for this idea? “Filipinas dentro de cien años”, Rizal’s perceptive essay, graced the pages of La Solidaridad on 15 June 1889 to 1 February 1890. By this time Rizal was in London annotating Morga at the British Museum. It was seven years after he set foot in Madrid meeting some of its intellectual giants. One of them, Francesc Pi y Margall was on friendly terms with Rizal during his student days (Schumacher 1997, 56n).

When Rizal met Pi sometime in 1882 (Aseniero 2013, 20), the 58 year-old Catalan statesman has retired from politics. Involved in Spanish politics since 1854, he was short-time president of the First Spanish Republic of 1873. Upon his retirement, he returned to literature writing about his experiences on the Republic in La República de 1873 (1874), on his concept of the nation in Las Nacionalidades (1876), some literary pursuits in Joyas Literarias (1876) and on the history of America in Historia General de America (1878). Two years prior to meeting Rizal, Pi collected his various essays and speeches in La federacion (1880) including his 1868 prologue to his translation into Spanish of Proudhon’s Du principe Fédératif (Principle of Federation) and his 1869 speech in defense of republican federation in the Cortes. In 1883 he played a leading role at  the Republican Congress in Zaragosa in which a federal republican constitution for Spain was presented. A year later he released his Las luchas de nuestros dias and Observaciones sobre el carácter de don Juan Tenorio; the former Rizal was able to review in 1890 in La Solidaridad. Years later in Dapitan, Rizal would cite his meetings with Pi as having informed him about what was happening in the Philippines (Retana 1907, 274). It is not farfetched that prior to his review of Pi’s Las luchas Rizal must have read Pi’s earlier works, not excluding La federacion and Proudhon’s Principio Federativo or must have talked to Pi on these matters.

What was Pi’s political philosophy that must have attracted Rizal? Pi opposed constitutional monarchy and fought for the adoption of a federal republican form of government.  Federalism in Pi’s view would ensure the autonomy of regions, each with a distinct history, language and culture in contrast to a unitary republican form that would recreate a highly centralized system governed from Madrid to the peripheries.  It was the best alternative for Spain at that time because the mother country was facing the multifarious challenges of autonomy in the regions, the ineffectiveness of administrative structure, nationalist separatism in Cuba and social reforms (Aseniero 2013, 23).   The Philippines, in the 1883 draft of Spanish federal constitution, which Pi had a hand in, could assume to become one of the regions of the so-called Spanish federation but Rizal knew in 1889 that it was impossible. What he meant by República Federal de Filipinas must have consisted of autonomous regions from Luzon to Sulu forming a federal republic.

Bonifacio and his Haring Bayang Katagalugan

Bonifacio, however, had a different political project. While Rizal did not disown the name Filipinas, Bonifacio created a new one, that of Katagalugan and called all its inhabitants as Tagalogs. The Katipunan’s Cartilla defined its objectives and the construction of a national identity based on Tagalog: “Ang kabagayan pinaguusig ng katipunang ito ay lubos at dakila at mahalaga; papagisahin ang loob at kapisan ang lahat ng tagalog. Sa pamamagitan ng isang mahigpit na panunumpa, upang sa pagkakaisang ito’y magkalakas na iwasak ang masinsing tabing na nakakabulag sa kaisipan at matuklasan ang tunay na landas ng Katuiran at Kaliwanagan. Sa salitang tagalog katutura’y ang lahat nang tumubo sa Sangkapuluang ito; sa makatuid, bisaya man, iloko man, kapangpangan man, etc., ay tagalog din.”

[The objective pursued by this association is noble and worthy; to unite the inner being and thoughts of the Tagalogs through binding pledge, so that through this unity they may gain the strength to destroy the dense shroud that benights the mind and to discover to discover the Path of Reason and Enlightenment.The word tagalog means all those born in this archipelago; therefore, though visayan, ilocano, pampango, etc. they are all tagalogs.]

From 24 August 1896 to the first quarter of 1897 before the Tejeros convention, a revolutionary government was established headed by Andres Bonifacio, pangulo ng Haring Bayang Katagalugan or president of Sovereign State of Tagalogland (Guerrero, Encarnacion and Villegas 1996). What structure did this government have? Power was vested in the president advised by a council of state composed of secretaries of war, state, interior, justice and finance, elected most probably from the Kataastaasang Sanggunian or the Supreme Council, which has direct supervision over Sangguniang Bayan or Provincial or Municipal Council and Sangguniang Balangay or Barangay Council. From these sangguniang bayans, they must have elected a representative to the Kataastaasang Kapulungan or the National Assembly, which happened on 24 August 1896 in Kalookan. It was republican and unitarian in form as confirmed by the magazine La Ilustracion Español y Americana calling Bonifacio “el titulado presidente de la República tagala.”

We can only speculate how and where did Bonifacio take his idea of a unitary republic. An autodidact, Bonifacio read books, among others, on Spanish civil and penal codes, treatises on international law, Carlyle’s French revolution, Lives of presidents of the United States, works of Rizal, Eugene Sue’s The Wandering Jew, Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables and novels by Dumas, both father and son (Agoncillo 1996). Did he model his government after the First French Republic? Did he learn it out of his readings in international law? Did Emilio Jacinto, a prelaw student, help in formulating his concept of a Haring Bayang Katagalugan?

The 1899/1900 draft of a federal constitution

They were only called “eminent Filipinos” forming a committee whose leading figure was said to be sympathetic with Emilio Aguinaldo. It was the time when the Philippine-American War was raging and the First Philippine Commission headed by Jacob Gould Schurman went to the country to ascertain conditions, promote American authority and establish a civil government. The draft of the constitution was submitted to this commission.

On the first title, “Government and Nationality,” the first article describes the government of the Philippine Islands as “republican, federal, representative, and responsible” defining its territory according to the treaty of Paris and the second article defines the territory as divided into regions comprising of 11. It specifies which provinces belonged to a particular region, for example, the first region, the capital region, is composed of Manila, Cavite, Morong and Corregidor. Article III states that: “Each region enjoys complete legislative, governmental, and administrative autonomy, having power to dictate its own political constitution peculiar to itself, under the representative, republican, and responsible system indicated by this general constitution, by whose principles, declarations, and guarantees it must be inspired, with the exception that it can establish in any or all provinces of the region any generally practiced privilege worthy of respect. It shall be a constitution peculiar to the region and shall insure principally the administration of justice, municipal government of towns, and primary education. Under these conditions the Federal government guarantees to every region the possession and exercise of its institutions.”

It stipulates on who are Filipinos and includes a bill of rights. It defines the prerogatives of the federal government led by a governor-general who will reside in Manila and appointed by the president of the United States and delimits the powers of regions. Legislative powers are vested in the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies. The Senate is composed of 22 members, 11 of which are appointed and 11 of which are elected from each of regions’ legislature. The chamber of deputies is to be composed of 110 members apportioned to the 11 regions. It provides for a permanent commission when sessions of both chambers are closed. It also provides for Supreme Court of justice, the final arbiter in questions of law and jurisprudence.

The constitution did not prosper as the First Philippine Commission would state that: “In a country of such differences and varieties of population and social conditions there seems, if not any considerable real advantage, at least a theoretic propriety and fitness in grouping together by themselves, irrespective of existing provincial and district boundaries, the different tribes who inhabit the archipelago—Visayans, Tagalogs, Vicols, Ilocanos, etc.—and allowing them to manage their own local affairs; but that is a very different matter from constituting these new regions into independent and sovereign states, which delegate certain of their functions to the general government of the archipelago, as the framers of the above-mentioned constitution have actually done. To any such organization of Philippine states the commission is distinctly opposed; it is copied from the constitution of other countries in which the conditions are totally different from those which exist in the Philippines” (Report of the Philippine Commission 1900, 89). Of course, American colonial officials could not afford to give way some powers of the colonial government to the autonomous regions although they would know sooner or later that the Filipino Muslims in the south had different system of government and customs that could be accommodated in a federal system.

 Conclusion

The draft was an attempt to account for the differences and diversity found in the archipelago. Rizal must have known that. It was an archipelagic country divided geographically into regions, each with its traditions, customs and languages. The draft must also have been a response to the Federal Republic of the Visayas, which opposed Aguinaldo’s government. But the phantom of Bonifacio’s unitary republican government continued to hover over subsequent constitutions, first in the Biac-na-Bato constitution of 1897 followed by the Malolos Constitution of 1899, the 1935 Constitution up to the 1987 Constitution. It is characterized by an ethnocratic fascist state led by a selfish elite residing in the enclaves of Manila while the regions and their cultures wallow in poverty and destitution. Let me end by quoting Pi: “¿Qué le da fuerzas al poder: la centralización? Debo descentralizar. ¿Se la da la religión? Debo destruirla. Entre monarquía o república optaré por la república, entre la unitaria o la federal, optaré por la federal.” “La federación es un sistema por el cual los diversos grupos humanos, sin perder su autonomía en lo que les es particular y propio, se asocian y subordinan al conjunto de los de su especie para todos los fines comunes. Establece la unidad sin destruir la variedad.”

Yes, Rizal the federalist must have known that it is fundamental to establish unity without destroying diversity and it must be through a federal republic. On the other hand, Bonifacio had planted the seed for a Unitarian republic – one that might have been necessary in 1896 but no longer in this day and age – since it has benefited only the center as it became the controlling template for regions outside the capital, not only in terms of a bankrupt culture but also the handiwork of a predatory capital in the hands of a greedy oligarchic, mestizo elite.

References

Agoncillo, Teodoro A. 1996. The revolt of the masses: The story of Bonifacio and the Katipunan. Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press.

Aseniero, George. 2013. From Cadiz to La Liga: The Spanish context of Rizal’s political thought. Asian Studies: Journal of Critical Perspectives on Asia 49 (1): 1-42.

First Philippine Commssion. 1900. Report of the Philippine Commission to the President, Vol 1. Washington: Government Printing Office.

Guerrero, Milagros C., Emmanuel N. Encarnacion and Ramon N. Villegas. 1996. Andres Bonifacio and the 1896 Revolution. Sulyap Kultura 3-12.

Pi y Margall, Francisco. 1880. La federacion. Madrid: Imprenta de Enrique Vicente.

Retana, Wenceslao O. 1907. Vida y escritos del Dr. José Rizal. Madrid: Librería General de Victoriano Suárez.

Schumacher, John N. S.J. 1997. The Propaganda Movement 1880 – 1895. Quezon City:

Ateneo de Manila University Press.


* Paper presented first as “Contending concepts of nation and government: Divergent paths between Rizal and Bonifacio” at the Alay at Laya Conference on Bonifacio and Mabini, 25 April 2014, Ateneo de Manila University. The author acknowledges the minimal financial assistance from the Provincial Government of Pangasinan.

 

Tacloban Tragedy: A Painful Wake-up Call

Tacloban after Super Typhoon Haiyan

Note: This was originally a status update from FB that went viral. We were able to  get permission to publish it from the lady who was able to speak with several survivors of Super-Typhoon Haiyan (local name: “Yolanda”) particularly the update of her own cousin who was in Tacloban when the disaster happened.

We’ve been instructed by her to edit some areas of the original post, in order to protect the witnesses who recounted their tales. But it is really important that we who were not there on the ground be able to read accounts like this. We’ve also modified some of the formatting and have italicized or set some of the text in bold where the original author sought to emphasize certain words or phrases.

The original Facebook status update was written on November 17, 2013, so please take note that “yesterday” refers to November 16 and calculate other time references accordingly.


     Krizette_FB

Dear friends,

Yesterday we met and talked to six survivors, not including my husband, who only had to survive the aftermath. In truth, for all the images we see here in Manila, all of them say that we cannot fully comprehend the extent of the devastation unless we see it with our own eyes — or smell the stench of death that sticks to clothes.

“The storm only lasted for 5 hours,” says my cousin. Her home, situated in front of Robinsons Place Tacloban and MS grocery, suffered minor damage. It was only after going out to survey the damage that she only fully understood the severity of the situation: Everywhere she looked she saw people walking dazed, frantic, and calling out for loved ones. She is a volunteer, so she walked to the city hall to help out the local government, saw bodies lying by the side. She and other volunteers, she says, repacked goods during that first couple of days. It was also understood that they would be given a pack each. “We saw it loaded in a truck, the truck drove away, and we never saw it again,” she remembers. “The volunteers were also not given anything.” 

Day One, she says, people waited patiently for help. By the end of Day Two, people became frantic. (Imagine finding your family members dead, your house completely damaged, no water and electricity, all compounded by no food.)

The first “looting” at Robinsons grocery was relatively peaceful, says another survivor who does not want to be named. People helped themselves and each other. “They were friendly, you can ask people where the baby food aisle is and they’d even help you go there,” says the survivor. People only took what they needed.

“It only became violent in days three and four, when people had been going for days without food or water and the bodies were still in the streets,” adds my cousin. Another grocery right beside Robinsons Mall, Market Savers, which is set up like Makro or S&R (warehouse style) stationed several armed men in the entrance protecting already-damaged goods. For 3 days, people ignored it. And then because starvation can make you do desperate things, on the fourth day, the guards were overpowered by a hungry, angry mob. Guns were reportedly fired, and some people got hurt.

“People have been neglected without nothing to eat for almost a week, their family missing, and you didn’t see any semblance of government,” says my cousin. Save for the organized criminals who attack the stores with guns and trucks, the ordinary looters only went in the stores days after inaction from the government, and only got what they needed. Another store, a corner mom and pop operation, was also looted, but the owners decided to just distribute the goods by “throwing” them from the second floor of the building. To be fair to the businessmen of the city, they gave away what they had. Another cousin of mine who owns gas stations gave away their gas before heading to Manila. My cousin also told a local official that somebody should go around with a megaphone to announce the schedule of the delivery of food, to calm the masses. “In one ear, out another, “ My cousin says, shaking her head ruefully.

There’s no use sugarcoating this: the government bungled the operations. The local government of Tacloban is ill-equipped; the national government’s attempts are half-hearted at best. I chatted on FB with the wife of the highest official of Tacloban and she believes the help did not come because of politics.” She laments, “They are so evil, they are so mean.” “They” refers to the national government. I shiver to think that President Aquino would intentionally neglect the people of Tacloban because it is a Romualdez bailiwick. But, guess what, I wouldn’t put it past him. Pakabili po siya ng empathy at sympathy, dahil wala po nun ang presidente natin.

Still, because it is human nature to move forward, you can see the first signs of life in Tacloban. Some stores are already opening — yesterday, too, some businessmen who are now in Manila met to discuss the economic future of the city, yet some will be forever boarded up. How can you recover when the chain of supply and demand is broken? The businessmen in the city lost their stocks, which amounts to millions. They have suppliers they are answerable to. Some of these goods were purchased on credit. In one fell swoop, all they worked hard for all their lives are gone, just like that. And then there are ordinary employees who now have no work and no means of income, because the offices will not be open in at least a couple of months. The scenario that looms for most: No house, no food, no money. There are those retirees who spent all their retirement money to finally purchase their own modest houses, and now they have nowhere to live. It’s hunger + helplessness + depression. Lesser people would have crumbled — but Warays aren’t getting sad, they’re getting mad.

Mr. President, people are not statistics. It only took one day—sorry, I meant five hours—for everything to change for them. Waraynons are naturally courageous and resilient, our ancestors after all were warriors, but we need help rising up from the rubble. You don’t think we’re even worthy of one day worth of your attention. You have not stayed even one full day to assess the damage.

Only 29 towns have been given relief—Leyte has more than 40 towns—7 days after the typhoon. The situation may be getting better, but not nearly fast enough for the millions of people at the mercy of a President who may care, but not nearly great enough.


The Wake-up Call

As you may already know, the issue of the national government’s unwillingness or inability to respond appropriately in providing relief to the victims of Supertyphoon Haiyan (aka “Yolanda”) is all related to the low quality of leadership over at the Palace. This is all a result of the election in 2010 of a man who was not only ill-prepared to assume the responsibilities and duties of being the top decision-maker of the country, but was totally unwilling to even try to get himself up to speed.

This was thanks to the dynamics of the Philippine system of government and the way elections occur within a Presidential System. Aside from all the research done by world renowned political scientists which has revealed numerous problems of presidentialism such as gridlock, a tendency to make extensive use of discretionary pork barrel funding, and a tendency towards greater corruption, our Presidential System has unfortunately caused many ordinary Filipinos — including highly educated ones — to tend to vote based on personality and name-recall. Presidential Systems tend to make people care less about platforms, programmes, and principles, and care more about “the personality of the person we voting for” and look at markers like “who his parents were” or “what surname does he have.”

Had we instead had a true Parliamentary System (not the fake/bogus one we had under Marcos’ martial law era or the French-style “strong president” semi-presidential system Marcos shifted to in 1981 when martial law was lifted), the Philippines’ electoral dynamics would have been very different.

In Parliamentary Systems, people do not care only about voting for who their local district representative would be but also care about who the party leader is of the party that the local candidate they choose belongs to. As such, instead of looking only at one personality, voters are forced to look at two main people: the local representative who will represent their constituency, and the party leader who will become the prime minister should his party win a majority of all seats. Since a vote for the local representative means a vote for his party’s leader as well, voters tend to think from within a “big-picture” perspective, putting more importance on the the party affiliations of the local candidates they vote for, knowing fully-well that their local candidates’ party affiliation will likely determine who will ascend to the post of Prime Minister, and which party’s members will constitute the Cabinet.

(Let’s take the UK’s example. When a person votes for the local member of parliament in his own district/constituency, he looks at what parties the candidates belong to.

One candidate might be named “John Smith” who represents the Conservative Party while another candidate named “George Jones” may represent the Labour Party. The Conservative Party is currently headed by David Cameron, while the Labour Party is headed by Ed Milliband. If the voter personally likes John Smith, he also has to consider that voting for John Smith represents voting for David Cameron to continue on as Prime Minister. If he doesn’t particularly like David Cameron for whatever reason, then the voter must then take a step back and look at what “John Smith” has in common with David Cameron: being from the same party and having Conservative Political Leanings. Does the voter agree with those political leanings? Well, that’s what the voter will be forced to deal with. Ultimately, in parliamentary systems, voters care a lot more about party platforms and their manifestos simply because of this electoral dynamic.

More importantly, it’s not just about who is going to be the Prime Minister. It’s about who will become the ministers. If a majority of the members of parliament come from the Labour Party, then the Prime Minister and his Cabinet of Ministers will all come from the Labour Party. If a majority of the members of parliament come from the Conservative Party, then the Prime Minister and his Cabinet will all come from the Conservative Party.)

This change in electoral dynamics goes a long way in improving the way people vote. It also changes the way politicians will campaign during elections. Since Presidential Systems are more about the candidates’ personalities and “who they are”, that’s what candidates and politicians concentrate on selling and what they stand for takes a back-seat. But in Parliamentary Systems, where party affiliation is of greater importance, candidates campaign more about what their own parties stand for. There is less of the “epal” credit-grabbing meant to gain name-recall among the populace. Instead, candidates in parliamentary systems are much more likely to talk about the ideas and principles that their parties stand for and plan to achieve as well as the programs and projects their parties plan to implement.

There are many other major advantages to Parliamentary Systems, including the absence of gridlock as well as the ease of replacing non-performing leaders such as ministers or even the prime minister himself. In addition, the Opposition plays an official and active role in scrutinizing the incumbent government’s policies and implementation thereof so that each minister is “shadowed” (aka “followed around” in meetings) by an official opposition counterpart known as the “shadow minister.” Each minister, including the prime minister, is shadowed by a member of the Shadow Cabinet. The Minister for Education is “shadowed” by the Shadow Minister for Education, etc, and the Prime Minister himself is shadowed by the Leader of the Opposition.

Come question period (which is at least once a week in open parliament), the Shadow Ministers each grill their corresponding ministers in government regarding their decisions and their performance. The most exciting question period of the week occurs when the Leader of the Opposition grills the Prime Minister. This constant scrutiny by the Opposition Shadow Cabinet of the Cabinet Ministers keeps all of them on their toes and prevents them from engaging in corruption, since the opposition and its shadow ministers are always in constant surveillance – looking for any sign of wrongdoing by the government that it can exploit in order to discredit the government and use to further their cause in seeking to take over. This constant surveillance by the opposition is why parliamentary systems have been proven to be generally less prone to corruption than presidential systems.

Imagine if we had a parliamentary system in the Philippines. Noynoy, Dinky, and Mar Roxas would be hard pressed to make excuses they way they did in front of journalists. Unlike journalists who tend to ask neutral questions, the opposition shadow cabinet tends to feature opposition leaders who are out to probe, grill, and cross examine government ministers in the open parliament. No more palusots. No more lame excuses. No more tolerance of incompetence. Noynoy or any other vote-magnet puppet simply cannot survive Parliamentary Question Period.

Post-Disaster Economic Reconstruction

It is also necessary that when thinking about the reconstruction efforts of all the affected areas, we must understand that we will need a lot of Foreign Direct Investments as the quickest way to help out in creating the much-needed jobs that will get people who have lost their livelihoods back on their feet.

Look at this graph of ASEAN’s 2012 Foreign Direct Investment in-flows:

2012 FDI in ASEAN

The Philippines is lamentably at the bottom of the ASEAN pile as far as attracting FDIs goes (which explains the high unemployment rate) and the super-typhoon’s destruction has obviously made things much, much worse as far as unemployment is concerned. We have continued to experience a dearth in domestic job-creation such that more than 10 million Filipinos have been forced to find employment abroad as OFW’s and emigrants. Now, an estimated 4 million people are said to have been displaced. How many of them lost their livelihoods? (Now we can see just how badly we need rapid job creation to occur in the Philippines on a massive scale.)

Removing all of those anti-FDI restrictions as well as the 60/40 ownership limits in the Constitution (as well as laws) will go a long way in attracting more and more investors to set up in the Philippines and create much needed employment for our people. Bringing in FDIs by removing anti-FDI restrictions has worked everywhere it has been tried and it is the secret of Singapore’s success and ascent into First World status despite having been poorer than the Philippines more than half a century ago. Massive FDI-attraction was the jump-starting spark that got China out Maoist Communist economic lethargy to become a major capitalist powerhouse and the second largest economy in the world, and it is also the key ingredient in Indonesia’s rapid rise within the ASEAN region.

We’re all so happy to receive aid and assistance from other countries but we have to realize that aid is temporary. Asking for aid long-term is mendicancy and that is unsustainable. As such, once it’s time to rebuild the Philippines and all the areas hit by disaster, we will start needing to earn our keep. We will need to work to earn some money for ourselves. Whether we like it or not, Foreign Direct Investments create employment opportunities and these pay salaries. We’re not asking for alms: we’re working for a livelihood.

Does it really matter if the companies we work for are foreign-owned versus Filipino-owned? Think about it — more than 10 million Filipinos are working abroad for foreign employers anyway. Bringing foreign investors in allows rapid job creation to happen in the Philippines so that our people can be with their families and find jobs without having to depart for faraway shores.

But lastly, we also need to make sure that when job creation does happen, it happens in the regions, not in the already overcongested Metro Manila where far too many rural peasants have gone in search of work to end up becoming the capital city’s urban poor. That’s why we need Evolving Federalism (aka “Region-based Decentralization”). We need to empower the regions in order to have the necessary autonomy they need to create their own pro-business economic policies that would be more conducive to fostering economic development and attracting investors – both Filipino and foreign.

Ultimately, when all three reforms are done, the Philippines can truly get back on its feet and turn itself around so that it ceases to be Southeast Asia’s laggard. This is not just about  the reconstruction of the affected areas hit by the recent super-typhoon. This is about doing what we should started to do long ago in order to improve our country as the Philippines has continued to slide and get left behind by other ASEAN countries who used to look up to us.

Super Typhoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan) ought to be the wake-up call that gets all Filipinos uniting behind this most important reform advocacy. This is, after all, for the benefit of ourselves and our future generations. The selfish Oligarchs and the ignorant anti-reform forces have held us back for far too long. It’s time all Filipinos learned more about these necessary reforms and started pushing for them so that we can achieve our rightful place among the successful and competitive countries of the world. Now is the time to spread the word!

CoRRECT™ the Constitution!

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About the Author

OrionOrion Pérez Dumdum comes from an IT background and analyzes systems the way they should be: logically and objectively.

Being an Overseas Filipino Worker himself, he has seen firsthand how the dearth of investment – both local and foreign – is the cause of the high unemployment and underemployment that exists in the Philippines as well as the low salaries earned by people who do have jobs.Being Cebuano (half-Cebuano, half-Tagalog), and having lived in Cebu, he is a staunch supporter of Federalism.

Having lived in progressive countries which use parliamentary systems, Orion has seen first hand the difference in the quality of discussions and debates of both systems, finding that while discussions in the Philippines are mostly filled with polemical sophistry often focused on trivial and petty concerns, discussions and debates in the Parliamentary-based countries he’s lived in have often focused on the most practical and most important points.

He has a nephew and niece who are related to Noynoy Aquino which is why Orion really wants Noynoy to be able to succeed at reforming the flawed Philippine system via Constitutional Reform. Rather than having his nephew and niece suffer the consequences of being related to Noynoy who is turning out to be a failure, Orion would like Noynoy Aquino to do the right thing and regain the honor he has lost so that his own niece and nephew won’t have to suffer that stigma. Noynoy must get the ball rolling for Constitutional Reform.

Orion first achieved fame as one of the most remembered and most impressive  among the winners of the popular RPN-9 Quiz Show “Battle of the Brains”, and got a piece he wrote – “The Parable of the Mountain Bike” – featured in Bob Ong’s first bestselling compilation of essays “Bakit Baligtad Magbasa ng Libro ang mga Pilipino?” He is the principal co-founder of the CoRRECT™ Movement to spearhead the campaign to inform the Filipino Public about the urgent need for Constitutional Reform & Rectification for Economic Competitiveness & Transformation.

Infographic: Solutions to the Root Causes of the Pork Barrel

Baboy-Barrel

Many Filipinos want to get rid of the Pork Barrel. But as mentioned in a previous article, it is necessary to understand the root causes of this “contraption” in order to come up with a truly effective solution.

We at the CoRRECT™ Movement have come up with an infographic that aims to educate netizens in a step-by-step manner exactly how the Pork Barrel came to be and what solutions are necessary to address those root causes in order to totally eradicate the corruption-prone pork barrel as it exists.

Please feel free to pass this infographic around to as many people as possible in order to promote a much deeper understanding of the issue among a wider population.

Polls aren’t just for Metro Manila: Why Federalism?

Manila Philippines from the air Aerial Pictures Metro Manila

by: Jan Emil Langomez

Risa Hontiveros, Bam Aquino, Nancy Binay, Chiz Escudero: What do these political candidates have in common?

It’s simple really, all were born and raised within Metro Manila. These “senatoriables” are currently gunning for seats in the Senate. We constantly watch them in televised debates and interviews. Yet, there is a much deeper issue with regards to where our politicians come from and who they represent.

Our country is an archipelago containing 7,100 islands, each having their own unique culture and heritage. Indeed, we’re a diverse country; but is our political system as diverse? Look at our members of the 15th Congress Senators. Look at the current candidates running for a seat in the Senate. I bet you that most of them at least come from either Luzon or Metro Manila.

That’s the problem with our political system. We are too over-centralized. This greatly impacts the policies of our government. Take for example NEDA’s Philippine Midterm Report on the Millennium Development Goals. One of the challenges mentioned is the presence of ‘a wide disparity of development among the local regions’, especially provinces in Mindanao. That report was made during 2007. It’s 2013, yet the same problem persists.

Diving deeper into the issue, the NEDA report shows one stark reality: the presence of disparity. Of course, we can argue that this disparity is caused by many factors. But if we look at our current society today, we can see that a main factor here is how our provinces or regions are represented. Sure, we can say that the lower house is enough to proportionally represent our country. Sure, we can say that our barangays are already autonomous due to our law on Local Government Units.

But that’s not enough. We tend to forget that getting the views of individuals affected (known as “stakeholders”) is important if we want government policies to work. Hence, we also tend to forget the importance of local knowledge in order to fully understand local issues. In order to encourage the discussion of these issues, a proper form of political representation is necessary.

Indeed, if you want to solve a problem, it takes more than the “know-how.” It also needs the views of stakeholder, collectively represented by proper political figures within our legislative branch. This is important because these representatives of their respective regions have the local experience and knowledge important for the government to overcome different challenges faced by many of our provinces.

Let’s put this into a simple context: do you expect an average Manileño to understand the problems of an average Tausug? In some sense, yes, if he or she has the knowledge (something that’s very unlikely); when it comes to experience though, the Tausug clearly defeats the Manileño. Of course, intelligence and competence remain to be necessary traits; but having the local knowledge is a big plus! Experience is something that politicians can’t ignore.

So here we see how our country is represented. It reminds us of a famous terminology down south: “Imperial Manila”. Indeed, if we were just able to properly represent all of Filipino society, maybe the conflict in Mindanao would have been less problematic in the past. Maybe we wouldn’t have so many people coming to Metro Manila just to look for a job. Maybe many of our provinces would be better off if we give them a form of autonomy.

As expected though, a common critic would disagree. He or she would say that the problem in Mindanao is caused by the issue of land ownership, that many people in the provinces come to Metro Manila due to the lack of job opportunities, and that giving provinces autonomy would just empower the political families already present.

All of these points do make sense. It’s just that we can say as a rebuttal that progress in the Mindanao peace process would have been realized much faster if there were more “Mindanaoans” present in the government; politicians who most likely care a lot more about the issue.

We can say as a rebuttal that an important factor on why there are no job opportunities in the provinces is because we over-centralize development in the NCR, instead of spreading the fruits of development towards the other regions.

We can say as a rebuttal that providing autonomy towards the provinces can help fight corruption by lessening the budget coming from the federal government; greatly encouraging these politicians to collect taxes from only their respective provinces, making these political families more accountable of their actions.

It will take time for us to shift from a centralized form of government to a federal republic. So let’s use our time wisely. It’s currently the election period, and as responsible citizens, we can do so much in order to push for federalism in the Philippine government:

  1. Vote for those who are willing to initiate Constitutional Reform. Of course, intelligence, track record, and competency still remain to be important traits. If you’re not yet an eligible voter, tell those who are capable to initiate the mentioned action.
  2. While taking note of the above mentioned traits, let’s also vote for more candidates coming from the Visayas and Mindanao. Metro Manila is not the entire Philippines, and the Philippines is not just Metro Manila.
  3. Join political forums where you get to speak to your candidates. Mention to them of the need for Constitutional Reform.
  4. Make a post on Facebook, twitter, and other social websites about this issue. Inform your friends and family on how Federalism can help our government and country.

Federalism is so much more than petty “regionalism”. It is about properly representing all of the Filipinos. It is about a more efficient government. It is about respecting our multicultural identities.

Federalism is about unity in diversity.

Blue - EvolFed

Further Reading:

It’s all about Competition

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Competition forces you to shape up, or ship out!

It is well-known that the concept of healthy and fair competition has the effect of an “invisible hand” that essentially results in benefits and improvements for everyone.

We CoRRECTors and other advocates of Constitutional Reform do not subscribe to the idea that human beings have to be saints so that things will get better. Humans are fallible and make mistakes. Instead, it is clear that when people have to compete, that’s when people improve: because competition forces people to shape up or ship out. Whenever there is healthy competition, unscrupulous behavior ensures that one’s competitors will eventually win. When there is competition, lousy service and lousy products lose out as consumers prefer to buy the better products & services.

CoRRECT™ – Constitutional Reform & Rectification for Economic Competitiveness & Transformation is really all about Competition, Competitiveness, Competence, and Choice.

Let us review the Three Point Agenda:

1) Economic Liberalization

Companies compete against other Companies for Employees

With economic liberalization, we allow more investors into the economy, whether they be foreign or local. It is very possible to have local players comprised of talented local Filipino technology gurus (who unfortunately do not have their own cash) who are supported and funded by foreign venture capitalists’ seed money.

We will have more foreign investors and foreign companies coming in – instead of having to send Filipinos abroad to work for foreign companies in foreign lands – so that Filipinos can earn and learn (foreign multinationals often have good skills and personnel training programs) while being with their families, and not needing to work as migrant workers and OFW’s abroad.

With more economic players, there is more competition. Companies will compete against each other and will thus be forced to provide better goods and better services to the end consumer. Simple Law of Supply and Demand: Companies will be forced to compete against each other in hiring the best employees, dangling higher wages or benefits just to attract applicants to choose to work for them and not for a competitor.

Filipino workers will see that more jobs also means higher wages, with the highest wages going to the most competitive, skilled, and hardworking workers. Many workers will thus seek to improve themselves and compete against others, by learning new skills, and making themselves more attractive to employers in order to command higher wages.

Compare a situation that has an abundance of competition versus a situation that has a lack of it.

Without competition, you end up with lethargy & laziness. You end up with Despair. People feel resigned to the fact that no matter what they do, they’ll continue to earn low wages and they can’t find alternatives. And when they try to go into business, they also realize they don’t have much capital to begin with (and with the 60/40 constitutional provisions, generous foreign venture capitalists and angel investors are nowhere to be found) and even if they do, they may find that while there are many people, only a few have jobs that pay them enough to allow them to afford whatever it is they’re selling.

Clearly, competition is better. Economic Liberalization ensures competition, and economic competition improves our economic lives as wages improve.

The Philippines’ OFW problem is really nothing but a serious manifestation of the obvious lack of competition in the economy and lack of companies and jobs, forcing Filipinos overseas either as overseas workers, or as full-fledged emigrants.

When jobs are scarce in a country, people are forced to look for jobs overseas.

2) Region-based Decentralization (Evolving Federalism) 

Regions Competing Against Other Regions in attracting Investors

With Region-based Decentralization, the regions will be empowered to make their own economic and business-related decisions so that they themselves can decide how they want to attract investors to come over and set up companies in the regions.

Instead of a centralized unitary single monolithic entity such as Imperial Manila, we end up with empowered autonomous Regions who can compete with each other in trying to best attract investors and businesses. Whether it be by providing lower taxes or creating better policies, or it could even be by simply improving the efficiency of their own regional bureaucracies, the simple point here is that by making the empowered Regions compete with each other, they are forced to improve themselves in order to attract economic opportunities and businesses because in turn, the more businesses go to regions, the higher their revenues, the better the region’s infrastructure, and the more respectable the region’s leaders become.

If certain regions succeed in making themselves richer by successfully attracting so many investors and multinational companies as well as national companies originally headquartered in Manila, since they are autonomized and empowered to keep a bigger share of the tax revenue that they collect and are also empowered to make their own regional decisions, they may even decide to raise the salaries of their own government employees and leaders, thus making it unnecessary to resort to graft and scraping little kickbacks just to decently raise families. Regions will compete against each other and thus try to lessen their inefficiencies, lessen corruption, lower taxes, improve infrastructure, etc.

Competition clearly improves things, not just in a corporation versus corporation type of competition but also in a region versus region type of competition.

3) Parliamentary System

Parties competing against other parties to provide better results

In the current Presidential System, there is no real competition based on competence and platform. Instead, the competition is based on name-recall and popularity: both of which are irrelevant when it comes to delivering results.

But in a Parliamentary System, real competition that makes sense happens.

It’s a competition of Party versus Party (as opposed to personality versus personality).

In parliamentary systems, there is intra-party competition where the best members move up to the top, the best one becoming party leader. Parties also compete against each other on the basis of platform and performance

Notice also that in Parliamentary Systems, party leaders (who are in the running to become Prime Minister if their respective parties win majority of all seats or if their parties form coalitions where they have the most seats within the coalition) campaign using the pronoun “We.” They speak more collectively about their party’s platforms and their party’s past performance by always referring to “Our Party” or “My Party” unlike in Presidential Systems where presidential candidates use the pronoun “I” all the time.

Parties will be forced to compete against other parties by presenting their platforms to the public and showing that their platforms are more responsive to the needs of the people. More importantly, parties will be forced to compete against each other by choosing the best members among themselves to be the senior members of the party, the best of whom will be the party leader.

In a Parliamentary System, unlike in a presidential system, the Prime Minister and his majority bloc are always in competition against the Leader of the Opposition and his minority bloc. Active Debates ensue. The Leader of the Opposition tries to show that the Prime Minister does not know what he is talking about. The Prime Minister, on the other hand, must always be on his toes to show that indeed, he does know what he is talking about and has the facts to prove his point…

In a parliamentary system, there is an intense system of competition where the Majority’s “Government Cabinet” is always being challenged by the Minority’s “Shadow Cabinet.”

In a Parliamentary System, the competition between the Opposition versus Government during parliamentary debates ensures that the Government is on its toes

The Minister of Finance from the Government Majority is always on his toes and must always prove himself as the Shadow Minister from the Opposition Minority always challenges him and questions his decisions. In fact, since every single decision that the Minister of Finance makes within the Ministry of Finance regarding budget and other concerns is always done in the presence of the Opposition Shadow Minister of Finance, everything is above board, everything is transparent.

In a Parliamentary System, the Majority Government faces off in a highly competitive confrontational seating arrangement against the Minority Opposition

In fact, even the seating lay-out of a Parliamentary System (particularly the Westminster and Spanish systems) force the Majority and the Minority to face-off against each other in a face-to-face debate. The Government side sits on one side of the parliament hall directly facing the Opposition who are on the other side. Compare that with the Philippine legislative chambers’ seating lay-outs where all members of the House of Representatives and even the Senate all face the front where the presiding officer (Senate President or Speaker of the House) is seated.

There is no real sense of “competition” between the two sides. As such, this obvious issue of the physical seating lay-out in the legislature is also why there is a very poorly-developed sense of party cohesion in the Philippine setting. If the Philippines shifted over to a Parliamentary System where the seating lay-out features direct face-to-face confrontation between Majority versus Minority, this institutionalized competition between both sides will actually force the development of an improved party system: It will force parties with similar philosophies and platforms to coalesce or merge and prevent the proliferation of too many fractured mini-parties, while it will cause parties with very different ideas to become distinct as far as their platforms and policy proposals in concerned.

Most of all, forcing Majority and Minority to face-off in debates as a result of such a seating layout fosters the kind of greater competition that results in higher transparency and lower corruption.

In such a system, you don’t need to hope and pray that your government’s leaders are extremely honest people. Instead, the competition between the Minority Opposition and the Majority Government keeps them honest, as the Minority-Opposition essentially keeps close watch over the Government’s dealings and decisions. The Majority-Government, on the other hand, will try its best to ensure that it is able to deliver on its promises and thus enable it to gain the trust and confidence of the voting public for the next general elections.

In the presidential system, the decisions made by presidents and their cabinets often tend to be done behind closed doors, without any observation or scrutiny unlike in a Parliamentary System where the intense competition between Majority Government and Minority Opposition blocs forces the opposition to scrutinize the Government in the minutest detail.

Knowing this, it is thus no wonder that countries using parliamentary systems dominate the top ranks of Transparency International’s CPI listing (Corruption Perceptions Index) of the Least Corrupt Countries of the world, while presidentialist countries (and semi-presidentialists and dictatorships) dominate the bottom tiers.

In a Parliamentary System, there is Competition everywhere. There is Competition among parties and competition within parties.

Among parties, the parties try to outdo each other by executing policies better and producing better results than their opponents, and presenting better planned projects, better planned policies, and better platforms and manifestos to the general public.

Within parties, party members compete against each other to show who embodies the party’s principles and who is worthy to move up the ranks and eventually take on important roles within the party and within government in case the party wins a majority and forms the government.

A lousy debater who cannot articulate his thoughts properly, cannot think on his toes, has poor knowledge of history, poor knowledge of geopolitics, poor knowledge of policy, poor knowledge of economics, etc can never rise up the ranks in a parliamentary system. In a parliamentary system, the higher you go, the more exposed you will be to heated debates and intense scrutiny by the opposing side.

Not everyone in a party can do this. And certainly, because of this, not everyone aspires to become a party leader (and therefore only a select few ever really aspire to become Prime Minister).

Becoming a Prime Minister, a deputy prime minister, a minister, or some other senior member is clearly not for the faint-hearted and especially not for the weak-minded. To be a Prime Minister, you must be better at debates than your own party mates. You must be the “go-to-guy” or “go-to-gal” that everyone relies on when there is a difficult question. You must know all the relevant facts and figures in order to support your statements and often, you will not have notes or teleprompters helping you out when you extemporaneously respond to questions during debates and Question Time. There is no such thing as “Teka muna, tanungin ko muna advisers ko” in parliamentary debates.

The parliamentary system is all about healthy competition. It’s the kind of competition within parties that ensures that the best and most competent member in a party becomes its leader.

Competition between Minority bloc versus Majority bloc ensures that Corruption is kept very low as scrutiny of government is very intense.

Competition between Parties ensures that parties come up with solid platforms and solid plans of action.

Clearly, competition forces the best in everyone in a parliamentary system.

Sadly, the Philippines is presidential, that’s why we continue to be mired in mediocrity.

 

In Summary…

CoRRECT™ is all about COMPETITION.

1) Economic Liberalization:

Competition among corporations and companies creates more jobs, increases wages for employees, and creates better goods and services for consumers/clients/customers.

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2) Evolving Federalism:

Competition among regions ensures that regions try to outdo each other in attracting investors, coming up with better policies, streamlining their bureaucracies, improving their infrastructure, etc.

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3) Parliamentary System:

Competition among political parties and blocs ensures that the public ends up with better parties, higher quality politicians, competent leaders, and the direct competition between Opposition Shadow Cabinet versus Government Cabinet means greater scrutiny of decision-making & budget concerns, thus drastically reducing/minimizing corruption and influence peddling.

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About the Author

OrionOrion Pérez Dumdum comes from an IT background and analyzes systems the way they should be: logically and objectively.

Being an Overseas Filipino Worker himself, he has seen firsthand how the dearth of investment – both local and foreign – is the cause of the high unemployment and underemployment that exists in the Philippines as well as the low salaries earned by people who do have jobs.Being Cebuano (half-Cebuano, half-Tagalog), and having lived in Cebu, he is a staunch supporter of Federalism.

Having lived in progressive countries which use parliamentary systems, Orion has seen first hand the difference in the quality of discussions and debates of both systems, finding that while discussions in the Philippines are mostly filled with polemical sophistry often focused on trivial and petty concerns, discussions and debates in the Parliamentary-based countries he’s lived in have often focused on the most practical and most important points.

Orion first achieved fame as one of the most remembered and most impressive  among the winners of the popular RPN-9 Quiz Show “Battle of the Brains”, and got a piece he wrote – “The Parable of the Mountain Bike” – featured in Bob Ong’s first bestselling compilation of essays “Bakit Baligtad Magbasa ng Libro ang mga Pilipino?” He is the principal co-founder of the CoRRECT™ Movement to spearhead the campaign to inform the Filipino Public about the urgent need for Constitutional Reform & Rectification for Economic Competitiveness & Transformation.