Federalism is ugly–Recto
“Ugly.” That was how Senate Minority Leader Ralph Recto described federalism as a proposed form of government for the Philippines.
“Dagdag bureaucracy, dagdag red tape, dagdag taxes, dagdag gastos lang yan (It’s additional bureaucracy, additional red tape, additional taxes and additional expenses),” he said during an INQ&A interview on Tuesday.
Amending the Constitution to change the Philippine form of government from a unitary, bicameral form to a federal, parliamentary form of government is a major thrust of the Duterte administration.
“I think all you need are amendments to the Local Government Code,” Recto said. “I don’t think you need to tinker with the Constitution and totally revise it to have a federal system of government.”
He said his experience as legislator and director general of the National Economic and Development Authority, as well that of his wife, Vilma Santos, as mayor and governor of Batangas has led him to oppose the plan.
“The math is wrong,” Recto said, explaining that currently three regions account for 65 percent of the gross domestic product of the country—Metro Manila, Southern Tagalog and Central Luzon.
“Who pays for the subsidy in ARMM? 65 percent will come from the three regions. Now if you’re going to make federal states out of these regions, will other regions lose the subsidy?” he said.
He said it would also be problematic if only 20 percent of the “national wealth” is given to the central government while the rest or 80 percent is allocated for the federal state.
“How are you going to divide the debt of this country?” he said. “Interest expense on your debt is already 13 to 15 percent. Who’s going to pay for it? We will only have five percent left.”
“You know, if you put the pesos and cents in the proposals, and you add the numbers to all that, the math is wrong,” he said.
Recto said that while he understands the current position of President Duterte, who was a former mayor of Davao City, he thinks the President will eventually develop a different perspective.
“I think that in the next few months that he’s sitting in a different saddle as the president of this country he will have a different view,” he said.
“It’s a different saddle, different perspective now,” Recto said.
Duterte has been pushing for federalism, which he believes would empower local governments and help pave the way for prosperity in Mindanao.
However, Recto said Duterte now “seems to favor a unitary, more authoritarian” form of government.
“So will he be willing to give up his powers? I don’t think so,” the senator said. “Apparently mining is very much centralised today. Are they willing to allow that (in) provinces? I don’t think so.”
Asked about the Bangsamoro problem in relation to federalism, he said they will just have to fix the problems faced by the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao to improve the situation.
Recto said if its proponents are serious about federalism, they should “take baby steps towards that.”
The Senate is expected to tackle the proposal in January, after the approval of the national budget.
“I think it will be a difficult debate in the Senate. This is what we have been preparing for, the debate on Federalism,” Recto said.
INQ&A is a weekly interview show broadcast live over Radyo Inquirer 990AM, INQ 990 Television and INQUIRER.net’s Facebook page.
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