Breakup of PH feared under federalism
In a nation of islands separated by distance, wealth, language and faith, the planned shift to federalism may well result in an unintended and disastrous consequence—the breakup of the Philippine republic through secession of the envisioned substates.
Former Sen. Edgardo Angara expressed this fear, although he was not entirely opposed to the proposal to rewrite the 1987 Constitution and shift to a federal form of government. He, however, said he was wary of what this would mean for the country and people in the long run.
“So the big question is: Will federalism unify the different ethnic tribal groups of our country, which we have united over the years under the Commonwealth and the postwar period, by creating this structure?” Angara said in a recent interview.
The Bangsamoro people, in their long quest for a homeland, and the Cordillera folk, with their “very strong sense of identity,” may well choose to break away from the national government and declare independence, Angara warned.
“Federalism is when you try to unify a nation by having different tribal and ethnic groups coming together,” the former senator and now a special envoy to the European Union said.
Over the years, Angara noted, there had been “agitation” among political leaders to form a federation. “The story of a federation is that a federation unites disunited peoples or disunited states. That’s why there’s the United States of America and the United Federation of Canada,” he said.
“But a federation in our context, where we have no background of having autonomous states or autonomous regions, we are trying to unite and convince various tribal groups, Ilocanos, Waray, Tagalog, Bisaya, Moro, to come as one,” Angara said.
“That’s a herculean task,” he said. “That kind of acculturation requires time and a massive information campaign. It doesn’t happen overnight.”
Angara’s warning came as Congress this year prioritized measures to change the Constitution and shift to federalism.
One of the draft provisions of the envisioned federal Charter under review by the House committee on constitutional amendments was to divide the Philippine republic into five substates: Luzon, the Visayas, Mindanao, Metro Manila and Bangsamoro.
In an ideal world, the new substates would benefit from competing with each other, Angara said, “but only if the field is level.”
“The problem is it’s not level. Here in Metro Manila, you monopolize the job opportunity, the business opportunity,” he said.
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