A MAYOR’S DREAM IN THE MAKING: Rodrigo Duterte firmly believes that federalism is the only way to achieve peace in Mindanao, and now that he’s president, he wants it for the whole Philippines

Screen capture: one of Duterte's Speech

Screen capture: one of Duterte’s Speech

President Rodrigo Duterte’s master plan for the country can somehow be summed up in this word: Federalism.

Simply put, in order to maximize control over all parts of the country, the Philippines shall be divided into local autonomous regions that can decide for itself, with its leaders having a closer watch to its people, just like the United States and India.

For the president, his central promise to defeat drug lords, hunt drug users, and put an end to corruption can only be accomplished through such reform. Enticing plans like these surely can produce a lot of things, but it may be good and it may be bad.

Easier Funds… but prone to corruption

When local chiefs are given more control over their territories with little intervention from the government, faster growth in local areas can be the major change.

Funds will be transferred easily to each state and only a small percent of the state’s investments are required to be submitted to the national heads, the economy may rapidly rise. Citizens of their respective regions may experience more job opportunities and modernized public facilities.

Furthermore, often neglected industries such as fishing and farming may see improvement through federalism, with the funds allocated faster.  Local heads can also focus on what their region specializes in, such as the rice farming in Central Luzon and fish industry in the Visayan regions.

However, there’s a big catch. With the whole block of bigger funds held by local heads alone, corruption may worsen. The money might appear clear as day on records, but nowhere in the eyes of the public.

It will take also a large sum of money to start federalism, from the amendment of the constitution to the creation of the states, and the budget may be scrapped up to the bottom of the barrel.

A more patriotic Filipino Nation… but it will need a lot of time

Federalism also aims to lessen the people in the ever crowded National Capital Region by giving priorities to separate regions, especially in Visayas and Mindanao whose citizens need to go great lengths just to reach Manila. People are expected to stay in their respective provinces when local regions are improved. Their loyalty to their place of birth and childhood is likely to be boosted.

With the citizens of a certain place united, it will be successful for sure, but what if they go the wrong way? The implementation of federalism also poses the threat of regionalism and competition among states, not only in their own achievements but also in physical conflict. The development of local territories can also be uneven, with some growing fast and others rather slow.

Also, with all these conflicts, influential families may rise into the spotlight and when worse comes, transform into a political dynasty which is already a national issue. With more power at hand, families like these will be dangerous, if not deadly, and the citizens’ life will be at stake. To achieve patriotic land, a lot of time is needed indeed. These will not be attained in a short time, let alone Duterte’s term only.

The best step towards lasting peace… or is it?

The never-ending turmoil in Mindanao may end through federalism. After all, a local state is what they really want in the form of Bangsamoro, and it is what they’ll get without detaching themselves from the national government.  Yet it is alarming when clans may become hostile to each other, the problem may rise again, or may not even stop at all. Basically, this will take also a rather long time, and patience is really needed.

In a nutshell, federalism is a double-edged sword, and with careless comes wounds that will need healing. Is this reform what our country really needs? Just how much this form of government will be the road towards change, when it is obviously rough and hard to tread on. (Luke Godoy)

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