Corporate Watch

Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III met with some members of the Consultative Commission (ConCom) on the government’s proposed change to federalism. He asked, “Who is going to pay for the national debt? Who is going to pay for the military? Who is going to pay for the [Department of Foreign Affairs] and the central bank? I mean if it needs additional capital, who is going to put it up?” ( Aug. 7, 2018). And the ConCom’s response was, “the sharing with the local governments or the states will be after those expenses” (Ibid.).
“But you know, when I read the draft, it doesn’t say so there. It just says 50%,” Dominguez said. Not clear.
At the Senate hearing last week on the ConCom’s proposed draft charter, Dominguez told senators that while the Duterte administration’s economic team has no official position yet regarding federalism, he agrees with Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia on the potential fiscal risks of the proposed change in form of government. Pernia had stressed that while federalism could unlock economic benefits, it could also spell disaster for some regions not prepared for such a transition and “wreak havoc” on the country’s balance sheet (Ibid.).
When asked how much budget was needed for the proposed shift to federalism, Pernia said, “Our rough estimate is P120 billion but this is just the direct cost, there will be indirect costs like disruptions and other things” (CNN Philippines Aug 8, 2018). Dominguez admitted he is also confused about the proposed shift to a federal form of government, as senators pressed more for how much the transition would cost (Ibid.).
Sen. Francis Escudero questioned why is there even a P90-million information campaign for federalism, when even the country’s economic managers are confused about the proposed shift (Ibid.). And aside from the ConCom’s version, the House Committee on Constitutional Amendments and the ruling party PDP-Laban have different versions of the proposed federal charter.
Would you then vote against the shift if the draft federal constitution is presented for ratification now, the senators asked. Dominguez said, “Absolutely” (Ibid.). And that was what drew the ire of ConCom member and San Beda Graduate School of Law Dean Father Ranhilio Aquino. “If (Duterte) favors federalism let him sack Dominguez and Pernia or command them to keep their traps shut. Freedom of expression does not apply to Cabinet officials in respect to policy,” Fr. Aquino said ( Aug 9, 2018).
“Enough of double-talk. If the President is now cool to federalism let him give the order to abandon the federalist ship. Then all of us fools who wrote the draft and defended it with all our might will know that we have been taken for a ride — for a very expensive ride — but we shall at least have the chance to abandon ship before it is scuttled!” he said.
Fr. Aquino’s subjective reaction jolts more than Secretaries Dominguez’s and Pernia’s objective and candid cost-benefit analysis of federalism. Why does the Reverend Father cry out for their blood, for speaking their minds? “Sack Dominguez and Pernia,” he says with such vehemence to Duterte — the ruling “god” that wants us to convert to federalism.
But why, in the first place, has the ConCom developed into that shackle of justifying and pushing for federalism, when it was supposed to be an independent “consultative” assembly that could come out, for or against, the concept of federalism as would be applicable and workable for our country?
And in this seeming mind-set of working towards what Duterte wants instead of what is good for the people, the ConCom (e.g., Fr. Aquino) will be ready to “jump ship” (leave Duterte?) and reverse themselves on their 100% conviction that federalism is the only way to go for 109+ million Filipinos. What emerges here is the specter of professionals — academicians, lawyers, economists, businessmen, and other enlightened “consultants” who have sold their people down the river for the edited and tailored draft of a federalist charter promised by Duterte when he was still campaigning.
In a poll conducted from June 15 to 21, Pulse Asia found that 67% of Filipinos are against Charter change, an increase of 3 percentage points from 64% in March 2018. Of this, 37% said they do not want to amend the charter now and in the future, while 30% expressed openness to altering the constitution sometime in the future but not now. Three quarters of Filipinos (74%) have “little/almost no/no knowledge at all” about the current constitution, and 62% of Filipinos are not in favor of replacing the present unitary system of government with a federal one ( July 16, 2018).
A separate Social Weather Stations’ poll conducted March 23 to 27, however, showed that 34% favored the federal system of government while 29% expressed opposition to it, and 34% were undecided about the matter. Of the 1,200 respondents, 75% only learned about the federal system during the conduct of the poll (Ibid.).
Clear as day that Filipinos are still in the dark about federalism.
With some of Duterte’s own men now expressing doubts about its viability and soundness, it cannot be rushed and ratified to seal in the self-serving advantages preemptively claimed by some of those in present power and influence.
When in doubt, don’t!
Amelia H. C. Ylagan is a Doctor of Business Administration from the University of the Philippines.