FORMER Chief Justice Hilario G. Davide, Jr. assailed attempts to shift to a federal form of government in a speech on Tuesday, Nov. 21, to the Makati Business Club (MBC), Management Association of the Philippines, Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines and Employers Confederation of the Philippines.
Mr. Davide said the reason given by supporters of federalism — that the current highly centralized government enriches Manila at the expense of the countryside — is “deceptively misleading and unfounded.”
“All such goals and objectives can adequately and sufficiently be accomplished by merely, but effectively and efficiently implementing the relevant provisions of our present 1987 Constitution for strong local autonomy and decentralization,” Mr. Davide said in his speech, as quoted by the MBC in a statement on Tuesday.
On the other hand, Mr. Davide enumerated 18 ill effects of a shift to federalism. He said these could be irreversible.
“A shift to federalism is a lethal experiment. A fatal leap. A plunge to death. A leap to hell,” the retired chief justice said. “To paraphrase the book of Sirach concerning sin, federalism is “a two-edged sword: when it cuts, there can be no healing.”
The ill effects he listed include fomenting division, breeding more political dynasties and warlordism, and putting the criminal justice system in disarray because there will be federal and state crimes, and probably two court systems.
Mr. Davide also said federalism would bloat the bureaucracy, add to economic hardship because there will be not one but two tax systems — the federal and the state — and reduce support for poor regions.
The former chief justice said the shift to federalism could be a “red herring” for other changes such as opening up protected industries to foreigners and removing restrictions on the President’s power to declare martial law or suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus.
“The horrible enlarged and bloated bureaucracy under the Federal system, with the proliferation of political dynasties, would make life for you more difficult. More shady politicians and more political dynasties can hound and harass you. They and their families and cohorts, dummies or nominees can put up their own business empires. For survival, businessmen may dance the music with them. That would be costly,” Mr. Davide said to his audience of businessmen.
Davide’s speech is the second part of a series on federalism as organized by the business groups. Earlier this year, former Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno spoke of the problems caused by centralized government along with the possible “slippery slopes” in a shift to federalism.