May 17, 2018

Why Federalism?

Philippines current type of government is classified as Unitary State, which means that the President serves as the head of the state (nation); the local government units (LGUs): 

· Provincial/Regional Governor 

· Provincial/Regional Vice-Governor 

· City/Municipal Mayor 

· City/Municipal Vice-Mayor 

· Barangay Captain/Barangay Upuan 

are all reporting to the president or under general supervision of the President. The President is also the head of the armed forces of the Philippines. The President also selects the head (secretaries) of the cabinets (e.g. Department of Tourism, Department of Agriculture, Department of Budget and Management and the likes); the Vise President, is usually (not always), assigned a position in the cabinet. Thus, the power and control of the President (executive power) trickles from top to bottom, starting from cabinets, military, police (under DILG cabinet), and LGUs from governor to barangay captain. The Executive power is checked and balanced by legislative (senate and congress) and judiciary (supreme court). 

In a Unitary State, the power is centralized or concentrated to the national government (the President has the say on everything which can be contradicted by legislative, and judiciary). So, what is the difference between Unitary Government and Federal Government? Exploring Federalism (Elazar 1987), says that “if a political system is established by compact and has at least two levels of government, each endowed with independent legitimacy and constitutionally guaranteed place in the overall system and possessing its own set of institutions, powers and responsibilities, it is deemed to be federal.” To simplify, for a government to be Federal, it must have at least two levels of government, meaning, there can be two or more government bodies in a single country; in our case today, what we have is a single government; local government is connected (not separated) to national government. Also, being Federal means that each government body in a country can have its own set of institutions, power and responsibilities.

To understand Federalism thoroughly, let us examine concrete example of Federalism. United States (U.S.) is one of the countries who has successfully implemented Federalism. In U.S., the Federal Government is prohibited from exercising any power over the states, which means that states handle most of the government issues within their jurisdiction. If Federalism will be implemented in the Philippines, most likely (depending on the newly drafted constitution) the national government which is headed by the president, will have limited or no control of the regional governments. regional governments will have an independent power to resolve its own government issues. 

In U.S., state governments are not authorized to print currency, they generally must raise revenue through either taxes or bond. If adopted in the Philippines, budget of the regional government will depend on its independent tax collection, unlike in the Unitary Government where budget allocation is done at the national level under the supervision of Department of Budget and Management (DBM). 

Because Federalism fosters independent governance, each regional government will have the ability to change tax rates depending on the needs of the region; in U.S., tax rates differ per state (for example: Sales Tax of Louisiana (10.02%), Tennessee (9.46%), Arkansas (9.41%), Washington (9.18%), and Alabama (9.10%) source: If this is the case, it is possible that under Federal Government, tax rates in Metro Manila would be different in Davao City and Cebu City. 

In U.S., each state has its own written constitution, government and code law. Thus, it is common for states in U.S. to have differences in laws. The implication of this in the Philippines is that, under Federalism, each regional government can create its own constitution and laws. 

Under the Federal Government of U.S., executive, legislative and judiciary remains independent; the President remains the Head of the State. 

This write-up only aims to give an idea of what Federalism is and how it is being implemented in U.S. With regards to Federalism that is being pushed in the Philippines, its application and implementation will depend on the newly drafted Philippine Federal Constitution. 

It is completely evident that the difference between Unitary and Federal Government is in the center of power. Unitary Government centers the power to the national government (the President) while Federal Government decentralizes or distributes the power to the regional (or state) government (the Governors). 

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