February 24, 2018, 10:30 pm
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Puno: Shift to federalism should not be hurried

FORMER Chief Justice Reynato Puno yesterday said the country should not be in a hurry to shift to federalism since the government will pass through “slippery slopes” before it can change the form of government.

“I espouse federalism for the Philippines, but an evolving federalism. One that is unhurried by any pressure, one that considers the different speeds of development of the constituent states,” Puno told businessmen who attended the joint meeting of the Employers’ Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP), Management Association of the Philippines (MAP), Makati Business Club (MBC) and the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI).

Last year, President Duterte told House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez to fast track efforts for charter change to give way to the federal form of government. Duterte believes that federalism is the answer to the unique concerns of every region and province in the Philippines.

Puno said there is nothing wrong with the unitary form of government but the socio-economic and political changes in the country demand federalism. Under the federal set-up, sovereignty is shared between a central governing authority and federal states. 

“In this kind of transformation, the unitary state has to be disaggregated and then aggregated to give rise to a new federation and its constituent states. The process is full of slippery slopes,” he said.

He said the first slope the country needs to address is the equal representation of all states in Congress. 

“The country should have a fixed and limited term with equal representation of all states,” he said, adding: “When you break up a unitary state and you migrate to federalism, you need a strong central government to keep the new states together.”

Another concern, Puno said, is the establishment of an independent judiciary system. Puno said the government should also form constituent states that must be politically and economically viable. 

“The formation of constituent states calls for caution. It can’t be formed on the basis alone of territory,” he said adding the chosen states must be able to survive and discharge duties, taking into consideration human and natural resources. 

With the present condition of the country, Puno said the country can only form three to four states. 

“Unitary government can only grant Moros and indigenous peoples regional autonomy but only a federal government can satisfy their demands and prevent the disintegration of the republic,” he said. 

The Metro Manila mayors had earlier expressed support for the shift to a federal form of government as it would address the country’s peace and order situation; boost economic activities, business, and trade relations; open employment opportunities; enhance the country’s health care; and improve disaster preparedness. – Evan Orias
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