By Ma. Whitney Claire Ceprado (ZNNHS)

The society has been in chaos: crimes, terrorisms are constantly happening, and a peaceful country is nowhere to be found. Lives have been taken down, innocent and guilty, both received the wrath of the people, executed whether just or unjust. Social ills are still prevalent such as poverty, corruption, discrimination, and etc. and are being addressed but lacks action and commitment. Throughout the country, we see how unruly the system, how messed up some people are and how much our nation is needing help to make it a better place to live. Rules, bills, laws have been made to be able to distinguish what should and should not be done to create harmony. Its purpose is to eradicate the crimes and bring about justice and prosperity to all Filipinos. Also, to be able to serve every right of every citizen in order to have freedom and power. Philippines is known for having a democratic type of government in which people have the leverage to choose and vote of who will become the government officials and it also upholds human rights and equality. After Marcos’ dictatorship, democracy had prevailed all over the archipelago. But as time passed by and as the changes in governance, this has been tainted, and slowly losing its strength because of what has been happening in our beloved country, the Philippines.

To patch things up, President Duterte’s plan is to change the type of government we have from democracy to federalism. Now, what is federalism? Simply put, it is dividing the country and having different states with assigned national government and military organization similar to the U.S., Germany, Australia and other leading countries. Under this system, the Philippines will be divided into 18 regions which gives every regional state the privilege to raise its own revenues and circulate it among themselves, to make economic development and to appoint their officials to make their own legislation, they can make their own decision towards what’s best for their state. This could be the solution towards a greater good for the country. The benefit of it is that every state is protected, not being neglected since there are a lot of diversities and islands that sometimes the government cannot cater all their needs especially those in the rural areas and given a chance to prosper on its own since only 30% of the revenue will be given to the central government and also for people to strive hard to provide for their state. Each state could execute and follow their own crafted rules and regulations so they have a freedom to choose what’s concordant to their desire that they think would best be suited for their area. It also gives light to the ability of other people to lead and carry out the voices that needs to be heard.

Despite the seemingly advantageous system, federalism offers disadvantages that can greatly affect the community. The fact that regions are being divided, unity between them could be hard to achieve because each of them have the strength to stand on their own and it could encourage competition thus more conflict because of the differences of not following the same legislation. There will then be comparison between them in terms of their growth and the pressure being put on their shoulders of those less fortunate state could be fatal. There are also states that would probably be left out because resources may not be available for them and we all know that there are places that has more infrastructures than the other or have more minerals or could be more able to propagate crops. This type of government also is proposed because of some rumored hidden agenda such as prolonging the term of the president. The implementation of such takes a lot of time and adjustment that could maybe the reason that Philippines would drown especially those places who doesn’t have enough power to withstand because a lot of work will be executed. Aside from that, it would use up a ton of money to create these states’ government and services and since the national government will still fund those who are incapable yet and those who progress slower. Citizens and officials may have a hard time coping up with all the changes.

What drives Pres. Duterte the most in pursuing this is because of the conflict in Mindanao concerning about the implementation of Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) and being a Mindanaon it is of great value for him to solve this recurring problem. In order to attain peace, BBL is proposed to give the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) land to the Moro terrorists because that is the reason of the terrorism and war in Mindanao. These Islamic groups want to reclaim what they perceived is righteous for them which is their ownership to the land of ARMM which will then become a sub-state if BBL will be realized. The war would still then continue if no action will be done in adhering the requisition of Moro terrorists and lives will still continue to be taken away and the lost of properties will still happen. Zamboanga and Marawi experienced all of this chaotic situation from soldiers fighting to protect the people and while barely making it out alive as well as the people in the place who were always afraid of their safety, finding a way out, with all the gunshots, scrapes and burns, lost of families and loved ones, all of the severe trauma brought by it. It was not an easy battle, struggling to make less casualties, saving everything with they can and also for all the worries of the fellow countrymen especially those neighboring cities and provinces thinking that maybe it would happen to their place too. It massively affect the country as well as its economy since tourists from local and foreign countries would not want to visit Mindanao because they do not feel secure and incidents such as kidnapping by the terrorists could happen. It is hard for businesses and for the entrepreneurs that offers tourist attractions to find its way to the market and expand since there will be limited customers. This unfortunate event will forever be etched on the minds of those who experience and those who knew it for the fear it caused. It will either then be the implementation of BBL or federalism to ensure the safety and peacefulness. If federalism will be realized, not only the war that will subside and may completely disappear will be the good things that is going to happen but also the chance for Mindanao and its people to thrive. Mindanao will be divided into 3 states which will then be Northern Mindanao, Southern and the Bangsamoro. Social issues residing in each state will thoroughly be addressed since the scope is small. As much as it is advantageous all the bad effects of a federalist governance will be reflected in Mindanao. It may be the second largest group of islands in the Philippines but it does not guarantee that it will be able to progress and suffice all the needs of the Mindanaoans. The government could make BBL be possible by covering all the aspects the terrorists prefer since only one part of Mindanao will become a state thus less expensive, less time and effort to create instead of shifting to federalism to maintain peace between the Islamic groups and the people.

Federalism is not the solution to this never ending problems we are facing not just in Mindanao but through the entire country. Why do we have to change something when it can still be repairable and could still work out? Why do not we focus on improving our justice system, our economic growth especially now that the inflation rate is high, giving equal rights to resources, using the revenues and taxes wisely and to provide the necessities? Why not use those money that is needed for federalism to give assistance to the people such us funding programs like housing, health and safety, employment, and etc.? Let us not take a bigger step that has no guarantee to success in resolving the major predicaments present. Let us all try to solve it first with all our might and not immediately proceed to a plan that has a lot of loopholes. It is not the type of government that requires a change but on how the officials and the people manage democracy.

In the uncertainties of life, the democracy that we have may change into federalism but there is also a chance that it will remain the same. If democracy would still prevail then it should be practiced appropriately and in concordant to what it really is. It is meant to be unitary thus implementing laws that would lead to the betterment of the whole should be followed and also hearing the the voices of the people for their welfare is valuable since they make up the community. The power also to choose who is suited for the position and also to impeach when they are not doing their duties in an ethical manner should not be neglected. If at some point it would change into federalism, we can just hope that the new constitution would be crafted rightfully and implemented with its right agendas. Whether what we prefer at this moment, let us first evaluate it well, understand and weigh the pros and consequences of whatever we will support because if we will not intervene and propose what we think should be done then wrong decisions of the government and its people will lead to the downfall of the country our national heroes fought and preserved for us. We should involve ourselves on what issues that are going on for us to also take action because ignoring these kind of things is not being a Filipino who uphold patriotism and who cares about the goodness of our country. We should unite and be mindful of our motherland because we will be the one affected if the right choice would not be chosen.

In a country with 7, 107 islands that has different ethnicity and with distinct culture and values, solidarity between its regions, provinces, districts and barangays is important in a country in order to obtain a peaceful flow of our everyday living. What comes before this is the development because if people help each other and observe the equality in terms of its human rights and the distribution of goods and services, then everyone will work harder in order to succeed. Somehow, some things may just be misunderstood, especially those who feel that their rights have not been carried out by the government. The key to having a peaceful country is the equality and respect and not changing something that only needs improvement. Help out those who are in need, those marginalized individuals, focus on the things who needs immediate attention and those who are left on the side-lines. Corruption and other unethical practices should be stopped. Taxes should be used appropriately in projects that could help the society. The justice system should be straightened out so as not to favor those who are wealthy and powerful. Discrimination and prejudices between races should not be present. Empower those who are weak. Strengthen the camaraderie of our neighboring countries. Do not only give attention to a one problem such as against drugs but also give importance to other issues. Let us not be a root of evil that ruins our beloved land. It is not only a work of the government but also the people of the Philippines. Every “Juan” is the hope of the nation, whatever crisis we have been facing, even on our little and deliberate actions, we can make a difference as long as we are all together. No matter what may the odds be whether federalism will be implemented or not, the only thing that could save us from all of the setbacks is the proper management and execution of the law by our leaders and our countrymen.