BAGUIO CITY August 12 – Former Chief Justice Renato S. Puno underscored the Cordillera can still exist as an independent autonomous region within a sub-state of a Philippine federal government, saying that federalism will be the key driver in regaining the country’s position as one of the major economic tigers in the Asia Pacific region.
Puno, who is going around the country to advocate for the shift of the current unitary form of government to parliamentary form, cited the state of the country’s government is tilted heavily towards the executive department, depriving local governments the needed power to advance their own interests that will contribute in driving up the country’s economic growth.
“The current unitary form of government cannot grant the needed powers to the Bangsamoro government as enshrined in the controversial BBL because the demanded powers are those powers of a sub-state that only the federal government could grant to a constituent state,” Puno stressed.
The former Chief Justice pointed out local governments are simply getting crumbs of the powers of the national government depriving local officials the opportunity to be able to maximize the utilization and development of the resources within the localities to jumpstart growth and development in the countryside.
According to him, the country’s constitutional architects failed to adjust the form of government to the fat changing needs and throughout history, governments have bee invented and re-invented to respond to the primitive needs of man to survive, the harsh ness of nature as individuals, to their need to protect the security of their family, to their need to survive in association as a community, to their need to succeed as a state and as a nation.
Puno cited always, the Holy Grail is to build a government strong enough to ensure the security of the people from internal and external threats but not too strong to be the tyrants of their own people.
Puno asserted the history of governments tells us the lesson that the best government that can handle diversity is the democratic form of government but more specifically, the federal-parliamentary species of democracy and more than any form of government, the federal government can best handle diversities driven by differences and culture, religion, language and geography because of hits high threshold of tolerance to minorities.
In contrast, he cited unitary states where power is too much centralized in the national government have failed to deal with the diversities inherent in people and in the graveyard to democracies, entered unitary states more than federal states.
“The false notion of the absoluteness and indivisibility of sovereignty and the non-sharing of powers of the State again caused a majority to be deaf and dumb to the distinct needs of the minority, gave them the arrogance to impose uniformity despite the pluralism of the people. It is this arrogance that drove Hitler to try to exterminate the Jews as a minority,” Puno stated.
Puno emphasized the 20th century chronicles successful and unsuccessful democratic states have bee written and the unimpeachable data showed that the federal-parliamentary forms of democratic government have fared better that the unitary-residential form of democratic government.
He cited among the most successful federal form of government is the US while the blatant evidence of failed unitary form of government is the Philippines considering that the same form of government where power is centralized in the national government.
Aside from being heavily tilted in favour of the national government and the executive department, Puno cited the current unitary form of government at other times, however, the legislature has been captured different from the party of the president and the often result is deadlock between the two branches of government.
Further, the country has a judiciary where too much is expected yet too little is given and we have crated in our Constitution the Commission on Audit, the Civil Service and the Commission on Human rights and the Ombudsman.
Puno claimed there is the immoral gap between the rich and the poor and this is arguably the most urgent problem that confronts the country, the paucity of power given to the local governments, especially, the power to govern given to the Muslim brothers and sisters.
The former chief Justice argued that it is to his submission that federalism is best for a nation characterized by diversity, citing that the Philippines is one of the most diversed nations in the world.
He claimed the best offer of evidence to prove that the country’s unitary presidential form of government has not worked for our people is no other than the country’s consistent mark as a “falling state’ by international institutions with no ill motive to downgrade the country’s democracy.
“We are a basket case. No wonder countries are now throwing their thrash in our backyard. We stink. Something must be rotting in our democracy,” Puno said.