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The concept of a federal government for the Philippines was first suggested by Jose Rizal, the

Philippines' national hero. He outlined his vision of federalist governance on his essay "Las Filipinas
Dentro de Cien Anos" (The Philippines a Century Hence) that was published by the Barcelona-
based propaganda paper La Solidaridad in 1889.[1]
In 1899, Filipino revolutionaries Emilio Aguinaldo and Apolinario Mabini also suggested dividing the
islands into three federal states.[2]
One of the first proponents of federalism in the Philippines in the 21st century is professor Jose
Abueva from the University of the Philippines who argued that a federal form of government is
necessary to more efficiently cater to the needs of the country despite its diversity.[3] The primary
goals of a constitutional amendment is to increase decentralization, greater local power and access
to resources most especially among regions outside Metro Manila which has long been dubbed as
rather imperial.[4]
Aside from Abueva, senator Aquilino Pimentel, Jr. is a prominent supporter of federalism who, since
2001, has advocated for federalism. He sees the proposed system as a key component in alleviating
the Mindanao crisis and appeasing Moro insurgents. According to Pimentel, even though federalism
was never intended to appease any followers of any specific ideology of religion, it will also hasten
economic development, since resource and financial mobilization is upon each state's or province's
discretion without significant constraint from the central government.[5]
However, in 2009, after Senate and House resolutions supporting charter change were released, an
estimated 13,000 to 15,000 people gathered in Makati to protest against these executive
department-deriving proposals for constitutional reform. This was due to speculations that Philippine
president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo would use such amendments to extend her hold in office.[6] In
addition, Pulse Asia published in the same year their survey regarding public support for the
proposed charter change; the survey reported that four out of ten Filipino adults, or 42% of all
respondents, opposed the amendment, with 25% still undecided and 33% in favor. Pulse Asia
furthered that from 2006 to 2009 there was no significant change of sentiment against the charter
change proposal, although indecision increased by 6%.[7]
In late 2014, then-Davao City mayor Rodrigo Duterte launched a nationwide campaign calling for a
charter change for federalism. During his visit to Cebu City in October of the same year, Duterte
stated that federalism will facilitate better delivery of services to the people.[8] He also saw the current
system as "antiquated"[9] where distribution of public funds is disproportionately
biased towards Manila. Aside from the economic aspect, federalism is also seen as the best means
to address problems in Mindanao which suffers the most from ethno-religious conflicts.[10] Duterte
added that the current unitary form of government has not worked well given the ethnic diversity in
the country.[11] In spite of initially rejecting several calls for his candidacy for the 2016 presidential
elections, he cited his organizational reforms if he were to become president. Parallel to his
campaign for federalism, Duterte planned to privatize tax collection and abolish the Congress to
make way for a unicameral legislature, contrary to the originally proposed Joint Resolution No. 10.[12]
Movements for federalism further intensified from when the draft of the Bangsamoro Basic Law was
submitted by Philippine president Benigno Aquino III to the 16th Congress on September 10,
2014.[13] From approval, this law establishes the Bangsamoro as an autonomous region with its own
parliamentary government and police force.[14] Approval of the Bangsamoro structure would provide
federalism proponents and supporters added confidence to clamor for the national government to
enact reforms towards a more decentralized system for the rest of the country.[9]
In May 2016, President-elect Rodrigo Duterte stated that a plebiscite on the proposed replacement
of the unitary state with a federal one will be held in two years.[15] On December 7, 2016, Duterte
signed Executive Order No. 10 creating a consultative committee to review the 1987 Constitution.[16]
(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Federalism_in_the_Philippines)
If the extent of the drug problem—which now turns out to have existed for the past
many years—caught most of us by surprise, there are a number of revelations culled
from Philippine history about federalism that could astonish us even more.
Since President Rodrigo R. Duterte started talking about federalism, using it as a
campaign platform and reiterating it in his first State of the Nation Address, people have
begun asking what federalism is, anyway. Without so much as giving it enough study,
some have condemned it outright as an alien concept not suited to the Philippine
setting. But what federalism’s detractors may not know is that even before the president
started saying that there is a need to shift our form of government to federalism, history
reveals that federalism has long been desired by our forebears and that many regions
and provinces have been clamoring for it for years now.
Last week, for instance, when I was invited to speak on the subject of federalism along
with Lito Lorenzana, the president of the Centrist Democracy Political Institute, in Puerto
Princesa, I thought we would try to explain federalism as a concept to get the
Palawenyos thinking on whether it would be good for their province or not and to
prepare them to make an informed vote should Congress propose a Constitution
federalizing the Philippines. I was awe-struck to realize that the Palawenyos who
attended the forum fully understood what federalism was. In fact, it turned out that there
has been a Federal State of Palawan Movement for years now. We were even
presented with a paper titled, Palawan as a self-sufficient state, showing that with
Palawan’s tourism, agriculture, mineral, oil and gas resources, it can well stand as an
autonomous territory, able to raise revenues of its own.
But, one significant fact that could surprise many Filipinos, especially those who say
that federalism is alien to the Philippines, is that no less than our national hero, Jose P.
Rizal, had advocated in his time that the Philippine should be a federal republic. He
prophesied that after liberation, the Philippines would probably adopt a federal republic,
in his essay “Las Filipinas Dentro de Cien Anos (The Philippines a Century Hence)”
published in La Solidaridad in 1889 to 1990. Historian and professor of law, Pablo
Trillana III said that when Rizal died, Emilio Aguinaldo pursued the federalist idea. He
said that Aguinaldo directed the Ilonggos to set up a federal state for the Visayas, and
to invite the Muslims of Maguindanao and Sulu, to join the revolution and establish a
similar state organization. Aguinaldo was pursuing Rizal’s 1890 idea of a federal
republic covering the archipelago, which explains why the flag of the Revolution and the
First Republic had the three stars within the triangle, representing Aguinaldo’s image of
the major island groups constituting the archipelago as a federation.
However, Trillana wrote, the 1898 Malolos Congress decided, in a time of war, that the
more pressing concern then was to present a united front against the American enemy.
Thus, the Malolos Congress adopted a unitary form of government with powers firmly
exercised at the center. However, the US wrested away the independence the Filipinos
declared in 1898. Then, when US President McKinley created the First Philippine
Commission headed by Jacob Shurman to study the conditions in the Philippine Islands
and make recommendations, two proposals for a federal form of government were
crafted and offered to the Shurman Commission in 1899-1900. The first draft
constitution for a federal republic was made by prominent Filipinos while the second one
was by Isabelo de los Reyes. Expectedly, the American colonizers rejected both;
decentralization would make it difficult for them to control the islands they seized for
their own benefit.

If the extent of the drug problem—which now turns out to have existed
for the past many years—caught most of us by surprise, there are a number of
revelations culled from Philippine history about federalism that could astonish us even
more.
Since President Rodrigo R. Duterte started talking about federalism, using it as a
campaign platform and reiterating it in his first State of the Nation Address, people have
begun asking what federalism is, anyway. Without so much as giving it enough study,
some have condemned it outright as an alien concept not suited to the Philippine
setting. But what federalism’s detractors may not know is that even before the president
started saying that there is a need to shift our form of government to federalism, history
reveals that federalism has long been desired by our forebears and that many regions
and provinces have been clamoring for it for years now.
Last week, for instance, when I was invited to speak on the subject of federalism along
with Lito Lorenzana, the president of the Centrist Democracy Political Institute, in Puerto
Princesa, I thought we would try to explain federalism as a concept to get the
Palawenyos thinking on whether it would be good for their province or not and to
prepare them to make an informed vote should Congress propose a Constitution
federalizing the Philippines. I was awe-struck to realize that the Palawenyos who
attended the forum fully understood what federalism was. In fact, it turned out that there
has been a Federal State of Palawan Movement for years now. We were even
presented with a paper titled, Palawan as a self-sufficient state, showing that with
Palawan’s tourism, agriculture, mineral, oil and gas resources, it can well stand as an
autonomous territory, able to raise revenues of its own.
But, one significant fact that could surprise many Filipinos, especially those who say
that federalism is alien to the Philippines, is that no less than our national hero, Jose P.
Rizal, had advocated in his time that the Philippine should be a federal republic. He
prophesied that after liberation, the Philippines would probably adopt a federal republic,
in his essay “Las Filipinas Dentro de Cien Anos (The Philippines a Century Hence)”
published in La Solidaridad in 1889 to 1990. Historian and professor of law, Pablo
Trillana III said that when Rizal died, Emilio Aguinaldo pursued the federalist idea. He
said that Aguinaldo directed the Ilonggos to set up a federal state for the Visayas, and
to invite the Muslims of Maguindanao and Sulu, to join the revolution and establish a
similar state organization. Aguinaldo was pursuing Rizal’s 1890 idea of a federal
republic covering the archipelago, which explains why the flag of the Revolution and the
First Republic had the three stars within the triangle, representing Aguinaldo’s image of
the major island groups constituting the archipelago as a federation.
However, Trillana wrote, the 1898 Malolos Congress decided, in a time of war, that the
more pressing concern then was to present a united front against the American enemy.
Thus, the Malolos Congress adopted a unitary form of government with powers firmly
exercised at the center. However, the US wrested away the independence the Filipinos
declared in 1898. Then, when US President McKinley created the First Philippine
Commission headed by Jacob Shurman to study the conditions in the Philippine Islands
and make recommendations, two proposals for a federal form of government were
crafted and offered to the Shurman Commission in 1899-1900. The first draft
constitution for a federal republic was made by prominent Filipinos while the second one
was by Isabelo de los Reyes. Expectedly, the American colonizers rejected both;
decentralization would make it difficult for them to control the islands they seized for
their own benefit.

The 1935 Constitution, the Commonwealth and the 1946 independence saw the
institutionalization of a highly centralized unitary government patterned after the
American Constitution, minus its significant federal foundations, Trillana wrote. Another
author and historian, Erwin S. Fernandez, said that while the unitary system of
government we now have was necessary in 1896 as we were then at war, it no longer
works in this day and age. The unitary system has benefited only the center and it
became the template for controlling regions outside the capital. The 1935 up to the
1987 Constitutions have paved the way for control by selfish elites residing in the
enclaves of Manila while the regions wallow in poverty and destitution, Fernandez
wrote.
These revelations are grounded on fact and history. The too-centralized unitary system
we now have favors the oligarchic elites as it perpetrates poverty and destitution in the
regions. It makes the effort to understand and support federalism easy.