Federalism and political dynasties
Federalism has been kicked around since the drafting of the 1987 Constitution. Now it has suddenly gained political traction with the election of its most popular advocate.
At the same time, the results of the voting in the countryside show that dynasties are still prevalent up and down the archipelago. They are everywhere. They have even managed to infiltrate the party-list system that was originally meant for the marginalized and downtrodden.
Federalism, understood as the devolution of sovereign powers from the national government to the LGUs, has the potential of further entrenching local despots in their 19th century fiefdoms.
The looming combination of federalism and political dynasties is unnerving, to say the least. If feudal cliques and clans can get away with massacre, plunder and other heinous crimes under the present unitary system, what can they not get away with under a regime in which local government powers are enhanced and multiplied by the fundamental law?
Inclusive economic growth, or equalization of opportunities in the truest sense, is the goal of every administration. That is a given. Given as well is the power of a federal system to promote economic development in the outlying regions. But what are the odds the crumbs of federalism will reach the grassroots when the LGUs are in the grip of dynasties with their culture of kleptocracy, profligacy, and rapacity? What is the guarantee that the blessings of federalism will not end up in offshore accounts?
Inclusive economic growth cannot happen in the context of exclusive political power.
The framers of the 1987 Constitution saw the ubiquity of political dynasties for what it was, far more a bane than a boon to the broad masses. They declared war on dynasties and called for their abolition. But instead of following through and defining the term “political dynasties”, they entrusted the task to dynasts in Congress, who were of course not too keen on legislating themselves out of power.
In retrospect, it is clear that what the framers generously proffered with their right hand they deftly withdrew with their left, thank you.
No, this is not a paper against federalism. Federalism is a powerful antidote to restiveness in the countryside, true. But it is also true that political dynasties pose an existential threat to democracy, whether unitary or federal or any other form. We are not saying NO to federalism. We are just saying, get those political dynasties out of the way first.**Atty. Honor Y. Aquino, former Baguio City congressman