VOICE FROM THE SOUTH
By FR. EMETERIO BARCELON, S.J.
FEDERALISM is a form of union. There are two basic types. The first is a group of individuals or entities that want to group together for some common ends. And the second is for a group that is already together but want to give their parts more independence from the group. In a smaller group, they may have more personal fellowship which is an objective to be desired. In the case of the Philippines we have over 100 million people who would be broken up into 18 sections to improve political governance. This a big question because we have not tried it before, nor do we have examples of other countries doing this exercise. If we find it unacceptable can we start all over again or return to the unified country? This is the problem. Is the cost of federalism affordable and can it be remedied if it does not work? How much will it cost in monetary terms and in political terms? I suppose in monetary terms we can always earn that amount of money but in political terms this may not be affordable. But whatever the cost can we afford to try It.? Or is this thinking being pessimistic?
This is my problem. If we want to disaggregate then go ahead. But do we want it? This may be the case of our Muslim brothers who want to go on, their own or do they? If they want it, then go ahead, but for the other parts of the country there seems to be no desire or wanting to be disaggregated. Why then divide them? Because they will be more united as smaller units but what happens to the country? Is it better to have 18 separate units that are more united internally than one looser federated union? If there is a group that wants to separate, then give them the chance to be on their own. Again another problem crops up because our constitution will not allow complete separation. We can then give those who want separation a chance to be on their own. But I am afraid that even our Muslim brothers in more quiet moments would not want to be separated.
I have not read the draft of the federated constitution but from what I read from those who have had access to it, is that it is well done and an improvement on the 1987 Constitution. This is to congratulate the committee that drafted this proposed federal Constitution. Be that as it may, do the people, especially the non-Muslims, want federation? This to me is question that we have first to ask the people. We cannot present something to them that they do not want. My opinion may not jibe with the rest of the country .All I am saying is that we have to ask the people if they want federation or to stay with what we have. We have been rather successful in providing for our people. It is true that we have many mistakes and miscalculations but for a human institution we have done pretty well.
In the end, what we want is the good and pleasure of our people. This may not jibe with the good and pleasure of the present politicians in power but it may just be identical. All I am saying is that we should ask the people if they want to try federalism. It has many potential benefits. It also has many potential pitfalls. What do the people want or rather what do the majority want for we cannot have unanimity in such matters. All we want is the wisdom of the majority.