THE WORM’S EYEVIEW: What federalism are they talking about?

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/09 June)– A federal system must be rooted on local autonomy, in which people are well-informed, serious about self-government—and conscientious in performing their role in it.

Otherwise, local issues cannot be addressed adequately, necessitating external intervention, interference by a ruling oligarch, or intrusion by upper level governments.

If local issues are left unresolved by the people themselves, they grow to unmanageable proportions, accumulate, and become serious, generalized problems.

That’s why people must be well-informed and conditioned for autonomy and self-government; otherwise political stability would be an elusive goal as society relies on a willful leader; thus, vulnerable to manipulation and political abuse by the leader.

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Unfortunately, although Congress enacted in 1991 what was trumpeted as The Autonomy Law (R.A 7160 or the Local Government Code), self-government still remains unfulfilled.

Our government—and we—have done a poor job of making it operative. The power which belongs to us, the people, is still monopolized by officeholders.

Filipinos generally still have little or no sense of in being empowered, still without real influence, or still without a say in the way government conducts itself.

Even at the primary level, barangay officials monopolize the power; their constituents simply passive recipients of goods and services. And the poor remain victims of patronage and gimmickry.

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This state of affairs has been very frustrating for the thinking citizen. They see the officeholders (people in power) exercise the people’s powers, get more empowered as funds and resources are placed at their disposal, and getting all the credit. That’s what happened with the pork barrel system, PDAF and DAP.

There’s always more power for those in power, but none for the people. Lots of training seminars and Lakbay Aral junkets showered on the officials. None on the people.

The people are kept in a state of ignorance about the content, the processes, and the uses of power. They do not possess the knowledge necessary for the effective functioning of self-governance or autonomy.

It is a state of disempowerment that augurs very badly for the Federal System. So what is anyone doing about this Power failure?

Manny is former UNESCO regional director for Asia-Pacific; secretary-general, Southeast Asia Publishers Association; director, development academy of Philippines; member, Philippine Mission to the UN; vice chair, Local Government Academy; member, Cory Govt’s Peace Panel; awardee, PPI-UNICEF outstanding columnist. Author of books on governance, he is chairman/convenor of the Gising Barangay Movement Inc. [email protected]