Puno: Covid-19, typhoons make Federalism attractive

Retired Supreme Court Chief Justice Reynato Puno said the obtaining covid-19 pandemic and the recent devastation typhoons have Federalism appear even more attractive. He renewed his call for a shift to a federal system of government.

Puno said the distribution of powers and resources among regions would allow better distribution of assistance in areas severely ravaged by calamities since it will lessen red tape and corruption in the bureaucracy.

He noted that despite the signing of Republic Act 11469 or Bayanihan to Heal As One Act (Bayanihan 1), many low-income families failed to receive subsidies under the Social Amelioration Program (SAP) on time.

The problem, he said, cannot be attributed to particular officials who tried their best efforts, but the unitary system of government. “There are too many regulations. If you violate one, they’ll take you to the Ombudsman). Changing the unitary system to bayanihan-type federal will break the over-concentration of power in the national government,” he added.

Puno chaired the Constitutional Commission President Duterte earlier constituted to draft a Charter for his proposed Federal system of government. He said their proposed federal constitution does not allow double taxation. “It also has an equalization fund which is not less than 3% of the annual General Appropriations Act that will be given to poor regions to enable them to achieve financial viability and economic sustainability; it also seeks to establish a commission whose function among others is to promote friendly and cooperative relationship among the regions,” he said.

Under the draft federal constitution, regions will get their funds from five sources – the regions’ own collection of taxes and fees; a share of top revenue sources; a share from Equalization Fund; an additional funding through the General Appropriations Act; and a share of income from natural resources.

Ateneo School of Government Dean Ronald Mendoza, agreed that it was necessary not to lose the momentum established for “preparatory reforms” that can be a realization of a stronger federalism in the future.

The now defunct ConCom submitted a copy of the draft “bayanihan” federal constitution to the Duterte on July 9, 2018. Last August, the Palace said Duterte has not abandoned his drive to shift to a federal government system but would prioritize the prevailing Covid-19 pandemic.

Malacañang said Duterte looks at three options only to amend the 1987 Constitution — Constitutional Convention (Con-Con), Constituent Assembly (Con-Ass), and people’s initiative.

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