Federalism in the Philippines: Does it Fit? Political Anthropologist Castro says "Yes, but..."

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Written by UP OrgASM - Organization of Area Studies Majors

It has been quite some time since some of Filipinos have been considering a federal system in governance. It stems from the fact that a unitary one suffers from the perennial problems in our society. Considering the regionalist mentality of many Filipinos,  Dr. Nestor Castro gave some apprehensions that the government's neglect of ethnic groups may lead to a problem with representation.


Dr. Castro gave some problems as proof of the nation's lack of a single identity. The Muslim problem, being a burden for some politicians, originates with the Muslims being disregarded in considering our national identity. It is shown even in our national symbol for dress – the Barong Tagalog wherein the Muslims can never find any connection with. Also, the Bahay Kubo as national house can't be forced upon those who live in sea houses and tree houses. The kalabaw cannot be a symbol of agriculture for Agta since for them these water buffalos are meant to be food and nothing more. Even in a HEKASI book for elementary, the historical places displaces the Muslims as it mentions not of any historical place in Mindanao. Recognized heroes in the book do not even include the well-known Sultan Kudarat of Mindanao. In another book, it appears that Christianity, though coming from colonizers, saved the Filipinos from whatever evil it has. This, of course, is against the belief of Muslims and animist ethnic tribes. Stereotypes of ethnics include their wearing of g-strings and living in traditional houses as if they have not adapted to the changes that happened through time.  All of these have contributed to the displacement of ethnic tribes from the concern of many Filipinos in the government. In turn, it affects the effectiveness of governments and representation of those displaced people. Thus, it creates one of the major reasons for federalism.

The initiatives for federalism began in the 1900 with the Federalista Party calling for the Philippines to become the 51st state of America. A much more important call for federal system happened in 1987 with the Montosa National Solidarity calling for a Cordillera Socialist State. It failed as it is debated to be against the constitution and as members of the NPA killed the advocates of such a socialist state. The latest call for such a system came from Sen. Aquilino Pimentel in 2008. He called for a Federal presidential bicameral form of government.

Until now, no federal system can be seen coming into fruition in the government for many reasons. First, its constitutional implications would lead to the controversial Charter Change and the problem with defining the components of federal states. Secondly, new states may be transformed as fiefdoms of ruling political families. Lastly, there is the danger to further dismemberment of the country as in the case of Singapore disbanding away from Federal Malaysia. Dr. Nestor Castro gives a reminder that in the end; only those who assert for such independent states must be given such federal tendency. It must not be forced upon others as it may create more problem than solution.

Source: UP Organization of Area Studies Major | Click HERE to view article on source.