Federalism In The Philippines

On July this year, a resolution was filed by Davao representative Pantaleon Alvarez calling on congress to amend the 1987 constitution that will pave the way for the adoption of a federal form of gov’t to replace the present unitary system of gov’t.

Federalism is a form of gov’t where sovereignty is constitutionally shared between a central governing authority and constituent political units called states or region states.

According to ex-senate president Aquilino Pimentel if federalism pushes through at the 17th congress, the country will be divided into 11 regions/ states with Metro Manila being the administrative capital of federal republic, just like Washington D.C

Under his proposal, the federal states will be composed of Northern Luzon, Central Luzon, Southern Tagalog, Bicol, Eastern Visayas, Central Visayas, western Visayas, MIMAROPA, Northern Mindanao, Southern Mindanao and Bangsamoro. Examples of Federal countries include USA, Cnada, Australia, Brazil, India and Malaysia.

As he puts it, the proposed shift to Federal form will not affect the existing congressional districts. He said, each federal state will have its own governor and vice governor, city and municipality mayors and local gov’t officials. He stressed that there maybe 6 senators for every Federal state and 6 more coming from Metro Manila and 9 overseas senators for a total of 81 senators.

Currently, for 2016-2019, the senate is represented by 1 senator from Visayas and 3 from Mindanao while other 20 is from Luzon, 15 are from Metro Manila.

Pimentel further explained that with Federalism, senators must come from each 11 federal states. He said, even the poorest region / state (bangsamoro) will have senators of their own to represent them, elected by them and not elected at large. Pimentel also added that the proposed shift will retain the presidential form of gov’t whereby the president and vice president maybe elected in tandem instead of being voted separately.


President Rodrigo Duterte has been vocal about his support to federalism, saying that, the national wealth may now be distributed evenly across the country instead of the bulk going to “Imperial Manila”.

According to advocates of federalism, malacaƱang decides over the budget of the regions and provinces which is prone to abuse, with governors and mayors sometimes having to beg the national gov’t for projects they need.

The same advocates also explained that under federalism, the autonomous federal states will have primary responsibility over their own economies, public safety, education & health care among others. They added that, under such set up, the various states shall manage their own finances, develop their own plans and laws exclusive to their own jurisdiction.

Study shows, under the present set up which is unitary, the country’s development programs are centrally determined, planned funded and implemented by national gov’t in Metro Manila.

Also according to study, the concentration of developments in Metro Manila has resulted in massive local migration of people from poor provinces to Metro Manila to find employment.

Advocates of federalism even claimed that special privileges are given to public officials who are only allies of those who are in power and that this caused economic and social problems to places other than Metro Manila.

President Duterte also said that developments are focused only on Mega cities while other parts of the country remained neglected.

According to statistics, in 2015, 35% of the national budget went to manila alone yet it only represents 14% of the Phil population.

At this time, local gov’t units can only collect 40% of the total revenues collected by BIR thru internal revenue allotment (IRA) while the bulk or 60% goes to national gov’t.

The budget and fiscal autonomy have been a long standing issue among local gov’t units.
Records also showed metro manila got 14.27 share or 428 billion from 2016 national budget of more than 3 trillion while Luzon got 20.94% or 628 billion, visayas got 9.94% or 298 billion and Mindanao with 13.23% or 396.9 billion.

Also according to Pimentel, under federalism, the revenue shares of federal states and LGU’s will increase. Pimentel suggested that the sharing percentage of revenue collected by BIR should be 30%for the central gov’t and 70% for federal states. He added that, of the 70% share, 30% goes to federal gov’t while 70% is remitted to LGU’s down to barangays.


According to Federal Crusaders, Metro Manila will be the administrative capital region, meaning, the center of all the federal states and seat of the national gov’t, the congress and Supreme Court.

In an article published recently, Metro Manila under federal system will have its own governor and a legislative body represented by a number of senators.

Right now, metro manila is being coordinated by the national gov’t or the MMDA. The policies and laws applicable to whole of metro manila are decided by national lawmakers who were elected nationwide. The head of MMDA is chosen by the president alone. All of the most important things affecting the daily lives of Metro Manila residents including traffic, pollution, MRT, garbage collections, education & peace and order are all under national supervision. Under the federal system, Metro Manila will have its own gov’t that is answerable for all this metro-wide issues.


In case you did not know, doubting Thomas is a skeptic who refuses to believe without direct personal experience as Apostle Tomas who refused to believe that Jesus has resurrected until he could see and feel Jesus wounds.

Groups opposed to federalism argued that some region/states may not be as rich in natural resources or skilled labor as others and therefore, federalism will only create rivalries among regions. Worst, it could inflame hostilities between and among ethnic groups.

According to atty. Christian Monsod, one of the framers of 1987 constitution, the plan to amend the constitution and shift to federal form are not really necessary. What is needed, according to him, is to amend the local gov’t code on equitable division of IRA. He said instead of 60:40 in favor of the national gov’t it could be reversed to 40:60 in favor of the LGU’s.

Monsod also warned that abrupt shift without completely quelling corruption and political dynasty will not work effectively as its proponents hope. He added that political clans and dynasties will only hi-jack those powers and keep them to themselves.

The liberal party is also against the federal form of gov’t. Mar Roxas for one, during recent presidential campaign, stated that federalism would not solve the problem of poverty particularly in Mindanao but rather, he said, resources should be poured in the provinces and consequently address peace and order.

Former speaker Feliciano Belmonte also claimed that federalism requires further study. The liberal party has since lost a huge chunk of its membership following Duterte’s victory. Speaker Belmonte, who was re-elected as Quezon City’s representative. Joined the super majority in the lower house led by speaker Pantaleon Alvarez.

Meanwhile Former Senate President Franklin Drilon who is now the chairman of the senate committee on constitutional amendments is still undecided on the issue of federalism. But Drilon also wanted to review the 1987 constitution if it still attuned to demands of present-day realities. He said the proposed shift needs comprehensive study on its impact to national policies and hence, it may involve tortuous process.

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