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Beg Your Pardon? The Philippines is Already Federalized in All but Name

Renewed calls by President Rodrigo Duterte and his supporters for a shift to a federal system have raised questions about the defining features of such a federalized political system. The federal form of government is essentially constituted of a government for the entire federation (the national) and a set of governments of the constituent or federated units (the local). Given this broad understanding, different political constitutions can be arranged along a decentralization continuum according to the degree of independence, power, and control exercised by the national government over the local governments. Few constitutions lie at either extreme, while the vast majority of political systems are somewhere in between. The Philippines has adopted and practiced the principles of local autonomy, decentralized government and people empowerment since 1986. The country's political system lies somewhere within the spectrum of decentralization. A closer examination of the existing political arrangements contained in the 1987 Constitution, the Organic Act of 1989, and the 1991 Local Government Code (LGC), as well as the actual implementation in certain areas of such formal statutes are sufficient indicators of an operative quasi-federal system in the country in ways that move away from a strictly unitary political system. The challenge is to foster greater and more sustainable local autonomy and popular empowerment practices that are already protected and held sacred by existing constitutional and statutory mandates.


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