BEHIND THE LINES: A complex case PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, 13 December 2014 11:34

BY BOB JALDON

 

San Jose, CA. — As I’ve written last, it will take more than just words to drive home an imperative such as changing the Philippines’ form of government — the only political configuration we’ve known since the 1935 Constitution, to the Marcos Constitution to the 1987 Cory Constitution. In Mindanao, for example, we have a potent, influential group headed by Davao City Mayor Rodrigo “Rody” Duterte seeking federalization. Another group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) — which has been seemingly granted partial autonomy by the government to replace the failed Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) with the Bangsamoro Political Entity. Then, we have the heavily-fragmented but well-armed Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) presumably with foreign-funding, headed by fugitive Nur Misuari pursuing self-independence. Misuari will not stop until the present administration or beyond will deal with him using the 1996 peace agreement as the foundation for any future talks. Then, there is the New People’s Army in the north relentlessly attacking soldiers and policemen, but sparing civilians in the process.

Ladies and gentlemen. The day the MNLF attacked Zamboanga City was the day this terror group declared war on the Philippine government. A dreadful day, it was. Yet, the military refused to retaliate by running after the ruthless group in their home-base, Sulu. President Aquino and his advisers chose to deal with the MNLF with kids’ gloves. I wonder when El Senora la Virgen del Pilar would get tired of protecting Zamboanga from evil-doers — having seen four barangays facing her holy shrine burn from the atrocity.

There are other important matters at stake, all of which (coincidentally, not be design) have something to do with the future of Philippine politics. A shift to federalism, U.S.-style, needs careful evaluation. How many provinces, for example, could self-finance their political structure based on the collection of municipal and real property taxes to pay for their own police force, firemen, teachers and provincial (state) workers? Zamboanga, a highly-urbanized city, the provinces of northern and southern Mindanao may be able to have their own budgets based on taxes collected before each fiscal year without being subsidized by the national (federal) government through the much-abused internal revenue allotment (IRA). But how about the poor provinces like Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Basilan, Zamboanga del Note, Zamboanga del Sur, Samar, etc.that cannot hold their own without national (federal) government help?

That’s only one example. Then, we’ll have to first deal with illegal guns in the hands of hoods; haul to jail the “cooks of cracks” (as did Mayor Duterte); throw the book at gambling lords; eradicate terrorist groups like the Abu Sayyaf and armed reds. You think that’s easy? We have to have a clean state of affairs before even dreaming of changing our form of government.

May I cite (you probably know this) a clear example of how difficult is can be to federalize. The U.S. is a federal republic with autonomous states and local governments. Each of these levels have their own tax scheme — on income, payroll, property, sales, capital gains, dividends, imports, estates (even gifts) and other fees. We have that, sure. Taxation under the federal form of government is more complex, but it is the most important because it will define the socio-economic make-up of each province, city or municipality. You can’t pay for services or wages if you have a deficit budget. In the U.S., except those on food stomps, pay taxes.

Even now, there’s no heavy infrastructure in blighted provinces and cities because of their inability to generate enough money to get things done. The saving grace is the IRA and, before the Supreme Court declared it as unconstitutional, the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) of senators and congressmen.

Don’t get me wrong. I am unequivocally for Mayor Duterte — his ideals over reality — and President Ramos’s desire for him to run for president in 2016. But first, let him be appointed to a position that truly fits his distinction and prominence (as Clint Eastwood was to Inspector Callahan) —peace and order czar — as Panfilo Lacson is the reconstruction and rehab czar and Vice President Binay is to housing and resettlement. Allow him to clean up the filth. Being appointed as the peace and order czar is a better springboard to his presidential aspiration than calling for federalism. This should be his entry point. But will President Aquino appoint him as such? That is the question. Ten million signatures should do the trick.

After serving as commissioner of customs, Cesar C. Climaco was appointed by then President Diosdado Macapagal as the “Garbage Czar” of Manila under an obscure office called the Presidential Assistance on Community Development (PACD). To which Climaco retorted wittingly: “Pleace Accept Climaco’s Demotion (PACD).