POSTSCRIPT / January 9, 2018 / Tuesday


Opinion Columnist

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Change the system, or its inept officials?

UNTIL yesterday President Rodrigo Duterte and his minions in the Congress have not given a hint of how they would cut up the Republic into sub-states – even as they prepared to convene shortly a joint session to fast-track the shift from the present unitary to a federal system.

The plotters’ subliminal message is that if the Philippines, despite being blessed with bountiful human and natural resources, has been left behind by its neighbors, it is because of its dysfunctional government setup.

Never will one ever hear an official say “mea culpa” or concede that he could be one of the red cells eating away at the gut of the cancerous body politic.

The propaganda to change quickly the system drowns out the more honest message that rather than, or in addition to, supplanting the form of government, we should sweep away incumbent officials who are dragging down the nation.

Per statements of the President as echoed by the hollow blocks in the Congress, instead of misfit, inept and corrupt officials being purged, they will be allowed to stay put while change waits for the adoption of a new federal form of government.

The grand plan being defended by trolls infesting social media is to cancel the 2019 elections, revise the Constitution, and allow all elective officials from the complicit Congress down to the local governments to stay until the plotters are able to sneak in the wished-for federal setup.

Just what is this magic cure-all they are selling us, nobody bothers to explain or discuss in detail. This refusal to show at least a draft of the federal plan feeds suspicion that they want to have it railroaded and ratified with a minimum of examination and discussion.

Why the sneaky stratagem? Because they cannot defend it in the merciless glare of public scrutiny? Or because their dirty hands and forked-tongues will betray them once a national debate is allowed to rage?

Many citizens are growing hoarse insisting that what is needed is not a change in the system but a change in those running the system.

But why would the merchants of “Charter-change” and “No-Elections” listen in good faith while they are protecting their own interests or those of their patrons?

• How to allocate the new regions?

WE CITE “self-interest” as we pick at random a detail in the plan to cut up an already unified country into separate autonomous regions – exactly the opposite of the evolution of nations that emerged from the gathering of separate states that have found a common cause to bind them.

It took centuries and countless lives for our forebears to banish the tribal separateness and suspicions – aside from geography — that had kept these islands from melding early into what is now the Republic of the Philippines.

Now here comes a strong-willed personality, capturing the crowd with populist rhetoric that resembles, at least in its angry tones, the grievances that have cried for expression – and then finding in his electoral mandate an encouragement to reinvent the government in one blow.

With the paucity of official details, one wonders what criteria, political considerations and self-interests will determine the creation of the federation’s component states, including the boundaries and the powers to be given each region according to its needs and history.

It is interesting to watch Duterte’s delicate balancing as he weighs the intrinsic and the historical weight of, for instance, the demands of Moro secessionist groups

Another interesting regional player is the Marcos dynasty that expects or is expected to claim Ilocandia as its domain. How will Duterte accommodate the family members of the fallen dictator maneuvering for a comeback?

It took decades before the present configuration of the 17 administrative regions evolved. Can Duterte undo the completed jigsaw puzzle in one rush job at the mid-hump of his term?

For reference, here are the regions created by law, listed from north to south, west to east. The names CALABARZON, MIMAROPA, and SOCCSKSARGEN are acronyms indicating the region’s component provinces and cities.

* NCR, National Capital Region, regional center: Manila;

* Ilocos Region, Reg. I, reg. center: San Fernando, La Union;

* CAR, Cordillera Administrative Region, Reg. XIV, reg. center: Baguio;

* Cagayan Valley, Reg. II, reg. center: Tuguegarao;

* Central Luzon, Reg. III, reg. center: San Fernando, Pampanga;

* CALABARZON, Reg. IV-A, reg. center: Calamba;

* Southwestern Tagalog (MIMAROPA), Reg. IV-B, reg. center: Calapan;

* Bicol, Reg. V, reg. center: Legazpi;

* Western Visayas, Reg. VI, reg. center: Iloilo City;

* Central Visayas, Reg. VII, reg. center: Cebu City;

* Eastern Visayas, Reg. VIII, reg. center: Tacloban;

* Zamboanga Peninsula, Reg. IX, reg. center: Pagadian;

* Northern Mindanao, Reg. X, reg. center: Cagayan de Oro;

* Davao Region, Reg. XI, reg. center: Davao City;

* SOCCSKSARGEN, Reg. XII, reg. center: Koronadal;

* ARMM, Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao, Reg. XV, reg. center: Cotabato City;

* Caraga Region, Reg. XVI, reg. center: Butuan.

On May 17, 2002, Region IV-A (Calabarzon) and Region IV-B (Mimaropa) were created from then Region IV (Southern Tagalog). Aurora was transferred to Region III. On May 23, 2005, Palawan was moved from Region IV-B to Region VI, and Mimaropa was renamed Mimaro.

RA 10879 that established on July 17, 2016, the Southwestern Tagalog Region (Mimaropa) from the former Region IV-B, merely renamed the region with no boundary change.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of January 9, 2018)

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