As mayor of the second largest local government unit (LGU) in Laguna province, do you think that Federalism is feasible in your city? Why or why not?
Yes, it’s feasible if we (LGUs) will be given more autonomy. Federalism is good but we have to look at it from a wholistic approach. Because I heard, but have not yet confirmed because I haven’t seen the contents of the draft charter, but according to those that I talked with, they said that for example, yung 100% na kinikita ng isang bayan, kukunin yun ng region o yung regional government. Yung 50%, mapupunta sa national government o federal government. Tapos yung other 50% paghahati-hatian ng mga provinces under that region. So in other words, baliktad yun doon sa kasalukuyang sitwasyon na existing ngayon. Kasi ngayon, mas malaki ang nakukuhang share ng city or
municipality [the regional government will get the entire 100% revenue of the city or municipality. Of that, 50% will go to the national government. The other 50% will be divided by the regional government among the provinces of the region. So, this scheme is the exact opposite of the system now existing. Today, the city or municipality has a bigger share]. If that will change, many LGUs will protest.
Today, the LGUs only share their revenues with the national government. But under the federal scheme, the revenues will go to the region first, which will then give 50% to the national government and then divide the remaining 50% with the provinces under the region. But you see, there are LGUs that can stand alone. They are using their own funds.
I also heard that rich regions like Calabarzon will equally distribute their revenues with poorer regions. It’s not bad to help others. But again, this may become counter-productive because the poorer regions might think, ‘let us not work too hard because we will get equal shares anyway. Wag na tayong maging productive kasi yung share naman, equal din sa makukuha natin’ [Let us not strive to be productive because our share will be equal to the rest]. These are the issues that need to be addressed. But like I said, it is still a draft. It will still be debated and interpellated upon.
How do you propose to lobby for your positions or standpoints regarding federalism?
The LGUs will adopt one voice to put forward their positions. But of course what we will push for will depend on how things turn out. The Local Government Code already mandates and empowers the city and the municipality. We only need to strengthen it some more.
Would you suggest that the cities keep their income or revenues?
I think that will be the line of all the LGUs. Ikaw naman, sinong papayag na munisipyo o city na naghahati na kami ng national, tapos darating ang region o hati na rin ang region. Kukunin lahat sa atin, sila muna ang maghahati ng national, tapos saka tayo bibigyan. Sinong LGU ang papayag ng ganun? I think, walang papayag na LGU ng ganun [Do you know of any municipality or city who will agree to share with the national government, and then again share with the region? The region will get all the income and revenues, give half to the national government and then, with the remaining half, subdivide it among its provinces. Do you know of any LGU that will agree to that arrangement? I don’t think any LGU will.]
How does the Santa Rosa LGU intend to make the people of Santa Rosa more aware of Federalism? What activities do you intend to pursue to popularize federalism?
Dissemination works. Social networks or the social media is a good tool. I think that education through a simple interpretation would be good. But we are not yet doing this because we are not being mandated by the national government to do it. Even the DILG is not trying to tell us that we have to. Kasi ang karamihang procedure diyan kasi [Because the procedure there is such that], if the national government is really serious in changing the form of government of our country, they will convene, like if we will have a constitutional convention or a constituent assembly. It’s the choice of the people and the President. And our representative—the congressmen representing the city and the different municipalities, they will be there, too.
We will tell our representatives (in Congress) to fight for the things that we are fighting for. The problem there is legislators might have their own agenda. Because under a Federal form of government, you either strengthen the position of the legislative branch or strengthen the position of the different executive departments. That will be kind of hard. If the legislator chooses to strengthen his position, even as he crafts the laws that will change our form of government, conflict might arise there. Because as far as we are concerned, we will protect the interest of the LGU. But like I said, I have to read the totality of the draft Constitution before I can state my position.
Has the city of Santa Rosa taken a stand on federalism?
No, no. Not yet. Not yet. We have not. We will do that kapag naramdaman na natin na talagang seryoso na, talagang babaguhin na yung ating [when we feel that there is already a serious attempt to change our] form of government. Think of this: Congress will be the one to initiate this. Will Congress have a constituent assembly or a constitutional convention? When they start doing this, we will begin preparing. When they (Congress) decides, then we mayors will start meeting. The different LGUs will adopt a common stand.
What we do here is, for example, our barangay captains ask us about federalism, we talk about it—based on what we heard and what we read. But, the totality of that draft charter that was submitted to the President, we are not discussing it yet because we haven’t got a copy that was formally given to us.
How popular is federalism in Santa Rosa?
For now, they are not yet on decision mode because they don’t understand it (federalism) yet. They don’t know much about it. Basically, this is what they understand: People know that there will be an additional branch of government. That is the regional governor. There will be additional positions, additional employess, and additional bureaucracy. They also know there will be higher taxes because of the taxes in the regions. That is what they understand. That is why we want to correct the 50%-50% sharing scheme. Kasi kawawa ang LGU dun [LGUs will be at a disadvantage there].
Do the people of Santa Rosa, Laguna believe in President Duterte? Will his popularity work in making your constituents favor federalism?
Yeah. He (Duterte) won here. But as to federalism, it would depend on how they (national government) would promote federalism or the federal form of government. The people of Santa Rosa are intelligent people. But siyempre, maraming bumoto kay Duterte dito [Of course, many voted for Duterte here]. And for sure, if the President will tell them that they will benefit from the federal form of government, the people will listen and the people will follow.
Do you have a vision of the form of federalism that will fit Santa Rosa?
Ang isa sa provisions ng Federalism na nakita ko na maganda, iyong the Senators will be representing the regions. They will not be elected by the whole nation. Kasi, ang hirap ngayon, di ba? Mga senators pupunta ng buong Pilipinas para mangampanya. It’s so toxic. And at the same time parang wala silang nire-represent na area. Unlike halimbawa kung ikaw ang regional senator ng Region IV, you will fight for the rights of that region. Kung taga–Mindanao ka, like Region XI or Region XII, you will fight for the rights of your region. May concern ka. Yan ang isang magandang nakita ko sa Federal form of government. [One of the good provisions I saw under Federalism is that Senators will represent regions. Today, it’s a bit hard because senators campaign all over the Philippines. They do not represent a particular region. Unlike if you are a regional senator, you have a specific concern].
Also, under federalism, there will be a regional assembly. These regional assemblymen will push for the common good of the whole region. So there will be someone to guide and connect all the different provinces for the betterment of the region. In Calabarzon, there will be a regional governor or a regional government who will direct the five provinces of Calabarzon in good governance, like in terms of roads, traffic, investment, and land use. Lahat yan magiging maayos kasi nga lagi ng may nakatutok [All of these will have order because there will definite bodies addressing these issues. That is what I like. But in terms of sharing, that, I still do not like.
Would you say that Santa Rosa is federalism-ready?
We are ready in Region IV because we are rich. Region IV is so rich that one of the top regions that will contribute under a federal form of government is Region IV. But when it comes to the proposed sharing scheme, we might be placed at a disadvantage.
The way I see it, I think sharing should be based on performance. The biggest bulk of the revenue should go to the LGU. A portion of that will be given to the national and regional governments. The biggest bulk should be given to the LGU kasi sila ang naghirap doon e [because they worked for it]. G