It is a basic human or natural instinct.
People are generally averse to any new concept or unfamiliar idea.
There seems to be always a collective reluctance to embrace tools, systems and processes as guides to our way of life.
But once people are enlightened about the benefits over the costs of new concepts and ideas, their initial fear or suspicion fades away.
Information is always the key to greater understanding.
Consider the general public’s skepticism regarding Charter change and shift to a federal system of government.
Criticisms on the draft federal constitution pushed by the Consultative Committee (ConCom) are borne out of lack of clear understanding, its chairman said.
Former Chief Justice and ConCom Chairman Reynato Puno made this remark in a forum in Quezon City, where he stressed how federalism would benefit the regions the most.
“The last few days have seen an all-out assault on the alleged defects of the draft federal constitution. Let me say that most of these criticisms are borne out of a lack of clear understanding of the spirit of the draft Federal Constitution,” Puno said during the Forum on Federalism in Quezon City organized by the Regional Development Council of MIMAROPA.
Puno said others also doubted federalism because they were “driven by fear and displeasure that they will be the losers politically and economically” should there be a shift from unitary to a federal form of government.
He, however, allayed these fears, noting that the proposed Federalism Constitution is designed to have a “strong federal government” to hold together the different regions and make them equally viable and sustainable by spreading the funds and powers to the regional level.
“The antidote to the problem of over-concentration of powers is non-concentration of powers, which is the sense of federalism. Federalism therefore, is for the benefit of regions, for the benefit of local government units,” Puno said.
Puno encouraged “those in the regions” to ask the “hard questions” about the unitary government and “dissect” to find out why it has failed in addressing the country’s problems.
Puno acknowledged that advocates of a unitary form of government argue that the national government can always decentralize powers and give them to local governments.
However, he described this as an “unfulfilled promise” that would probably remain unfulfilled.
“After more than a century, what powers have been decentralized to our local governments? Worse, they have devolved a few functions to our local governments without following them with necessary finances. The result is a tragedy,” Puno said, noting that responsibilities are also given without financial support.
Federalism, Puno stressed, gives the regions the power and financial resources enough to govern their constituents effectively since it “equalizes” conditions especially in regions where poverty reigns.
Earlier, ConCom spokesperson Ding Generoso spelled out the sources of revenues for the federated regions namely (1) the regions’ own collection of taxes and fees; (2) share of top revenue sources; (3) share from equalization fund; (4) additional funding through the General Appropriations Act; and (5) share of income from natural resources.