Press Release
November 29, 2018

Senator Koko Pimentel

"Change is Coming:
Understanding the Federal Form of Government"
MCLE 2018
November 29, 2019
Cebu City

Thank you for inviting me to your MCLE and thank you too for being interested in the topic of FEDERALISM.

The sound and fury, uproar, furor, debates and recriminations concerning FEDERALISM has died down because, as usual, we have been distracted by the event we Filipinos like best, the sabong of elections.

However, you are right in maintaining your interest about FEDERALISM because this push for the adoption of FEDERALISM will not stop. The shift to the Federal form of government is the cornerstone of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte's Agenda of Change.

As President Duterte has so aptly stated:

Our country's decades old experiment with the presidential-unitary system of government has had its advantages and disadvantages. More than thirty years after our people approved the present Constitution, it becomes apparent that we need to correct the inadequacies that restricted our progress in the past so that our country can move forward towards a more promising future.[1]

Hence, after the 2019 elections, FEDERALISM will be in the headlines once again. FEDERALISM will not go away anytime soon!

Therefore, I commend you for including understanding FEDERALISM in the MCLE as we have no escaping the topic, babalik at babalik ito, and the more Filipinos aware of the topic, even just the basic ideas behind the concept of FEDERALISM, the better for the country. Pagdating ng panahon when we have to vote in the plebiscite whether to adopt or not a system of FEDERALISM in the Philippines, then we can use our KOKOte to decide on what is our right decision. Sabi ko nga, "alamin ang tama, use your KOKOte!"

Many are advocating for FEDERALISM. Many are also opposing it. I am one of the advocates for FEDERALISM, through my political party PDP LABAN. But among the advocates, there are also many models and ideas and proposals. I cannot talk about all of them as frankly I am not familiar with all of them.

Hence, allow me to limit my remarks to the model of FEDERALISM which I am pushing for within the PDP LABAN. We should pay attention to the PDP LABAN's model of FEDERALISM because we are the so-called ruling party right now. But for transparency's sake, even within PDP LABAN there are many different proposals as to the "details" of our model of FEDERALISM.


There is no exact definition. It is like the US Supreme Court's definition of obscenity: we know when we see it.

What are examples of Federal States / Countries?

1. Argentina (23 provinces and 1 autonomous city)

2. Australia (6 states and 2 territories)

3. Austria (9 states)

4. Belgium (Flanders and Wallonia)

5. Bosnia and Herzegovina (Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Republika Srpska)

6. Brazil (26 states and 1 federal district)

7. Canada (10 provinces and 3 territories)

8. Comoros (Anjouan, Grande Comore, Mohéli and Mayotte)

9. Ethiopia

10. Federated States of Micronesia (Chuuk, Kosrae, Pohnpei and Yap)

11. Germany (16 states)

12. India (28 states and 7 union territories)

13. Malaysia (13 states and 3 federal territories)

Mexico (31 states and 1 federal district)

Nigeria (36 states)

Pakistan (4 provinces and 1 territory)

Palau (16 states)

Papua New Guinea (20 provinces)

Russia (49 oblasts, 21 republics, 10 autonomous okrugs, 6 krays, 2 federal cities, 1 autonomous oblast)

Saint Kitts and Nevis South Africa (9 provinces)

Switzerland (26 cantons)

United Arab Emirates (7 emirates)

United States (50 states, one District, two Commonwealths, and 12 Territories)

Venezuela (23 states and 1 capital district)

Spain is considered by many as a Federal State[2] as its governmental structure has many features of FEDERALISM but officially it is not from its own point of view. Meaning, Spain does not consider itself a Federal State.

Do you have to be a big country like Russia, Canada, Australia, and the United States to be fit for FEDERALISM? No, because Belgium, Switzerland, the Comoros, the Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, and Saint Kitts and Nevis, very small countries, are Federal States.

Do you have to be a very culturally or linguistically diverse nation like Belgium, Switzerland, Bosnia and Herzegovina, to be fit for FEDERALISM? No, because Australia, Austria, Germany, Malaysia, among others, are relatively homogeneous nations, and yet are Federal States.

What am I trying to point out? You do not have to be a big country to adopt FEDERALISM. You do not have to be a diverse nation to adopt FEDERALISM. You in fact do not need to be something to adopt FEDERALISM. To adopt FEDERALISM is simply a decision. Just like love in the song with the title, "love is a decision".

 To adopt FEDERALISM is a decision because FEDERALISM is simply a tool for power sharing.

Through FEDERALISM, there will be:

1. Devolution of Powers

2. Sharing of Resources

3. Division of Labor

We are pushing for FEDERALISM to improve government efficiency. Life is too short. We do not want to spend the entire 50 years of our adult life going through life like a robot constantly struggling to earn a living in order to keep up with incessant tax payments and other fees required by a government which seems to be always thirsty and hungry for tax revenues, and eternally tolerating lousy basic government services (like water and other utilities, transportation, etc.) just because we have an inefficient governmental set-up which is prone to or allows too much delay in decision making, waste of public funds, and finger-pointing to avoid responsibilities.

What will efficiency in governance bring us? Economic progress!

Just remember the names of the following Federal States, these are all envy of the world in terms of the size and health of their economies as well as the quality of life of their societies: United State of America, Switzerland, Canada, Australia, Germany, Austria!

If they can do it, why can't we?

We believe that FEDERALISM will lead to efficiency in government which might lead to economic progress. I say "might", because FEDERALISM is not the be all and the end all of governance. FEDERALISM will not answer all of our problems but at least we have a proposed solution to our problems of inefficiency which are rooted in our present structure of government.

So, what is our definition of FEDERALISM?

This is the "definition", if we can call this one, that we follow:

"If there is an essence of Federalism, it is that there are two constitutionally established orders of government with some genuine autonomy from each other, and the governments at each level are primarily accountable to their respective electorates."[3]

The essence of the FEDERALISM that we are advocating are therefore the following:

1. there are two constitutionally established orders of government

2. with some genuine autonomy from each other

3. the governments at each level are primarily accountable to their respective electorates

If these three elements concur, then that is already FEDERALISM as far as PDP LABAN is concerned.

FEDERALISM must therefore be embedded in the Constitution, otherwise the set-up cannot be called FEDERALISM at all. This constitutional permanence will ensure that the benefits of FEDERALISM will not only be enjoyed by our generation of Filipinos, but also by all of the generations to come.

What we have now in our country is called the Unitary System of Government.

There are numerous definitions or descriptions of what a unitary government is. Let us consider some of them as follows:[4]

"Although political power may be delegated through devolution to local governments by statute, the central government remains supreme; it may abrogate the acts of devolved governments or curtail their powers."

"A unitary government is identified principally by a powerful administrative center and weak sub-national units."

"The definition of a unitary state is a state governed as a single power in which the central government is ultimately supreme and any administrative divisions exercise only the powers that the central government chooses to delegate."

We are definitely therefore a unitary state.

We are also under a "full presidential form of government", that is, we have a president who is both head of state and head of government. There is no prime minister.

Where has this combination of unitary system and presidential form taken us?

The Philippines is a tale of two faces.

One face is the face of progress, economic development, peace and order. The other is the face of poverty, conflict and of having been left behind.

Economic progress and development, under our current system of government, has been lopsided in favor of Metro Manila, the center of power, and the areas closest to it.

The inequality has even led the disgruntled to coin the term, Imperial Manila.

To illustrate my thesis, just look at Metro Manila and the nearby provinces of Bulacan, Pampanga, Rizal, Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, all from Central Luzon and Southern Tagalog. These areas produce 62% of our entire Gross Domestic Product (GDP). By comparison, the other 14 regions combined, only account for a measly 38% of the GDP.

The glaring difference in numbers, in this one variable alone, will tell us that there has to be a better way towards a more inclusive growth for all the regions of our country. The productive capacity of our nation must be spread out to other parts of the country.

If we look at other statistics, then you might agree with me that there seems to be a correlation between GDP, which reflects productivity, and poverty.

Metro Manila and the provinces closest to Manila have the lowest poverty incidence rates in our country. Metro Manila has a poverty incidence rate of 3.9%, Bulacan 4.5%, Laguna 5.4%, Rizal 5.4%, and Cavite 6.8%.

Let us contrast these numbers with the poverty incidence rates of the poorest places in the Philippines: Bukidnon has a poverty incidence rate of 53.6%; Sulu 54.90%, Northern Samar 56.2%, Maguindanao 57.2%, and Lanao del Sur 71.9%.

The national average of the poverty incidence rate is 21.6%. (I am using 2015 survey data.)

From all indications, we see that there is a correlation between the distance from Metro Manila, which is the center of power, and the poverty incidence rate of a place. Apparently, the closer the place is to the center of power, the better the chance of that place to economically progress.

In short, our current system has led to a dichotomy of Philippine Society into two opposed classes: the wealthy and/or comfortable and the struggling hand-to-mouth; the modern and developed area and the backward and neglected if not forgotten and abandoned.

Changes will have to be made. If we retain our current unitary system of government, then the rich regions only become richer, while the poor regions will remain to be trapped in the quicksand of poverty where they will become poorer each day.

The current rich regions already have several distinct advantages. They have a greater concentration of capital, talent and infrastructure vis-à-vis the poorer regions. Consequently, the law and order situation is also better in these rich regions. The already rich areas are the ones that can best take advantage of the economic growth that our country is projected to enjoy in the years to come. Investors, especially foreign ones, will consider our developed areas first as destinations for their investments. That is to be expected.

Without any meaningful structural changes being made, the gap between the rich and the poor areas of our country will only continue to widen. If nothing is done, the two poles of our society can become too far apart thereby resulting in a cataclysmic break up, the explosion of our social volcano, and the Philippines may become a failed state. This is what we should avoid.

We need structural change which will allow the neglected areas to catch up with the more affluent ones. We should aim for equality and parity. And basic fairness of course.

We see FEDERALISM as the practical solution to the age-old problems of poverty, inequality, and instability that continue to hinder the development of our nation.

We are a diverse society. FEDERALISM provides a system wherein national unity is maintained while at the same time recognizing and protecting the diversity of Philippine society.

In the Philippine context, we aim to immediately achieve the following objectives with FEDERALISM:

1. We involve the Regions in national decision making;

2. We accelerate the economic development of the Regions;

3. We achieve "Peace in Mindanao"; and

4. We allow the preservation of the culture and language of the various ethno-linguistic groups of the country.

Our version of Federalism cannot be compared to versions of the established federations like the US, Germany, or Switzerland. Their version is a "coming together" FEDERALISM which means they were independent states which decided to come together. This is best summed up by the motto of the US, et pluribus unum! Out of many, one.

On the other hand, our version of FEDERALISM, is a "holding together" FEDERALISM since we are already a unitary state seeking to shift into a federation.

We will have a uniquely Filipino FEDERALISM model.


PDP LABAN proposes a FEDERALISM model with two constitutionally established orders of government with some genuine autonomy from each other where each level of government is primarily accountable to its respective electorate.

The two constitutionally established orders of government are (1) the Federal Government and 2) the Regional Government.

Between the two governments is "some level of genuine autonomy from each other" but not independence. Each level of government has its particular jurisdiction or areas of public policy in which it alone has final authority, unless it decides to share this jurisdiction with the other.


Our proposal is to create a more economically and politically effective administrative structure based on eleven (11) regions, each with its own Regional Government, to wit:

1. The Regional Government of Northern Luzon (the present Regions 1, II and CAR);

2. The Regional Government of Central Luzon (Region 3);

3. The Regional Government of Metro Manila (The National Capital Region);

4. The Regional Government of Southern Tagalog (Region IV-A);

5. The Regional Government of Bicol (Region V);

6. The Regional Government of Mindoro - Palawan-Romblon and Marinduque;

7. The Regional Government of Western Visayas (Region 6);

8. The Regional Government of Central - Eastern Visayas (Region 7 and 8);

9. The Regional Government of Northern Mindanao (from the tip of the Zamboanga peninsula up to Surigao del Sur, that is Regions 9, 10 and CARAGA);

10. The Regional Government of Southern Mindanao (embracing the Davao provinces and the Cotabato provinces, that is Regions 11 and 12); and

11. The Bangsa Moro Regional Government (ARMM).

But let us not dwell too much on how the Regions are to be divided, at this particular point in time, because this is one of the more contentious topics and there are many ideas being floated around.

However, we are all in agreement here that the Regional Governments will be led by a "Regional Governor". The regional governor will have general powers of supervision over provincial, city, and municipal executives. The Regions will also have their own Regional Assemblies, which will be unicameral legislative bodies.

The Regions should be given powers which will determine their "over-all direction".


How will the Federal Government share / divide / transfer power with the Regional Government?

This is our guiding formula:

If the matter concerns the entire nation, then it should belong to the Federal level.

If the matter is a basic service to the people, then it should belong to the Regional level.

If the matter is a basic service which is to be provided under a national standard, then it should be a shared power between the Federal and the Regional levels.

 Another general rule is that - All residual or unclassified powers will be retained by the Federal government but may also be delegated by it to the Regional Government.

To support this division of power set up, we will have to change the allocation of budget.

At present, 83% of the national government revenue are controlled by the national government and only 17% are allocated to local governments. Under our proposal, this will change in favor of regional governments: 60% to be controlled by the Regional Governments and only 40% by the Federal Government. As of the moment, we have a dedicated task force or committee going over the numbers so that in due time we may be able to provide all the details necessary for this re-allocation / re-alignment of the budget to happen.


The Federal Government shall be responsible for the nation as a whole. Hence, it should be primarily responsible for the following matters of governance:

1. National Defense

2. National Security

3. Foreign policy

4. Currency, banking, monetary policy

5. National Taxation

6. Customs

7. International trade

8. Similar functions that concern the entire nation


The Regional Government is responsible for the development of its region and for providing basic services to its constituents, hence, it could be primarily responsible for the following matters:

1. Regional planning, land and water use, and development

2. Investment policy, including the development of special economic zones in their areas;

3. The Local Governments' organization and general supervision. (Under their own Regional Local Government Code);

4. Housing;

5. Water supply, sanitation and sewage;

6. Waste management;

7. Energy development and transmission within the region (geothermal, small hydro, wind, solar and other forms of energy);

8. Fire protection;

9. Road development within the region (regional road network);

10. Road traffic management;

11. Irrigation;

12. Health infrastructure construction and maintenance (hospitals, clinics and day care and health centers);

13. Education infrastructure construction and maintenance;

14. Protection of the environment (watersheds, lakes, rivers and other protected areas);

15. Sustainable productivity in agriculture and fisheries and aquaculture;

16. Flood control;

17. Communications (licensing and regulation of cable TV operators and regional radio stations);

18. Regional Transportation networks (railways, transport terminals, airports and seaports);

19. Tourism promotion and development;

20. Ancestral domains of indigenous peoples

It is worth emphasizing that indigenous peoples who reside within the Regional Governments will be given constitutional recognition over their ancestral domains and their ways of life as provided in current laws. We will have to make this categorically clear in the new constitution.


The Federal and the Regional Government will share powers in the following areas:

1. Taxation

2. Eminent Domain

3. Maintenance of Law and Order through the national police force

4. Education curriculum and standards

5. Energy

6. Sustainable use and management of natural resources

7. Labor relations, benefits and standards

8. Social security system and standards

9. Health policy and standards

10. Price control and product standards

11. Agriculture, fisheries and veterinary quarantine standards

12. Pollution standards, monitoring and enforcement

13. Social welfare and development

14. Agriculture and food security

15. Sports Development

16. Disaster Risk Reduction and management, relief and rehabilitation

17. Human Rights

18. Strategic transportation (airports, seaports, national railways, highways, shipping lanes) and big ticket infrastructure projects like bridges that otherwise cannot be undertaken alone by the Regional Government.

19. Communication networks across regions

20. Transportation infrastructure, traffic control and safety

21. Food and drug safety administration.


- Self Rule

- Shared Rule

- Subsidiarity

- Solidarity

- Cooperative Federalism

The Regions are autonomous units that exercise self-rule or decision making powers within the limits set by the Constitution. Concurrently, they have vested rights to shared rule and they can participate in the decision making process at the national level.

By subsidiarity, we mean that we address the problems at the level closest to it that has the capability to solve it. In practice, it also means that the Regional Government should not do what the provincial, city and municipal government can do, or are already doing competently. This avoids redundancy together with the attendant waste of resources.

We likewise observe the principle of solidarity. In this set up, the welfare of each Region is the business of all the other Regions. This is manifested in the cooperation among the Regions in making sure that the basic services rendered and available to the Filipino people are more or less of the same quality and standard in whatever part of the country.

To achieve greater solidarity, there shall be a program known as "Fiscal Equalization" to be incorporated under the proposed Federal Constitution. Fiscal equalization will allow those areas left behind to catch up with the more progressive areas in our country. Our aim in this regard is inclusive growth of all the regions.

We will also adopt the principle of cooperative federalism. We will establish mechanisms for cooperation and coordination between Federal and Regional Governments. Give and take, sharing, assistance and cooperation, among and between the different levels of government will be allowed under the proposed Constitution of the Federal Republic of the Philippines.


We propose the adoption of a "Semi-Presidential system" (or "Hybrid parliamentary system"). This system is similar to the system of government in Taiwan, South Korea, Portugal and France but with unique Filipino features. We will adopt the advantages of the parliamentary system while at the same time respecting the Filipinos' preference for a strong President at the helm.

Under this proposed system, we will have a President and a Prime Minister.


The President is the Head of State.

He or she shall be elected directly by the people in a national election. Since he is the only nationally elected public official, the President serves as the symbol of unity of the entire nation.

The President shall be in charge of the national defense and of foreign affairs. He shall be the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. The President is also the chief architect of the nation's foreign policy.

Resultantly, the President will be responsible for the appointment of officials of the ministries or departments, bureaus, and offices that have responsibilities which are related to national defense and foreign affairs.

The President, however, will now be above politics. He will no longer concern himself with the day to day running of government. That task will now be given to the Prime Minister.


The Prime Minister is the Head of Government.

He/ she shall be elected by the House of Representatives or by the Federal Assembly. He shall be nominated and formally appointed by the President.

As the Head of Government, the Prime Minister "runs the government" hence he/she will have power over all matters concerning domestic and economic policy that are not assigned to the President. The Prime Minister will be responsible for the appointment of officials of the ministries or departments, bureaus, and offices that are not within the scope of the responsibility of the President.

A majority of the Ministers or heads of departments should come from the Federal Assembly. This is the Cabinet. They are to be appointed by the Prime Minister.

Considering the many challenges facing our country, we firmly believe that having a president, a prime minister (with his cabinet) and regional governors will help spread the burdens of governance, avoid a single issue agenda, and most importantly, help speed up regional development by giving more powers to the regions, which is the main objective of our reform.

Presently, the burden of government is borne solely by the President. We will change this by having more horses pull the national and regional wagon together to speed up development.


As to the position of the Vice President, we do not think there is a need for the office under our model, but the position can be retained if this is the wish of the Filipino people.

Even without a Vice-President, there would not be any succession issues. Should there be a vacancy in the Presidency, the Prime Minister become acting President and supervises the next election for President. If something happens to the Prime Minister, the designated "Senior Minister" takes his place until a new Prime Minister is elected by the Federal Assembly.

In the event that we retain the position of Vice President, the following changes will be introduced: (1) in elections, the vote for the President shall be a vote for the Vice President in the same ticket, and (2) the Vice President shall be given real work - as the Presiding officer of the Senate.


For the legislative branch our "formula" (or mantra) is as follows: if unitary, it will be parliamentary; if federal, then bicameral. Since we are proposing a federal system, our legislature is bicameral.

In Federations, the upper house typically represents the Regions while the lower house represents the population. This reflects the principle of Federalism that both the Regions and the population makes a federation and therefore, both need to be reflected in the federal legislature.

We will still have bicameral legislature called a Parliament which shall be composed of two chambers, a Senate and a Federal Assembly.

Under the PDP Laban Proposal, there shall be a "new" Senate.

The Senators shall be elected by Region. We can fix the number of Senators per region anywhere from 3 to 7, making our new Senate's membership number from a low of 33 to a high of 77, given that there are proposed 11 Regions.

The "new" Senate shall have the following powers and responsibilities:

1. Concur in treaties and international agreements and share with the President the responsibility of conducting our foreign affairs;

2. Concur in all bills passed by the Federal Assembly. However, to simplify the legislative process, the 3-reading rule shall no longer apply to the Senate. Moreover, the Senate may not initiate legislation. The power of the Senate is limited to review of the bills passed by the lower house. (There are many proposals on this topic hence this particular matter is very tentative.)

3. Confirm appointments made by the President and by the Prime Minister which under the Constitution or the law need confirmation;

4. Act as impeachment court for impeachable officials;

5. Propose amendments to the Federal Constitution.


Regarding the Judiciary, we will continue to observe and protect, and even enhance, the independent nature of the Judiciary.

There are, however, some proposed changes intended for the Judiciary.

We intent to incorporate clear rules in the New Constitution which will prohibit "judicial legislation". The idea is to make it very clear that all courts should stick to their role of interpreting the Constitution and the laws.

Also, we will establish a new court called the Constitutional Court to settle constitutional issues and disputes involving the powers, jurisdiction, or competencies between and among the different levels of government.

We intend to have at least one Court of Appeals division per Region. We intend to put time limits to cases and disputes. And we will pursue the "one appeal" concept, that is, decisions of the MTCs must be appealable once, as a matter of right, directly to the Court of Appeals, just like decisions of the RTCs.


For the shift to Federalism to succeed, it should come with a package of electoral and political reforms. We believe that we will never be able to reap the full benefits of federalism if we do not institute changes in our electoral system.

In order to democratize political power, we will make the anti-dynasty provision in the new Constitution self-executing.

We will also retain the concept of term limits.

We will support the development of strong and cohesive political parties by penalizing political butterflies. Party switching shall be banned within 1 year immediately preceding or following an election, otherwise the person who switches allegiance loses his position and he shall be prohibited from running in the next election.

We will provide state subsidy to political parties based on their electoral performance in the previous election just like they do in mature democracies.

The current party list system will be improved and transformed into a system of proportional representation. The 3-seat cap will be removed. This is necessary to ensure that the "ruling party" is able to muster a majority and ensure a stable parliamentary system. (There are also numerous proposals on this subject matter of party list system.)

We are willing to delegate to the Parliament the matter of fixing the percentage of allowable foreign ownership in nationalized economic activities.

However, land ownership in the Philippines shall be reserved only for Filipino citizens.

Since corruption is still a curse devastating our country, we shall continue to strengthen the Ombudsman, the Sandiganbayan, and the Commission on Audit and make them a strong presence in every Federal Region.


One more reminder. Even if we adopt a Federal System, we should never, ever, forget that we are still one country.

We will have:

  • One Constitution;

  • One Flag;

  • One National Anthem;

  • One Foreign Policy;

  • One Armed Forces;

  • One National Police Force;

  • One Public Education System;

  • One Central Bank;

  • One Monetary System;

The secession of any group of people or any Region will not be allowed.

The Regions will receive more resources but they will also take on more responsibilities and need to demonstrate better results. In short, under our reforms, everyone knows his/her responsibilities and powers, hence, everyone is accountable!


The Bible says a society without a vision shall perish. Fortunately, we have a vision for Philippine society.

We are pushing for all of these Changes, especially Federalism, so that we can achieve a Philippine society which is JUST and FAIR, which SAVES and SHARES, which is SCIENTIFIC and OBJECTIVE, which is PEACEFUL and DEMOCRATIC, which is EDUCATED and HEALTHY, and which is, most of all, HAPPY and FREE, with overflowing LOVE OF GOD AND COUNTRY.


[1] Message of PRRD in the book A Quest for a Federal Republic: The PDP Laban Model of PH Federalism 1.0", November 2017.
[2] They say Spain is a de facto Federation.
[3] From FEDERALISM: AN INTRODUCTION by George Anderson of the Forum of Federations.
[4] Product of Internet Google Search.

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