Speech of Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III
 116th Founding Anniversary of One Surigao
Provincial Gymnasium, Surigao City, Surigao del Norte
May 15, 2017

Marajaw na buntag sa ijo hurot! Salamat kaayo kaninyong tanan sa inyong malumong pagimbitar kanako.

Today has been declared by the President a special non-working day in the province of Surigao Del Norte to allow you to celebrate the 116th Founding Anniversary of One Surigao, otherwise known as the Founding Anniversary of the Mother Province of Surigao. It was on May 15, 1901 when Distrito de Surigao became a chartered province. The President has designated me to represent him in taking part in your festivities today.

I like your theme: “Pakighiusa, Pakigtambayayong, para sa Kalambuan nan Hiniusang Surigao”. It is very admirable that all Surigaonon retain your sense of identity as one group.

Your unity and cooperation is now more important than ever.

Angay kanunay dumdumon nga kitang tanan mga Filipino dunay obligasyon sa paghimo sa tanan natong magahum sa pagpauswag dili lamang sa Mindanao kun dili sa tibuok nasud.

We are now in the midst of Change, Change that the Filipino people demanded, and Change that President Duterte, together with his allies in the PDP Laban, will deliver. Through this Change, we will fix and put an end to the age-old problems of Philippine society.

We have one particular fix in mind which I want to explain to you, because as a fellow Mindanaonon, we now have hope of ending the neglect that we have always experienced from the national government in previous administrations.

I will tell you about the PDP Laban’s model of Federalism. By the second half of this year, Federalism will be the major topic of public debates. Today, I will give you a preview of the potential changes in our country.

The mission of PDP Laban as a political party is to fix the problems of our nation. PDP Laban believes in structural analysis in determining what ails our nation. We do not believe that mere changes in the personalities of our leaders can fix our nation’s problems. We believe that we need to change structures and systems to address the root causes of our nation’s problems.

In short, we believe in structural change.

Our structural analysis has led us to conclude that the Philippines is a tale of two extremes. Philippine society has two faces. One 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 development, under our current unitary system of government, has been lopsided in favor of Metro Manila, the center of power, and the areas closest to it.

 Just look at Metro Manila and the nearby provinces of Bulacan, Pampanga, Rizal, Cavite, Laguna, and Batangas. Metro Manila, Central Luzon, and Southern Tagalog together produce 62% of our Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

There is a correlation between GDP or productivity and poverty. In the areas which produce 62% of our GDP, the poverty rate range from 3.9% to 6.8% percent. Metro Manila has a poverty incidence rate of 3.9%; Bulacan 4.5%; Laguna 5.4%; Rizal 5.4%; and Cavite 6.8%.

Contrast these numbers to the poverty incidence rates of the poorest places in the Philippines: Bukidnon has a poverty incidence rate of 53.6%; Sulu 54.9%; Northern Samar 56.2%; Maguindanao 57.2%; and Lanao del Sur 71.9%.

The national average of the poverty incidence rate in this study I am citing is 21.6%.

Picture in your mind the locations of these rich and poor provinces in the map of the Philippines. We see a relationship between the distance from Metro Manila, which is the center of power, and the poverty incidence rate of a place. The closer the place is to the center of power, the better the chance of that place to economically progress.

This dichotomy in Philippine society, where there are places of wealth, comfort, and modernity, co-existing with places of extreme poverty, happened under a unitary system of government with Metro Manila as the one and only center of power.

To fix the inter-generational problems of poverty, inequality, and the societal instability resulting from these two, PDP Laban has proposed, since its formation in 1982, the adoption of the Federal System of Government for the Republic of the Philippines.

If we do not change structures, that is, if we retain the unitary system of government, then the rich regions only become richer, while the poor regions become poorer. Why? Because capital, talent, and infrastructure are already concentrated in these rich regions. The law and order situation is also better in these rich regions. These rich regions will also still be the areas closest to the one and only center of power. Hence, these already rich areas are the ones that can best take advantage of the economic growth that the Philippines is projected to enjoy in the years to come. The gap between the rich and the poor areas of our country is therefore also projected to widen.

We cannot allow the two poles of our society to be too far apart, otherwise, Philippine society will break up and the Philippines will become a failed state. We cannot and should not allow that to happen. We need structural change which will allow the neglected areas to catch up with the more affluent ones.

PDP Laban sees Federalism as the practical solution to the age-old problems of poverty, inequality, and instability that continue to hobble the development of our nation.

The Philippines is a country divided by more than 7,000 islands, 100 languages, and more than a hundred different ethnic and tribal affiliations. We have a truly diverse society.

For a diverse and multi-cultural country such as ours, with thousands of islands spread across our great archipelago, Federalism provides a system wherein national unity is maintained while at the same time recognizing and protecting the diversity of Philippine society.

Federalism, in the Philippine context, hopes to immediately achieve the following objectives:

1. Involve the Regions in national decision making;

2. Accelerate the economic development of the Regions;

3. Achieve “Peace in Mindanao”; and

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

The foundational ideas of the PDP Laban model of Federalism has been provided by the champions of Federalism like my father, Sen. Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel Jr., the founder of PDP Laban. We have also taken into account the salient features of Federalism outlined by our Party Chairman, President Rodrigo Duterte.

We have studied our 25-year experience of devolution under the Local Government Code, our 20-year experience with ARMM, as well as many models of Federalism, Decentralization, and political arrangements from around the world like the US, Germany, France, Russia, China, India, Indonesia, Brazil, Australia, Canada, Argentina, Malaysia, Japan, Africa, and many others.

What we propose is a model that draws lessons from these countries and customized to our own needs and circumstances. 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.

Note that they have “some genuine autonomy from each other” but not independence. Each level of government has its particular jurisdiction - areas of public policy in which it alone has final authority, unless it decides to share this jurisdiction with the other.

PDP Laban wants to create a more economically and politically effective administrative structure for the Philippines based on eleven Regions, each with its own Regional Government:

1. The Regional Government of Northern Luzon (the present Regions I, 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 4A);

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

6. The Regional Government of Mindoro-Palawan-Romblon and Marinduque (Region 4B);

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

8. The Regional Government of Central-Eastern Visayas (Regions 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).

 The Regional Governments will be led by a Regional Governor directly elected by the people in the Region. The regional governor will have general powers of supervision over provincial, city, and municipal executives. The Regions will also have their own Regional Assemblies, a unicameral legislative body.

The Regions will have powers which would empower them to determine their “over-all direction”.

How will the Federal Government divide powers with the Regional Governments?

The PDP Laban formula is as follows:

• 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 best provided under a national standard, then it should be a shared power between the Federal and the Regional levels;

• All residual or unclassified powers will be retained by the Federal government but may also be delegated to the Regional Governments.

We will pursue the principle that the budget will follow the division of powers. At present, 83% of total government expenditures are controlled by the national government and only 17% by local governments. Under our formula, this will change in favor of regional governments: 60% to be controlled by the Regional Governments and only 40% by Federal Government.

The Federal Government is responsible for the nation as a whole, hence, it will be exclusively responsible for the following matters:

• National Defense

• National Security

• Foreign Policy

• Currency, Banking and Monetary Policy

• National Taxation

• Customs

• International Trade

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

• Regional planning, land and water use, and development

• Investment policy

• The Local Governments’ organization and general supervision (under their own Regional Local Government Code)

• Housing

• Water supply, sanitation, and sewage

• Waste management

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

• Fire protection

• Road development within the region (regional road network)

• Road traffic management

• Irrigation

• Health infrastructure construction and maintenance (hospitals, clinics, and day care and health centers)

• Education infrastructure construction and maintenance

• Protection of the environment (watersheds, lakes, rivers, and other protected areas)

• Sustainable productivity in agriculture and fisheries and aquaculture

• Flood control

• Communications (licensing and regulation of cable TV operators and regional radio stations)

• Regional transportation networks (railways, transport terminals, airports, seaports)

• Tourism promot• Tourism promotion and development

• Ancestral domains of indigenous peoples

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.

But there are areas where some sort of power-sharing should be arranged between the Federal and Regional Governments. These shared powers are in the areas of:

• Taxation

• Eminent domain

• Maintenance of law and order through the national police force

• Administration of justice

• Education curriculum and standards

• Energy

• Sustainable use and management of natural resources

• Labor relations, benefits, and standards

• Social security system and standards

• Health policy and standards

• Price controls and product standards

• Agriculture, fisheries, and veterinary quarantine standards

• Pollution standards monitoring and enforcement

• Social welfare and development

• Agriculture and food security

• Sports development

• Disaster risk reduction and management, relief and rehabilitation

• Human rights

• 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

• Communications networks across regions

• Transportation infrastructure, traffic control, and safety.

• Food and drug safety administration

Principles observed in our Federalism model:

• Self-rule

• Shared rule

• Subsidiarity

• Solidarity

• Cooperative Federalism

This division of responsibilities and sharing of powers, as outlined above, is based on the principle of self-rule and the principle of shared rule that provide stability to federations.

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.

In our model, we also observe the principle of subsidiarity, where we address problems at the level closest to the problem that has the capability to solve it. Subsidiarity in practice also means that the Regional Governments should not do what the provincial, city, and municipal governments can do, or are already doing competently.

We also observe the principle of solidarity, where 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. In the name of solidarity, therefore, there shall be a program for “Fiscal Equalization” to be incorporated in the new Constitution. This will allow those areas left behind to catch up with the more progressive areas in our country.

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 all be allowed under the new Constitution of the Federal Republic of the Philippines.

In addition to the adoption of the Federal System of Government, the PDP LABAN also proposes changes to the Executive-Legislative Set-Up. We will adopt a hybrid system.

This can be called “a semi-Presidential system” or “a hybrid parliamentary system” depending on your point of view. But this is uniquely Filipino. We 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 system, we will have a President and a Prime Minister.

The President is the Head of State. He / She shall be directly elected by the People in a national election, and because he / she 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 national defense and of foreign affairs. The President 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.

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

The Prime Minister is the Head of Government. He / She shall be elected by the House of Representatives, to be 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 / departments, bureaus, and offices that are not within the scope of the responsibility of the President.

A majority of the Heads of ministries / departments should come from the House of Representatives. This is the Cabinet.

The PDP Laban wants to remove the position of 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 becomes Acting President and supervises the next election for President. Should something happen to the Prime Minister, the designated “Senior Minister” takes his place until a new Prime Minister is elected by the House of Representatives.

Should we retain the position of Vice President, we will introduce the following changes: (1) in elections, the vote for the President shall also 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.

The PDP Laban formula for the legislative branch is as follows: if unitary, then parliamentary; if federal, then bicameral. Since we are proposing a Federal System, hence, our legislative branch 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 make a federation and therefore, both need to be reflected in the federal legislature.

Hence, we will still have a bicameral legislature with a Senate and a House of Representatives.

Under the PDP Laban proposal, there will 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 11 Regions.

As the chamber that represents the Regions at the federal level, the Senate shall have these powers or responsibilities:

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

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

3. Act as an impeachment court for impeachable officials;

4. Propose amendments to the Federal Constitution; and

5. The Senate shall have limited law-making power. It can only propose legislation, or concur in legislation from the House of Representatives, that will have impact on the Regional Governments’ powers, administration, organization, and/or operations like tax, revenue sharing, and expenditure measures (for example, the National Budget);

Generally speaking, concurrence of the Senate is no longer needed for the passage of laws. Laws only need to pass the House of Representatives.

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

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

We intend to incorporate clear rules in the New Constitution which will prohibit “judicial legislation”. 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 political reforms.

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 modern political parties by penalizing political butterflies.

We will provide budgetary support to political parties just like they do in mature democracies.

The current party list system will be improved and transformed into a system of proportional representation. This is necessary to ensure that the “ruling party” is able to muster a majority and ensure a stable parliamentary system.

We will raise the qualification requirements for the Presidency.

We are willing to delegate to the Federal Legislature 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 have no choice but to strengthen the Ombudsman and the Commission on Audit and make them a strong presence in every Region.

Federalism is a complex proposal.

Adopting all of these changes need time and will definitely take time.

While we are awaiting the benefits of Federalism, we are also moving to provide solutions to our problems.

• We are providing free tuition to students in SUCs;

• We are providing free irrigation to farmers;

• We are providing free health insurance to indigent patients;

• We are providing jobs to the unemployed through this “build, build, build” program under President Duterte’s “Golden Age of Infrastructure Strategy”;

• We will put an end to “Endo”, which is the unfair practice of terminating the employment of a worker so that he / she will not qualify to enjoy the full benefits of a regular worker;

• We will lower personal income taxes so that the people will have more money in their pockets;

• We will make estate taxes reasonable so that taxes on inherited land can be paid thereby making these properties available for productive economic use;

• We will improve our justice system so that we can lessen the conflicts and grievances in our society;

• We will also lessen the tensions in our part of the world by pursuing an independent foreign policy with the Philippine national interest at the front, back, and center of it;

I have a pending proposal which I consider as our “insurance policy” while waiting for the adoption of Federalism and the arrival of its promised benefits. I am referring to Senate Bill No. 110, or what I call the “Bigger Pie, Bigger Slice” bill.

Senate Bill No. 110 seeks to amend Section 284 of the Local Government Code by giving LGUs their rightful share in the “national taxes” instead of the present more limited concept of “national internal revenue taxes”. Under this change, national government revenues which LGUs would have a share in would include customs duties. We will also increase your slice of that bigger pie to 50% from the current 40%.

The national government has given the LGUs so many mandates and responsibilities. It is time that LGUs be given the resources to capacitate and empower them to fulfill their mandates under the law and to solve problems at their level. This is the essence of my Senate Bill No. 110. I am asking all of you to please support it.

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.

Change has come. We have a lot of work to do. Magtulungan po tayo.

We call this package of reforms a grand bargain: we will give more powers to the Regions but we will need to fix the rules of our politics to serve the greater public interest. The Regions will receive more resources but they will also take on more responsibilities and need to demonstrate stronger results. In short, under our reforms, everyone knows his / her responsibilities and powers, hence, everyone is accountable!

Let us always use our KOKOte to determine what is good for the country. My party, the PDP Laban, is always open to out-of-the-box ideas that we can use to solve the persistent inter-generational problems of our nation. The more radical, the better.

The Bible says a society without a vision shall perish.

 Fortunately, the current ruling party in the Philippines has a vision for Philippine society.

It is through all these Changes, especially through Federalism, that we hope to 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.

Maraming salamat po and more power!