Cultural Relativism, Federalism and the Filipino People

The Philippines is an archipelagic nation-state, having 7,107 islands, which are geographically distributed in 17 political regions. The three main island groups where the 7,107 islands are situated are Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. Living in those islands are different multi-lingual people, also known as ethnic groupings. Based on the data of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), this country has 110 different ethnic societies. The NCIP calls them IP or indigenous people. Then, the major cultural segments are the Bisaya, the Kapampangan, the Ilokano, the Ilonggo and others.

Being a country with multiple and diversified people, the system of government is an issue. At present, the form of government being practiced is centralized or presidential, which is anchored on democracy. The main legal framework of governance is the Constitution of 1986.

However, this centralized form of government has been questioned. Its scope and efficiency have been debated. This issue has been surfacing these days as the year 2016 is about to start. The incoming year will be the time for the national elections to happen again, allowing the Filipino people to choose their preferred political leaders from top to bottom.

As the national elections is about to come next year, the debate on the form of government is on the hot seat again. Is the Centralized Form of Government really suitable for the Filipino people, knowing that this country caters different people, with different culture? If not the right form, what is then the better government system to address multiple ethnicities and cultural divergence?

Some academic and political experts have had suggested that the right form of government for the Filipino people is the so-called “Federalism.” This government system is being practiced already by many countries all over the world, like the United States of America. Under this system, generally speaking, there is still a central government (federal) but coupled by the recognition of the different states. Both the federal government and the states have their respective tasks and duties for the welfare of the constituents.

There are certain clear factors why there have been experts pushing for the shift from the presidential form of government to federalism. The intent of this article, however, is not to unfold ultimately the entire picture of Federalism, but only to cite the reasons why the Filipino people might really need a political transition.

On Cultural Relativism

Cultural relativism is a theory that favors on the idea of cultural equality. Contrary to ethnocentrism, cultural relativism implies that there is no superior culture. Every cultural mark must be respected. Every cultural practice should not be condemned. Every human being has the right to his or her own cultural knowledge and practices.

This theory is lightly discussed here to serve as a strong foundation of federalism. This form of government can really be the system needed by Filipinos, considering that this country is serving multiple ethnicities and cultural identities. Regarding better and more efficient government services, federalism will tend to address the needed efficiency and suitability in the context of cultural sensitiveness.

Is the presidential form of government not sensitive enough in rendering the services all people need? Maybe. As time passes by, the Filipinos, particularly those in the far-flung areas of Visayas and Mindanao, are still clamoring for the just and equal services. There are experiential and empirical substantiation that might validate the lacking capacity of the present political system. Hence, the inference lies on the needed political shift or transition, so to speak.

Is Federalism Really Fit For Filipinos?

Citing cultural relativism as the initial ground in this context, federalism may really be fit for all Filipinos. People in Mindanao can have different perceptions and thoughts anchored to their culture from people in Visayas and Luzon. People in Visayas do also have different cultural needs from people in Luzon and Mindanao. And, people in Luzon may have divergent necessities from people in Mindanao and Visayas. The bottom line of cultural relativism is that every person has a distinct cultural identity where his or her needs are framed.

Further, in crafting policies and local laws, the presidential form of government may have inefficiencies in coming up with culture-sensitive approaches. The role of the states in a federal form can be the solution to such inefficiencies. In this respect, the more intensified community-based consultations among the local members in various states will happen. This can be a precursor for more refined and culture-sensitive legislation.

The issues on budget allocation and rendering of government services will also be remedied through a federal form of government. The taxes to be levied in every locality, where the summed-up national government income is derived in the present system, will be divided and allocated more justifiably to every state (LGUs) where the taxes are collected. There have already been facts that in the present political system, the government fails to allocate the budget fairly, in which rendering of government services is attached. The sharing of the pie is unjust.

Historically, the present centralized system is just a borrowed system from the colonizers, like the Spaniards. Why don’t we revisit our past identity as Filipino people prior to the arrival of the colonizers and re-examine again our true and individual cultural mark?

In conclusion, the cultural differences and identities of the Filipino people serve as the main reason why federalism should be reconsidered. This can be the fittest government form for all Filipinos. Federalism does not intend to disintegrate the Filipinos in this country nor spoil democracy, but it aims only to provide more efficient and better services parallel to cultural multiplicity and distinctions.