ON THE LESSONS OF CEBOOM AND THE CASE FOR ILONGGO FEDERALISM
To fully grasp Cebu’s experience with local government and the role it has taken in building the environment needed for local economic progress the discussion must begin with tragedy.
On the 12th of November 1990, a 230 km/h typhoon arrived on Philippine soil and thus began a tour of destruction over the Visayan Islands. With 784 killed, 3.2 million displaced, and 10.8 billion pesos worth of property damage struck, then President Corazon Aquino declared a state of calamity. Mere numbers, however, fail to truly express the extent of Typhoon Ruping’s devastation on the lives of millions of Filipinos. As an opinion piece recalled in Cebu Daily News:
But the scene on Banilad Road was of utter destruction. Cebu City was on its knees. In the days that followed, we had to make do with the barest of necessities: no electricity, no water, no classes and no way to get out of the city (and go where? the whole of Cebu island was devastated!) The old folks around muttered bitterly that it reminded them of World War II except that young people like us could sleep on the road and play cards there amid fallen electric poles. I had board mates who even took pictures while sitting on those concrete poles and the high-tension wires much to their delight.
With families broken, homes destroyed, and entire towns leveled, this was no picture anyone would paint in earnest. The local government was in crisis. Livelihoods disappeared and businesses were left with nothing except pieces to pick up. Cebu, in particular, was forced to rethink and reorganize. It had to change what leadership meant in a country fresh off a newly minted constitution.
The problem fell on the local chief executives of Cebu to find opportunity in the midst of crisis, especially at a time when the national government and its institutions were similarly crippled and unable to extend its direly needed assistance.
The answer was an economic phenomenon known as Ceboom.
2. On Ceboom
Ceboom is a portmanteau of “Cebu” and “boom”, an emergent expression to describe the sudden urbanization and entry of foreign and domestic investment into the territory, a phenomenon induced by Typhoon Ruping; and it has lead to “…a proliferation of real-estate, tourism, handicraft, and tourism ventures in many towns…”
A thorough appreciation of Ceboom’s implications, however, requires that we study it not as an accidental phenomenon brought about by tragic necessity but as an emergent process, one that had its beginnings even before Typhoon Ruping had struck. Here comparisons between Iloilo and Cebu might already seem apparent; where Cebu had Ruping, Iloilo had Typhoon Frank; but the parallel is merely of tangential significance to what really makes Iloilo and Cebu special as political environments when these two provinces are made to stand side by side. Like Iloilo, the most successful political machineries in Cebu, by far, had been a leadership style that refuses to “conform to certain stereotypes about political kingpins, or ‘warlords,’ in the Philippines.” Like Iloilo, the leadership in Cebu “do not exercise monopolistic economic control in their bailiwick; they do not maintain ‘private armies’ or engage ina rule of systematic, direct repression; and they are not gladhanding, traditional patrons.”
And the most significant parallel of all which also lies among the seeds that grew into Ceboom was that Cebu, much like Iloilo, “is a highly urbanized area with a heterogeneous population, a complex occupational structure, a developed media infrastructure, high levels of literacy, and a large concentration of modern, voluntary organization.”
Iloilo shares the very same seeds as Cebu which gave birth to Ceboom, but like any other process, this economic growth requires careful attention and direction. To paint a picture of the possibilities open to Iloilo’s future, three obvious strategies present themselves.
The first was a reimagining of Cebu as an island in the Pacific rather than a territory of the Philippines, a strategy heavily steeped in the principles of globalization. As John T. Sidel wrote in his journal article The Underside of Progress: Land, Labor, and Violence in Two Philippine Growth Zones, 1985-1995:
In recent years, travel agents have advertised Cebu as “An Island in the Pacific,” while economists have promoted the province as “A Little Dragon in Its Own Way.” One such booster claimed in 1988: Cebu has the trappings of a small NIC [newly industrializing coun try] on a regional scale. Like Singapore, it thrives on trading and shipping. Like Taiwan, it penetrates the export markets by dint of aggressive marketing of labor-intensive manufactures by small and medium-scale industries. Like Hong Kong, it lures tourists by the planeloads.
In fact, there is some truth to this description. Since the late nineteenth century, Cebu has served as the major commercial center of the Visayas and Mindanao, and, since World War II, it has evolved into the most important inter-island port in the Philippines, surpassing all ports in passenger traffic and total numbers and tonnages ofvessels entering, and providing a home to most of the Philippines’ inter-island shipping companies.23 By the late 1980s, the dimensions of Cebu’s trade had further expanded. Its port is now equipped with a 1O,000-container yard that handled over eleven million tons of cargo and more than six million passengers in 1988 alone. Cebu’s exports, amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars a year, have diversified considerably. Today they include mineral and marine products (copper concentrates, carrageenan, and frozen shrimps, for example) and such manufactured goods as electronic watches, rattan furniture, semiconductors, garments, car stereos, and cameras. On Mactan Island, across from Cebu City, an export processing zone today houses over forty firms employing more than 13,000 workers and a newly renovated international airport services thousands of tourists flying directly from Hong Kong, Taipei, and Tokyo to enjoy Cebu’s beach resorts.
It was a marketing scheme designed to create an identity for international investment separate from that of the Philippines. As summarized in Globalization and Glocalization: Experiences in the Local Philippine
Context this was just as much an adoption of globalization as it was a tourism scheme:
In the case of Cebu, the local economy’s dynamism, skilled human resource base, and competitiveness in linkages are drivers that allow for glocalization to take place. The business community as well as the local government’s outward-orientedness and strategic positioning in export trade and tourism manifest Cebu’s adaptability to changes in the global market. The production of a professional and skilled labor force (e.g., IT graduates) by educational institutions in Cebu have also been geared towards meeting the demands of the global market. Proactive civil society and private sector organizations work for mechanisms to provide feedback to decision-making to incorporate local development needs in policy. With the globalization of knowledge, adapting information and communication technology to community concerns is being carried out. Transborder contacts emerge with the forging of sister-city or town twinning programs with local governments abroad. Glocalization then here is manifested in the key areas of business, export trade, governance, and transborder diplomacy.
The second strategy was the employment of technocratic and progressive politics in guiding its leadership. In Capital, Coercion, and Crime: Bossism in the Philippines a comparison of the leadership styles between the local chief executives of Cavite and Cebu was thoroughly analyzed within the context of bossism. Defined in verbatim, bossism is a “social formation in which local powerbrokers can—and in many instances do—achieve sustained monopolies over coercive and economic resources within geographically defined bailiwicks through the creation of local political machines and economic empires”. In his analysis, John T. Sidel defined the political machinery of Cebu as against the warlords of Cavite: First, it was capital intensive; second, it was built on proprietary wealth; third, it efficiently exploited state resources for local gains; and lastly, it focused on power brokerage.
While still defined as a vestige of Filipino bossism, these four aspects of Cebu’s political machinery defined what it meant to be technocratic and progressive. As Resil B. Mojares explained, the leadership in Cebu has been, “more than mere extractive rent seekers. Skillfully combining public benefit with private gain, they have maintained for themselves, in large measure, the image of disinterested ‘economic managers.’ They are not regarded as the wealthiest…they do not have a large corps of clients and employees on their payroll, and they do not wield monopolistic business powers. Partly for this reason, they have retained the support of the large Cebuano business community whose members see in them promotes of the city’s entrepreneurial ethos.” When juxtaposed with the very definition of bossism, it seems impossible to build and entrench a stable political machine with enough clout and political will to pull off a Ceboom, but the main difference lies in technique rather than conventional standards of defining powers. This is matter of ideology, almost a politics of ideology, “an ideology of ‘developmentalism’ and ‘modernity’ with its promise of rational management, bureaucratic efficiency, and technocratic expertise in the design and execution of public projects…these include the Cebu North Recplamation Project, the Mactan International Airport, and the Mandaue-Mactan Bridge.”
Where an image of effective, rational leadership peppered with conservative pragmatism is built, public service becomes an inevitable path towards rapid economic progress.
The third strategy was the establishment of an overarching ideal in the minds of every Cebuano to secure their fiscal independence and that is federalism. The subject itself is largely common knowledge, but Cebu’s history with the call for federalization is more apparent in colloquial than it is in actual academic discussion. So much so that what discussion on the subject is available is limited to that dichotomy built by the Osmeñas “when the inefficacy of the central government, of ‘imperial Manila,’ became a popular lament, Sergio, Jr., and the third-generation Osmeñas appropriated ,” to champion “local autonomy as their own cause.” To spur local initiative, to sway the locus of economic development away from central government towards local government, Imperial Manila was created. As defined by Alex Brillantes, “Most political historians agree that the Philippines had a long tradition of centralized government. Ever since the arrival of the Spaniards in 1521, the Philippine islands have always been ruled from the national capital, Manila, to a point that because of the excessive centralization, it has been derisively referred to as “imperial Manila.”
This dichotomy is what buttressed most if not all of the federalist agendas in pursuing true local autonomy and inevitably stoked the fires that forged the Local Government Code of the Philippines. It is this agenda deeply embedded in the collective consciousness of Cebu that determined its sudden economic boom.
3. On Iloilo
A mirror of the strategies discussed earlier would better serve the purpose of defining and understanding the lessons Iloilo must learn from Ceboom in the pursuit of its own economic rise. To simplify, Iloilo must employ the following strategies: a) Rebrand Iloilo, b) Rethink Ilonggo politics, and finally c) Realize Ilonggo Federalism. The employment of the first two as means for achieving local economic progress have been fairly dealt with in the preceding passages and so merits a simplified treatment here, albeit from an Ilonggo looking glass. The last means, however, is better discussed in the section succeeding this one.
To rebrand Iloilo and Panay is to create a globalized presence. For all intents and purposes Iloilo does not have an international presence as opposed to this country in general. True, culturally speaking, it has been recognized as an artful and colorful tourist destination beyond its borders but this has always been within the context of being seen as a mere Filipino province. It is a patch in the pastiche of the National milieu and will continue to be seen as such. This is not what international presence means. What international presence requires is that we be seen and recognized apart from the country itself, much like New York, Chicago, Milan, Gangnam, and Shibuya are seen as distinct international images rather than just globs in the nebulous identities of their respective countries. The Cebu brand was the repackaging of an entire island by building an image of itself separate from its patrimonial state. It advertised itself as a tourist and investment destination, an island in the Pacific, rather than a mere allotment hungry province in an impoverished country.
To rethink politics, in Iloilo, is less a problem of power than a problem of succession. As Alfred McCoy tells us, “…strong leaders can leave name and money to their children,” but, “they cannot transmit the personal mix of charisma, courage, and cunning that guided their success.” This implies the prevalence of a political machine both inconsistent and unsustainable. A careful measurement of our territory’s accomplishments over the decades manifest a singular truth: our fortunes rise and fall on the backs of our leadership. Unfortunately, our leadership is fragmented and stratified. Much like the bossism that dominated Cavite in the days of Justiniano Montano, our political family’s are skilled at accumulating power but very incompetent where its succession is concerned. Our only saving grace it seems, if any, is that we have rarely been as violent as our Cavite counterparts. Our weaknesses, however, are just as unfortunate.
Rarely do great ideas and long terms plans see fruition in Iloilo and this speaks of a machine that lacks unity and the transfer of ideas. This is a grievous warning, since while much of Iloilo is in rapid development, this might only be temporary. Add to this the fact that our big men are dying. Proof is found in their pursuit of constructing landmarks with their names on it as only the dying focus the last of their energies on monuments.
If we are to sustain development, it is not enough that we should rely on our stalwarts in national government. The Ilonggo must become a staunch Federalist if he is to survive.
4. On Ilonggo Federalism
This is not an argument advocating the creation of an Ilonggo Federal State for not only would this be simplistic but also ill-thought. The reorganization of a country that has been rigidly centralized for decades is a thoroughly complicated affair and any discussion on how best it should be restructured must be left in the hands of expert policy makers. Instead, the assertion is that every Ilonggo, for his own cultural and economic survival, must now be thoroughly federalist in his politics.
A federalist agenda, when plagued with oversimplification, is simply the pursuit of a federalized Philippines. Infecting Ilonggo politics with this mindset is merely a question of persuasion rather than of Jeffersonian ideals. In the end, what matters is that we convince the Ilonggo of the merits of federalization sooner rather than later, because a thoroughly federalist electorate is what creates a federalist republic.
In Bangsamoro, the Devolution Failure, and India-style Federalism: a Case for Asymmetric autonomy and Strategic Reapportionment the author argues that,
The basis for the call for Federalism is simple: the current unitary system has been inefective in providing an environment for economic development and political sophistication. A Spanish colonization legacy of the “Imperial Manila”, the unitary form of government supposedly stifles local initiatives and developmental tendencies. It is argued that too much centralization of resources through taxes did not result into local agricultural and industrial development. Moreover, it has stiled movements for self-determination in Mindanao and in the Cordillera.
In no case is this need to federalize more apparent than in the failure of devolution. As defined in the Local Government Code of the Philippines, devolution “refers to the act by which the national government confers power and authority upon the various local government units to perform specific functions and responsibilities.” Its principle aim in pursuit of the assumption that if regions or provinces are left to govern themselves more and make the central administration rule them less, the more developed they become. Unfortunately, devolution has failed to confirm that assumption. In the same paper referenced earlier, the failures of devolution are summarized:
- The local government code increased the fiscal burden of the government rather than alleviate it;
- Health, nutrition, and population accounted for less than 10% of total local spending. Spending for social securities, services and welfare is slightly less than 2.5%. More were spent for salaries for officials and employees, and in running the offices.
- Devolution failed to improve service delivery.
- Decentralization did not conclusively improve governance.
And the response to the failure of decentralized modalities of governance has been to 1) for the national government, expand central control and/or initiate top-down coordination, and 2) for the local government, engage in bottom-up recentralization. Simply put, the final nail on the coffin has been the steady and creeping reversal of devolution:
These attempts to reverse the devolution process are happening simultaneously with what Prof. Diokno calls as “creeping reverse centralization”. Diokno reported that many devolved hospitals were re-nationalized, with regional and lower level hospitals transferred to LGUs during the early phase of decentralization taken back by the Department of Health. he government also invested heavily in strengthening and expanding a centralized social health insurance – the PhilHealth. his resulted to growth of the budget of the DoH despite a standing policy of devolving healthcare. Moreover, there has also been a push for Inter-local Health Zones (ILHZ) to address the discoordination resulting from devolution of administrative functions to LGUs.
If these failures are allowed ferment, recentralization would become an entrenched inevitability. Ordinarily, this is no cause for alarm, but unfortunately, we do not have the luxury of nineteenth century geopolitical relations to condone our retrogression. As Roldan already explained, globalization induces the contraction of international relations and the decentralization of regional powers. If recent events are to warn us away from recentralization, nowhere else is this warning more apparent than in the advent of ASEAN economic integration, the creation of a regional single market scheme as is provisioned by international agreement. Sadly, we are doing very badly so far. As reported by a Bangko Sentral official, we will have reached only 72% of our integration goals by 2015; this implies a clear failure to compete with the rest of the ASEAN. The economic protectionism enshrined in our constitution cannot protect us from an international agreement. 2015 will either make us or break us.
The only card left waiting be played is the Bangsamoro Precedent:
The Bangsamoro Transition Commission, created by Executive Order 120, is a body authorized to draft the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) for the new Bangsamoro political entity. The members of the Commission shall draft the Bangsamoro Basic Law in conformity with the peace agreements between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). In relation to its task to draft the BBL, the BTC is also mandated to recommend to Congress or the people amendments to the 1987 Philippine Constitution, if it deems such necessary.
The keyword here is amendments, “amendments to the 1987 Philippine Constitution,” and this is an essential constituent of the commission’s framework as the creation of the Basic Law itself calls for not only the dissolution of the ARMM but the creation of a totally new and separate government largely independent from that seated in Manila. This is indicative not only of an already apparent clash with the 1987 constitution but of the current administration’s policy concerning the Bangsamoro question. The implication is quite simple: the current atmosphere for charter change is, at the very least, quite congenial.
Take, for example, the creation of a “ministerial government”:
In the ministerial government, the Bangsamoro Assembly will not only make the laws and policies, but shall also implement them through its cabinet. Both the law-making power and executive powers of government shall be vested in the Bangsamoro Assembly. The Bangsamoro cabinet shall be composed of the Chief Minister, a Deputy Chief Minister, and such other ministers necessary to perform the functions of government. The Chief Minister shall be elected by majority vote from among the members of the assembly and shall exercise executive authority on its behalf. The Chief Minister shall appoint the Deputy Chief Minister from among the elected members of the assembly and the rest of the ministers, majority of whom shall also come from among the members of the assembly.
Ultimately, a Bangsamoro Basic Law, once drafted, begs the question: if the national government is eagerly ready to accommodate the creation of a co-equal government to the extent that amendments to our fundamental law are facilitated, what argument is there to prevent the rest of the country from following suit like dominoes pushed by a minority that refused to compromise with a central government?
Alojado, D. (2010, July 29). THE TWELVE WORST TYPHOONS OF THE PHILIPPINES. Retrieved May 8, 2014, from Typhoon2000.com: http://www.typhoon2000.ph/stormstats/12WorstPhilippineTyphoons.htm
Bangsamoro Transition Commission. (2014, February). A Primer on the Bangsamoro Transition Commission and the Bangsamoro Basic Law. European Union; Centre for Human Dialogue.
Brillantes, A. B., & Moscare, D. (2002). Decentralization and Federalism in the Philippines: Lessons from Global Community. International Conference of the East West Center, (p. 13). Kuala Lumpur.
McCoy, A. W. (1994). “An Anarachy of Families”: The Historiography of State and Family in the Philippines. In A. W. McCoy, An Anarchy of Families: State and Family in the Philippines (pp. 1-32). Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press.
Miraflor, J. M. (2013). Bangsamoro, the Devolution Failure, and India-style Federalism: A Case for Asymmetric Autonomy and Strategic Reapportionment. Institute for Autonomy and Governane Policy Brief , 11.
Mojares, R. B. (1994). The Dream Goes On and On; Three Generations of the Osmenas, 1906-1990. In A. W. McCoy, An Anarchy of Families (pp. 311-346). Quezoon city: Atenedo de Manila University Press.
Remo, A. R. (2014, April 30). Asean integration not happening in 2015. Philippine Daily Inquirer .
Roldan, M. D. (2010, October). Globalization and Glocalization: Experiences in the Local Philippine Context. Retrieved May 8, 2014, from Eaber: http://www.eaber.org/sites/default/files/documents/PIDS_Roldan_2010.pdf
Shades of Ruping. (2012, December 12). Retrieved May 8, 2014, from Inquirer.net: http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/319389/shades-of-ruping
Sidel, J. T. (1999). Capital, Coercion, and Crime: Bossism in the Philippines. Palo Alto, California: Stanford University Press.
Sidel, J. T. (2000). The Last Hurrah revisited. Philippine Politics and Society in the Twentieth Century: Colonial Legacies, Post-Colonial Trajectories , 65-87.
Sidel, J. T. (1998). The Underside of Progress: Land, Labor, and Violence in Two Philippine Growth Zones, 1985-1995. Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars , 3-13.
 Alojado, D. (2010, July 29). THE TWELVE WORST TYPHOONS OF THE PHILIPPINES. Retrieved May 8, 2014, from Typhoon2000.com: http://www.typhoon2000.ph/stormstats/12WorstPhilippineTyphoons.htm
 Shades of Ruping. (2012, December 12). Retrieved May 8, 2014, from Inquirer.net: http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/319389/shades-of-ruping
 Sidel, J. T. (2000). The Last Hurrah revisited. Philippine Politics and Society in the Twentieth Century: Colonial Legacies, Post-Colonial Trajectories , 65-87.
 Sidel, J. T. (1998). The Underside of Progress: Land, Labor, and Violence in Two Philippine Growth Zones, 1985-1995. Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars , 3-13.
 Roldan, M. D. (2010, October). Globalization and Glocalization: Experiences in the Local Philippine Context. Retrieved May 8, 2014, from Eaber: http://www.eaber.org/sites/default/files/documents/PIDS_Roldan_2010.pdf
 Sidel, J. T. (1999). Capital, Coercion, and Crime: Bossism in the Philippines. Palo Alto, California: Stanford University Press.
 Mojares, R. B. (1994). The Dream Goes On and On; Three Generations of the Osmenas, 1906-1990. In A. W. McCoy, An Anarchy of Families (pp. 311-346). Quezoon city: Atenedo de Manila University Press.
 Brillantes, A. B., & Moscare, D. (2002). Decentralization and Federalism in the Philippines: Lessons from Global Community. International Conference of the East West Center, (p. 13). Kuala Lumpur.
 McCoy, A. W. (1994). “An Anarachy of Families”: The Historiography of State and Family in the Philippines. In A. W. McCoy, An Anarchy of Families: State and Family in the Philippines (pp. 1-32). Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press.
 Sidel, J. T. (2000). The Last Hurrah revisited. Philippine Politics and Society in the Twentieth Century: Colonial Legacies, Post-Colonial Trajectories , 65-87
 Miraflor, J. M. (2013). Bangsamoro, the Devolution Failure, and India-style Federalism: A Case for Asymmetric Autonomy and Strategic Reapportionment. Institute for Autonomy and Governane Policy Brief , 11.
 Roldan, M. D. (2010, October). Globalization and Glocalization: Experiences in the Local Philippine Context. Retrieved May 8, 2014, from Eaber: http://www.eaber.org/sites/default/files/documents/PIDS_Roldan_2010.pdf
 Remo, A. R. (2014, April 30). Asean integration not happening in 2015. Philippine Daily Inquirer .
 Bangsamoro Transition Commission. (2014, February). A Primer on the Bangsamoro Transition Commission and the Bangsamoro Basic Law. European Union; Centre for Human Dialogue.