Interrogating the Centralization-Decentralization Tension in the Philippines in the Midst of the COVID-19 Pandemic
25 Pages Posted: 2 Nov 2020 Last revised: 20 Nov 2020
Date Written: October 30, 2020
The Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has managed to expose the longstanding inadequacies and the fragmented states of government and socio-economic institutions worldwide. COVID-19 is an indiscriminating threat. Thus, for both developed and developing countries, the pandemic, and the challenges it surfaced, meant a protracted test of resilience for governments and the existing world order. For the Philippines, the COVID-19 health crisis has managed to exacerbate the deep-rooted societal issues of inequality, corruption, and injustice. Yet, it also seems that the pandemic has somehow managed to trigger both public officials and Filipino citizens to question and to think more deeply about the capabilities and the readiness of a highly centralized bureaucracy to shift to a federal or more decentralized form of government.
This unease is heightened even further in the face of the current administration operating within an almost absolutely centralized and uniform policy and governance framework during this pandemic as prescribed by the “Bayanihan to Heal as One Act of 2020.” This law essentially enabled the President to have almost absolute control over all government machinery and more. More importantly though, the handling of the crisis also uncovered signs of disconnect across the different levels of the Philippine government, especially as tensions between local government units and the national government unfold.
As such, this paper will attempt to describe these centralization-decentralization tensions and provide an explanation of its sources to understand and assess the current decentralization context of the Philippines using the government’s COVID-19 crisis response as the frame of reference. Overall, using the case of the Philippines, the analysis will explore possible policy recommendations that can assist the government in navigating or finding a balance between the policy intricacies and implications presented by centralization and decentralization in government. More importantly, the analysis also hopes to contribute to the ongoing discourse on decentralization and federalism especially in the case of the Philippines.
Keywords: maximum eecentralization, COVID-19 pandemic, overcentralization, intergovernmental relations
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation