December 12, 2017, 9:10 am
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Federalism

Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez has all but convinced Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III to convene the Congress of the Philippines into a constituent assembly in January to amend the Constitution and ensure that the Duterte administration’s vision for federalism in the Philippines would see the light of day.

The Speaker’s suggestion is motivated by his expectations that the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) which gives the Muslims of Mindanao some sort of a sub-state, not just autonomy, will pass both the House of Representatives and the Senate soon. 

If the Moro region will be governed just as it would under a federal Philippines, then we might as well drop the unitary, republican government that we have now and embrace federalism -- so goes the Speaker’s argument.

This development comes on the heels of President Duterte’s visit to Jolo to reaffirm his commitment to the Muslims that the BBL will pass the Congress, it being his priority bill.

This proposed law, the President said, is inclusive and will encompass all that is good for the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, its prime proponent, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), and the native lumads of Mindanao. 

A President of all Filipinos without regard to differences in their faith, Duterte also said that predominantly Christian areas such as Zamboanga City and Davao City may not join the Bangsamoro entity if they do not want to. This means the plebiscite during which voters will signify their acceptance or rejection of the Bangsamoro homeland and system of governance will be respected. The plebiscite will remain a constitutional process under the Republic, and thus Philippine sovereignty over the Bangsamoro region is supreme.

The President’s latest pronouncement, made thru spokesman Harry Roque, is reassuring for the lumads and the Christians who definitely will be affected by a government setup with clearly theocratic fundamentals. What if the future Bangsamoro entity swings right and adopts Sharia as the law inside its territory?

“It will still undergo a plebiscite. Faith is not an issue here. Even if an area is predominantly Muslim and they won’t join, nothing can be done about it,” Gov. Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao said. While this is true, it is no less reassuring than what the President said.

Meanwhile, the idea of vigorously pushing for federalism for the whole country only because the Muslims in Mindanao would be allowed to experiment with self-rule, is to say the least, adventurous.

Even the proposed conversion of Congress into a constituent assembly to amend the Constitution -- a process allowed in the 1935 Constitution but not even mentioned in the present 1987 Charter -- is open to question.

We feel that the BBL and federalism should undergo more discussions on a nationwide scale before our lawmakers put these very important issues to a vote.
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