GINGOOG City, May 30, 2011â€”Members of the House Committee on Constitutional Amendments have agreed that the federal form of government is ripe for implementation in the country and is the needed vehicle for the long-term solution to the so-called Mindanao conflict.
â€œA shift to the federal form of government is the answer to the issue of autonomy raised by our Muslim brothers and sisters in Mindanao. But we can only implement this through Charter Change, which is the long-term solution to the peace problem in Mindanao,â€ Committee chairperson Rep. Loreto Leo Ocampos (2nd District, Misamis Occidental, LP) told this reporter after the Information Campaign and Public Consultation on Constitutional Change at the Mindanao University of Science and Technology (MUST) last May 27.
Ocampos said that while he is not undermining the efforts of the Executive Department, through the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPPAP) in initiating peace through peaceful negotiations, this kind of solution to the Mindanao conflict is â€œshort term.â€
â€œWhat is needed is a long-term solution to the conflict and that can only be done by amending the Constitution,â€ he added.
Committee member Rep. Rufus Rodriguez (2nd District, CDO, PMP), said that federalism is the answer to the Bangsamoroâ€™s demand for autonomy.
Rodriguez explained that under a federal system, each administrative region will have political and economic autonomy, which address the issue on self-determination.
Former Committee chairperson and former Cagayan de Oro City Mayor Constantino Jaraula pointed out that 70 percent of the countries of the world are now federal.
â€œIf we want peace and development, it is imperative that we must change,â€ he stressed.
Paul Richard Abejuela Paraguya, executive director of the Balay Mindanaw Foundation, Inc. (BMFI) and a leader of the Lihok Pideral Mindanaw movement said that federalism is â€œthe solution to peace and the recurrent Moro armed uprisings against the government.â€
â€œThe federal system will achieve the purpose by providing the Moros with a federal state of their own, which we may call the Bangsamoro federal state. Within the Bangsamoro federal state, the Moros may preserve, develop and promote their â€˜differentnessâ€™ as a people or culture, if you will, in the context of the countryâ€™s Federal Constitution. Such avenue will also be made available to the Lumads of the country that has the inclination to preserve their customs and traditions through incorporating them into the state constitutions that will be formulated of the federal states that will be created,â€ Lihok Pideral said in its position paper presented to the Committee during Fridayâ€™s public consultation.
Citing the writings of Professor Jose Abueva, Paraguya said that â€œfederalism is the best option for the Filipinos because (1) it will accord equal stature and treatment to the needs of all parts of the country regardless of their ethnic, religious, linguistic or geographical condition; (2) it will reduce pressure for separatism; (3) it will serve as an equalizing factor by promoting a more balanced socio-economic and political development attuned to the needs of the regions; (4) it will bring governments closer to the people; and (5) it will enhance national integration and unity.
â€œ[Also], it will hasten the economic development of the country by allocating power heretofore concentrated in the central government to the regions that will now be converted into federal states. With power in their hands, the federal states may now mobilize their resources for development without being hindered or controlled by the central government,â€ he added.
The Coalition for a Citizensâ€™ Constitution (C4CC), a network of non-government organizations (NGOs) and NGO networks that are united in advocating for a structural reform in government through changes in the Constitution, also pushed for a shift to federalism.
But C4CC, which counts as partners the BMFI, Eastern Visayas Network of NGOs & POs (EvNet), Coalition for Bicol Development (CBD), Cordillera Network of Development (CordNet), Kaabag sa Sugbo, Western Visayas Network of Social Development NGOs (WEVNet), Mindanao Coalition of Development NGO Networks (MinCODE) and Caucus of Development NGO Networks (CODE-NGO), said it preferred assymetrical federalism or gradual shift instead of a blanket imposition of a federal system.
Thus, in amending the Constitution, a mechanism that allows certain regions that are ready and willing to become a state must be provided for.
â€œThis process will allow for an â€˜organicâ€™ approach to the adoption, and will ensure that the necessary precondition for establishing a federal system is in place before the formal shift,â€ it explained. (Bong D. Fabe)