Switching governance to a federalist structure is difficult but necessary
FROM A DISTANCE - Carmen N. Pedrosa (The Philippine Star) - December 8, 2018 - 12:00am

I do not think that the proponents of federalism think that the reorganization of our nation state and the constitution that governs it is an easy task.

A group of Filipinos headed by former Speaker Jose de Venecia and then Senator Aquilino Pimentel went to Belgium to listen and find out more about federalism in many countries. Every country had its own reason on why and how they could successfully federalize. It is difficult but necessary to achieve better governance in time.

It depends on the problems of the country. For some, it was ethnic, for others different religions and still for others economic and political. There was the desire for a more equal share of finance and government policy between the central government and districts. It is my opinion that federalism evolves and cannot just be declared.

It is good that former Prime Minister Cesar Virata and MILF Chair Murad Ibrahim met to share their insights on a Bangsamoro government transition.

They met in a historic meeting last Nov. 22 through the auspices of Philippine Center for Islam and Democracy. They discussed about the parliamentary system of government and future plans for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao (BARMM). Virata shared his experiences on organizing the Batasang Pambansa (Parliament) and developing effective policies for fiscal, land, agriculture, civil service, and infrastructure.

This is the first meeting between the two leaders, as Chair Murad prepares for the plebiscite to establish the BARMM.

Cesar Virata served as prime minister from 1981 to 1986 and recognized internationally as one of the best finance ministers in Asia. They were joined by highly respected business and government leaders namely Jaime C. Laya (first secretary of the Department of Budget and Management and the 5th Central Bank governor), Margarito B. Teves (former Finance secretary), Jose P. Leviste (former deputy minister of Trade and Industry and secretary general of the prime minister), Senen Bacani (former Agriculture secretary and a member of the government peace panel), Corazon Alma de Leon (former chair of the Civil Service Commission and former chair of the Career Executive Service Board), and Amina Rasul-Bernardo (president of the Philippine Center for Islam and Democracy or PCID) and a cabinet member of former president Fidel V. Ramos).

Accompanying Chair Ebrahim were several key figures of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front namely Mohammad Yacob (executive director of the Bangsamoro Development Agency), Mohammad Ameen (chief, secretariat of the MILF Central Committee), Sammy Al-Mansoor (chief of staff of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) – MILF), and Said Salendab (Hayatul Ulama Secretary General).

In a column I wrote three years ago, I said it will be difficult to get off while riding the tiger’s back. It is happening now despite the many Filipinos who agree that it is time to restructure our system of government. PRRD was elected to help us achieve this diffiuclt task.

At the same time that we deplore the tragedy in Mamasapano, we must not lose sight on how we can achieve peace and find a solution to the Mindanao problem.

Norodin Alonto Lucman, a moderate who fought the Marcos dictatorship with Christian freedom fighters writes of his fears on a collision course between the Bangsamoro people and the people of Luzon. This must never happen. I share his fears as this indeed can happen in a hostile atmosphere generated by a misunderstanding of the real problem on hand. The Muslims and Christians can live together peacefully and it does not matter whether you are from Luzon or Mindanao. The Philippines is one country and all of us people it.

I cannot forget what another Muslim scholar Jamal Ashley Abbas told me once “the only way to solve the problem is when all of us Filipinos come together as one, bound as we are by our colonial struggle in the past that gave rise to present difficulties.”

As my friend, Dr. Michael Mastura said the US has an obligation to resolve the Moro question because it was responsible for creating the mess in the first place. He blames it for incorporating Moroland, an independent entity as part of the Philippines.

I am against the BBL or MILF’s substate proposal awaiting the approval of Congress because it is unconstitutional. I think the term is unfortunate. As I have said many times in this column there is a difference between cultivating autonomy on a federalist principle and creating federal states. There are various ways of applying the principle toward achieving a federated structure. It will take time, years, even decades. It should start with changing the anti-people 1987 Constitution to convert to a parliamentary federal government. But since this change  is being resisted by Congress primarily the Senate how is it going to be started?

Datu Jamal Ashley Yahya Abbas in a paper wrote on “GRP-MILF as quests for identity.” He writes that it is a mistake to look at the problem as if it were about the Muslims alone. His perspective for a solution includes non-Muslims, more so of Christians, colonized then and now.

It is still true today so the meeting between Virata and Murad is a step forward in resolving differences between Muslims and Christians on how to solve the Mindanao problem.

Inquiries for this joint effort can be directed to Amina Rasul, president of the PCID, Ricky Rivera by email ricky.rivera888@yahoo.com and Hannah Manaligod, research officer, tel. no. 4265866 Tel/Fax: 4269972.

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