Here's the introduction to the book "Federalism and Cha-Cha for Peace: Critical Papers on Federalism and Charter Change for the Mindanao Peace Process" launched during the Global Autonomy, Governance & Federalism Forum in Makati City on October 20, 2016.
The administration of President Duterte is committed to do what no other Philippine Presidents have succeeded: change the country’s constitution and shift our political system to federal-parliamentary in order to end the long-standing conflict in Mindanao. President Duterte believes that under a federal system, the Moro people can finally exercise their right to self-determination with their own Moro federal state. Federalism will finally address the historical injustices committed against the Moro people.
Moro leaders have mixed reactions to the federalism agenda of the first Mindanawon President. With excitement and optimism is a growing anxiety among the Moro people on whether the framework, process and structures of the emerging federal system will indeed result in the establishment of a Moro state consistent with their system of life and culture and bring about economic growth in the region. The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is concerned about the fate of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), the implementing legislation of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) that it forged with the Aquino administration, which failed to have the BBL approved by Congress. The MILF is anxious that the CAB and the BBL will fall on wayside of the road towards federalism.
On the other hand, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) that is demanding for the full implementation of its own peace accord with the Philippine government is supporting the federalism agenda. The MNLF positively receives the one Mindanao advocacy of President-elect Duterte as consistent with its vision of a greater Bangsamoro covering most parts of Mindanao.
There is an emerging movement in the Bangsamoro for the conduct of an inclusive process among key stakeholders towards a common position of the Moro people in the national federalism debate. The Duterte administration will most likely encourage this to insure that its bold move to change the charter for Mindanao peace will result in a comprehensive peace with broad stakeholders’ support.
On the national front, there is greater anticipation that the federalism agenda of the incoming President will gain traction after he successfully built a majority coalition supportive of his agenda in the House of Representatives and the Senate. Yet, considering the country’s long (and only) tradition of the unitary system of government, the awareness of leaders and citizens of federalism and its complexities is very low. In the emerging national debates, the motivation for going federal thus far is ambiguous and the details and the roadmap for achieving it remain unclear. In this uncertain and uninformed environment, the potential is great that the agenda for Mindanao peace as a primary driver for federalism will be lost on policymakers and the national constituency in this march towards federalism. It is therefore imperative that the Bangsamoro and Mindanao agenda for peace must be positioned strategically in the national debate on federalism.
The compilation of papers in this book by Judge Soliman Santos, Dean Benedicto Bacani, Atty. Ishak Mastura and Dr. Ron May, will hopefully help shed light on the issue of autonomy and federalism as effective means to address the root causes of the Mindanao conflict. IAG, thru this publication, renews its commitment to be in the forefront in shaping the regional and national discourse on autonomy and federalism that will bring about a strong, peaceful and prosperous Mindanao and the Philippines.
Dean Benedicto Bacani
Executive Director, IAG