President Arroyo has been quoted as saying, in a state luncheon she hosted yesterday for visiting Swiss President Pascal Couchepin:
We advocate federalism as a way to ensure long-lasting peace in Mindanao.
We thank the Swiss government not only for the values of freedom and civil rights that are enshrined in its culture but also for its willingness to share in its experience of federalism through the institute of federalism located in Fribourg in Switzerland which has been helping us do our studies on this form of government.
Odd. I’ve never heard GMA champion federalism before the current brouhaha over the memorandum of agreement which would have created a Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE). Neither was I aware that formal studies are being made by the government on federalism as an alternative to the republic. Now she’s suddenly thanking the Swiss for something other than Toblerone and looking after her bank accounts.
Press Secretary Jesus Dureza later clarified the President’s statements and explained that a federal state could only be achieved by amending the Constitution. He said the shift to a federalism in Mindanao is a “legacy she wants (to leave behind).”
So all this talk of federalism is really a push for charter change.
Offhand, I could think of any number of reasons why MalacaÃ±ang’s most recent initiative would, or should, fail, if we have any common sense at all as a people.
First and foremost, Arroyo is not the most credible person to shepherd this radical change in government. She’s no more a federalist than I’m a manicurist. Public suspicion of her hidden agenda is widespread, with good reason. She is loath to relinquish her position, and an amendment to the constitution is the only way she can hold on to power short of declaring martial law. The public outcry would be deafening. And possibly violent.
Furthermore, it has not been made clear what Arroyo and her cohorts mean by federalism. From her statements, and that of Dureza, they seem to advocate a form of selective federalism only for “other areas” in Mindanao. And the “building blocks” would be to “move toward amending portions of the charter to implement or carry out the terms of the MOA”.
Such a set-up would be inherently unworkable. There cannot be a de facto federal state in one area of the country and a republic governing the others. This would create an environment for “the perfect storm”, and lead to armed conflict the likes of which can presently be seen in the Caucasus.
Moreover, an effective federal government would require from its constituent states an adherence to, or at least respect for, a national Constitution. The MILF would have none of that. It has openly expressed its disdain for constitutionally-mandated institutions and brushed aside the controversy over the MOA as an “internal matter” for the Philippine government to resolve. From its overt acts, it would clearly consider the Bangsamoro homeland as constituted by the BJE as separate and distinct from the rest of the country. An independent state, in fact.
We are divided now as a nation. How much more disunity will a sudden and precipitate shift to federalism bring about ?
In the meantime, while we debate the pros and cons of Arroyo’s half-baked proposals for federalism, the hostilities in the south continue to escalate and spread.
All systems go for charter change, according to Malacanang.
Winnie Monsod explains why the federalism espoused by Arroyo does not make sense.