CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/12 December) — Had Mindanaon leaders, especially the long-time power-holders and alternating incumbents, taken the state policy of autonomy seriously—or at least since 1991 when the Local Government Code (R.A. 7160) was adopted—everyone today would have got familiarized, more or less, with the federal system of government.
Federalism as a concept is merely a more advanced version of autonomy or self-governance. Moreover, the parliamentary form—which the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) calls a ministerial form of government—is similar to what the Local Government Code prescribes for barangay governance.
Although both concepts (federal, parliamentary) continue to sound new, exotic, or strange to a lot of people today, in fact we’ve had them on the books for quite a while.
But thanks to non-performing and defaulting officials, the processes that characterize these concepts remain obscure or unknown to their constituents; thus, very few people can relate to the move towards a federal-parliamentary system to replace the present unitary-presidential form.
The “Mindanao Leaders’ Summit” in Davao City last December 1st hardly made waves because of this lack of familiarity with the federal-parliamentary form of government, which is a pity because the present system is already so hopelessly corrupt.
Meanwhile, the fact that the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) more or less exemplifies the federal arrangement, is not catching on outside Moroland.
The problem is, although it’s been on the table for decades already, so few can expound on the proposal with authority. Among them is Cagayan de Oro’s Atty. Reuben R. Canoy, who is arguably the most articulate and consistent advocate of federalism.
Canoy is a credible advocate of federalism, no less for his disinterest in political dominance or power aggrandizement than for the fact that the motives of the federal movement’s vociferous leaders are suspect; they stand to benefit most from the shift, just like the talking heads on the MILF side of the peace talks.
Quite a few of these ringleaders are still very much in power, with no signs of flagging interest in hanging on to power politics, especially the dynastic variety; think for instance of the dynastic brand of politics exemplified by Davao’s Mayor Rodrigo Duterte and Bukidnon’s Governor Jose Zubiri.
A shift to the federal system now will certainly prolong their dominion and more firmly secure their dynasty’s never-ending reign.
In fact, it didn’t go over very well that the so-called Summit on Federalism two weeks ago turned out to be a show of force staged by the “Duterte for President Movement.” Not a nice thing to do if you’re hosting the occasion, por delicadeza.
Furthermore, it didn’t help that the program concluded with a rambling monologue by the hometown favorite, which Digong liberally spiced with expletives of the vulgar variety. Not nice coming from the lips of a would-be statesman who might be called upon to embark on diplomatic missions and speak before dignified bodies like the United Nations or the Asia-Pacific Forum.
Thus it was no surprise that as the thin crowd attending the “Summit of Leaders” dispersed, one participant remarked how it was “more of the same traditional politics after all… since obviously the people will continue to be stranded high and dry, just spectators, under a federal system dominated by the same figures.”
Manny is former UNESCO regional director for Asia-Pacific; secretary-general, Southeast Asia Publishers Association; director, development academy of Philippines; member, Philippine Mission to the UN; vice chair, Local Government Academy; member, Cory Govt’s Peace Panel; awardee, PPI-UNICEF outstanding columnist. He is president/national convenor, Gising Barangay Movement Inc. firstname.lastname@example.org