‘Bangsamoro sets the stage for federalism’ — former Iligan mayor  

ILIGAN CITY (MindaNews/30 Nov) — A former mayor here has urged members of the House of Representatives’ Ad Hoc Committee on the Bangsamoro Basic Law to consider the proposed measure “in the larger context of reforming the political system in the country.”

Lawyer Franklin M. Quijano, mayor of Iligan City from 1998 to 2004, told members of the committee Friday that enactment of the Bangsamoro Basic Law will set the stage for serious discussions on how best to reform the country’s political system amid renewed stirrings for greater decentralization of power to the regions and localities.

On Friday, the committee held three simultaneous public hearings in Iligan and Pagadian cities, and Tubod, Lanao del Norte.

Quijano said that the Basic Law, by itself, is already a model for what an autonomy charter for the Cordilleras can be.

Written based on the peace accord between government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the Basic Law principally outlines the sharing of wealth and political power between the central and regional governments.

“That is a very good recipe to address the longing of other regions like Bicol and those in the Visayas to also have greater power to manage their development affairs,” Quijano noted.

“Lacking that dispersion of political and economic power, we continue to see the over-centralization of political and economic opportunities at the national center,” he added.

The 1987 Constitution provides for autonomous regions for the Moro and Cordillera peoples.

In 1989, RA 6734 was passed creating the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), with four provinces comprising the region – Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Sulu and Tawi-tawi.

When RA 9054 was passed in 2001 with the intent of expanding the ARMM following the 1996 Final Peace Agreement between the government and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), Basilan and the city of Marawi voted for inclusion. Lamitan in Basilan became the second city when the town became a city.

The Cordillera Autonomous Region was never set up as only the province of Ifugao voted for its proposed charter. The Supreme Court ruled that an autonomous region should consist of at least two provinces.

“We are setting a precedent with the Basic Law. This set-up, which can be possible only for the Bangsamoro and Cordillera, may also be writ large throughout the country through a federal structure,” Quijano proposed.

Misamis Occidental Rep. Henry S. Oaminal, co-vice-chair of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Bangsamoro Basic Law, welcomed Quijano’s proposal although he noted that on the aspect of reforming the politico-administrative structure of the country towards federalism, this may require an amendment to the Constitution. (Ryan D. Rosauro / MindaNews)