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Federalism and BBL

By Johnny Dayang

Recently, in what was billed as the Muslim tour de force to stress their rightful demand to be heard by the government, thousands of Moros joined the Bangsamoro Assembly in Sultan Kudarat, South Cotabato.

Attended by President Rodrigo Duterte himself, the gathering highlighted the urgency to push Malacanang’s Federalism agenda to finally drive home the aspiration of Muslim Mindanao to have a firm, decisive, and legal grip of its future.

Of course, there are numerous schools of thoughts on how Federalism must be pursued and implemented if approved.

After having been exposed to decades of Republicanism and its faults, the advocacy for a new political setup has drawn generous support from various sectors but, as always, passing it in Congress hinges on the lawmakers.

While there is common perception that the President has strong influence over how the House will vote when the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) reaches the plenary, there is also a palpable resistance in the same chamber, mostly coming from the regions outside Mindanao.

The reluctance of many legislators to support the Muslim cause under a federal setup is almost always blamed on the restrictions in the 1987 Constitution. While the charter explicitly mandates the creation of the ARMM, ‘legal experts’ have always raised their own interpretations on how the BBL should be discussed, argued, and adopted.

The enactment of the BBL is expected to open positive opportunities for Muslims to finally have their solid place under the sun. If there are unfounded suspicions the creation of a Bangsamoro nation will turn Mindanao into an independent, that agenda has been effectively clarified by President Duterte in his message.

Putting into context the Federalism and BBL issue, the President summed it up, thus: “One republic. No condition.

Government must be the sole authority, and we desire it. You’ll have elected leaders. Whether you like it or not you must have representatives in Congress.”

The uprightness of the Moros’ demand for self-rule within a single territory should not be a subject of debate. Instead, the Filipinos must see the wisdom and true picture of the Mindanao struggle, which was what the recent Bangsamoro Assembly tried to convey.

Contentious as it may seem, the BBL is not just about Moros, but also about Christians and indigenous peoples (IPs) who consider Mindanao their permanent home.