By Jigger Jerusalem
CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY -– A group engaged in peace-building and social justice initiatives in Mindanao has reiterated its support for a federal form of government amid renewed efforts by lawmakers to amend the 1987 Constitution for a shift from the current unitary system.
In a statement posted on Facebook—a repost of its original stand in 2018—Balay Mindanao Foundation Inc. (BMFI) said it remains open to “principled, frank and constructive dialogue and collaboration with Federalism advocates and movements.”
However, BMFI warned that any Constitutional amendment to shift to a federal system should not be exploited by political leaders for their own gains.
“We continue to believe and hope that a shift to Federalism can indeed provide a structural and systemic opportunity for the Mindanaoans and Filipinos, in general, to confront and correct the unjust skewed relationship between the center and the periphery, the rich and the poor, the powerful and the powerless,” the group said Tuesday.
BMFI said a decentralized government can “create and offer more spaces for the peoples and communities to empower themselves politically, economically and culturally.”
In previous statements, 2nd District Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, chairman of the constitutional amendments, has expressed optimism that the proposed Constitutional amendments would be passed by both Houses of Congress within the year.
One of the proposals was for the creation of nine federated regions, with three senators to be elected per region.
Aside from the shift to federalism, other proposed amendments include the lifting of the economic provisions limiting the foreign ownership of corporations, the tandem voting for President and Vice President, and the extension of terms of elected officials from three to five years.
For BMFI, however, a Constituent Assembly (Con-Ass) was not an ideal method to change the Constitution.
“It [Con-Ass] denies genuine people’s participation. It is vulnerable to manipulation and exploitation by vested interest groups, especially by traditional politicians,” it added.
The group was also alarmed by the most prominent proposals as both promote consolidation of powers into a strong president, which it says may open the doors to the rise of another dictatorship.
BMFI is apprehensive over the proposed transitory provisions that suggest, among others, the postponement of elections and term extension of the current elected officials.
“We call for more spaces allowing genuine dialogue and maximum participation of peoples and communities in the constitution writing and state-building,” it said, adding that the promise of subsidiarity, solidarity and democracy under a federal setup is best attained and nurtured through and by democratic processes. (PNA)