Press Release
August 15, 2008

There is something deeper in 'cha-cha,' says Loren

"It's a case of putting the cart before the horse."

This, in a nutshell, was how Senator Loren Legarda described the administration's latest move to resurrect the charter change initiatives, purportedly to achieve lasting peace in Mindanao.

"If they know that charter change is needed to pave the way for federalism and for Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE), they should have just directly batted for charter change," Legarda said.

Instead, Legarda said, the government hazily entered into a compromise agreement with the MILF through the memorandum agreement (MOA) without much consultation and without any explanation whatsoever.

She scored the deceit seemingly employed by the government, citing a number of promises it made to the MILF like the MOA is a "done deal" when in fact it needs congress approval, an enabling law and constituent assembly and finally the approval of the people through a plebiscite in 12 months.

"The government should have told the MILF that these are the things needed before any of the ancestral domains get going.":

The fact that the government did not inform the MILF about the intricacies of the MOA could only mean that the government has agenda other than its alleged concern to put an end to the more-than four decades of conflict in Mindanao, Legarda said.

"One need not be a lawyer just to know that there is really something wrong in the way the government puts its plan in action, and here the people's suspicion is that the government is moving high heavens to force charter change," Legarda said.

President Arroyo has divulged a plan to revive the charter change which had been torpedoed by the Supreme Court two years ago.

The revival, the president said, would pave the way for federalism - a move viewed by many as a smokescreen of Malacañang's ulterior motive.

Lawmakers close to the administration have floated the possibility of prolonging the term of the president but Malacañang denied it was the real purpose.

Legarda said that under federalism, other islands would try to break away once absolute autonomy is granted to Mindanao.

"What will happen next is that, when similar moves are encountered in the near future, then incumbent officials would now say 'there is a need for caretaker, and that we need to extend the term, something like that," Legarda commented.

"It's not farther than we think that our way of leadership and as a people would be put in serious question in the future, simply because we could not seem to know how to govern ourselves. In the end, I don't believe Malacañang's move is to empower our Muslim brothers," she said.

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