Press Release
February 18, 2010


Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr. today urged the Arroyo government to study and consider the proposal of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front for a federal system to supplant the autonomy set-up in Muslim Mindanao instead of reacting to it with disfavor.

Pimentel expressed dismay that Malacañang's negative response to the federalism scheme has prompted the MILF negotiating panel, chaired by Mohaquer Iqbal, to call off the scheduled resumption of peace talks in Kuala Lumpur this month.

The Palace, speaking through Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, said it could not agree to the MILF proposal for the creation of a federal state in Muslim Mindanao because it would need an amendment to the Constitution.

Pimentel said what the Arroyo government should do is to consult Congress on the MILF proposal because this is a task that the executive branch cannot do alone. He also stressed that the adoption of a federal system should be viewed as a long-term goal which will take years to translate into reality.

"If they have taken that position, then the peace talks will still be on track. But with their refusal to consider the proposal, this has angered MILF," he said.

Pimentel warned Malacañang not to commit the mistake of disregarding Congress in the peace negotiation particularly in determining the contents of the peace accord.

He recalled that the Senate was kept in the dark when the Arroyo government signed a memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain with the MILF in August, 2008 which was later declared null and void by the Supreme Court for being unconstitutional.

The senator from Mindanao said that both sides should pursue the peace talks even if President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo does not get her wish to conclude a final peace agreement before she steps down on June 30 due to lack of time.

"The thing is President Arroyo apparently wants to leave some kind of a legacy that she was able to secure the peace in Mindanao that had evaded past administrations. It would be a historic accomplishment if she could do that. As events turned out, the talks have stalemated for sometime now and have in fact stopped," Pimentel said.

"And so the events I think will now dictate that necessarily the peace talks will have to be resumed when there is a new administration."

Pimentel said he welcomes the MILF's proposal for a federal system of which he is the leading proponent in Congress.

"I think that it is within my advocacy for the adoption of a federal system of government not only for the Moros of Mindanao but also for the entire country," he said.

Realistically, he said a federal state in Muslim Mindanao should be established as part of a federalized Philippine republic.

"If you give only the autonomous region in Muslim Mindanao a federal state, I am sure the rest of the country will be complaining. I have heard it from the league of provincial governors with whom I have discussed this issue. They said it would be unfair if only they (the Moros of Mindanao) will be granted more rights, including the right to exploit and utilize a huge portion of the country's resources," Pimentel explained.

"In order to make sure that the rest of the country is not unduly upset by the creation of a federal state in the ARMM, my proposal is to federalize the entire republic as I have said time and again."

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