Press Release
January 29, 2018

Statement of Akbayan Senator Risa Hontiveros

We cannot allow the protracted debates on charter change to hold hostage our long overdue commitment to our Moro brothers and sisters. The process of changing the constitution has not even started yet. In fact, Congress is still debating on whether to vote jointly or separately and what specific provisions of the constitution need amending. Then there will be tedious deliberations and a national plebiscite. Our Moro brothers and sisters have waited long enough for the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL). It is our surest path to peace.

President Rodrigo Duterte cannot use the charter change/federalism process to replace the BBL process because it will result in a situation in which the creation of a Bangsamoro state would effectively be decided by the people of Luzon and the Visayas, instead of the people of Bangsamoro. This would not cure the historical and continuing injustices committed against the Moro people and would not be reflective of the gains of the peace process. This would also defeat the Moro people's rights as a distinct people to freely determine their political status and realize their economic, social and cultural development. Charter change would subject the Moro question into a national plebiscite instead of a plebiscite among the Bangsamoro. This would be fundamentally unjust.

The creation of the Bangsamoro is incompatible with the provisions of Duterte's proposed federal model. For instance, the Bangsamoro parliament is designed after the sultanate model, taking into account the cultural particularities of the Bangsamoro people. I am worried that this would be diluted in President Duterte's federal model which contemplates a devolution of powers that is blind to the distinct culture and history of the Bangsamoro.

Ultimately I fear that Duterte's version of federalism, which his allies plan to achieve through an undemocratic and Senate-less constituent assembly and subsequently, reward themselves with term limit extentions, might be used a monkey wrench to defeat the Moro people's legitimate aspiration for self-determination as embodied in the BBL.

Federalism is a call born of the need to redistribute political power and disperse economic development to other regions in the country. I support a federal set-up where accountabilities are clear and decentralized, and, government institutions are made more accessible and brought closer to citizens. President Duterte's fake federalism is the opposite of this. It will only concentrate power to himself, extend the term limits of his political allies and hold hostage the aspirations of the Bangsamoro people.

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