For a week now I have been attending forums about Charter Change. One forum sponsored by the Center for People Empowerment and Governance (CENPEG) was an academic approach to dissect President Rodrigo Duterte and his political party’s proposal for changes to the 1987 Philippine Constitution and their model of a federalist government. Another was the formation of a broad coalition of personalities and organizations against President Duterte’s Charter Change.
In these two forums, there are only few of us Moro individuals who attended and participated in the discussions. This is because most of the Moro leaders, intellectuals and personalities see Charter Change as the only way for the proposals for a Bangsamoro government to materialize. This was articulated by the lone Moro speaker at the CENPEG forum, Prof. Julkipli Wadi of the Institute of Islamic Studies and one of the resource persons for the Bangsamoro Transition Commission who are responsible for crafting proposals for the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).
While most of the Moro people, including Prof. Wadi, hate the idea that the Moro people have been the object of the experiment in governing national minorities for centuries, they also hope that the Philippines under a federal system will be more inclusive of the Moro people. President Duterte’s mantra for charter change has always been about finally finding peace for the Moro people, with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in agreement.
However, as former Bayan Muna Representative and National Union of People’s Lawyer chairperson Neri Colmenares has warned, the three versions for Charter Change being proposed in the Senate and Congress today is not merely a revision from a presidential form of government to federal and parliamentary. It is the worst proposal because it’s not only after term extension for incumbent officials and legislators, it seeks to overhaul provisions that protect our national economy, human rights and civil liberties, social policies and national sovereignty.
Just like the previous charter change proposal under President BS Aquino, Colmenares said that the three proposals (Resolution of Both Houses No. 8, PDP-Laban proposal, and the Draft Constitution proposed by the House of Representatives Committee on Constitutional Changes) seek to open the Philippine economy by allowing 100% foreign ownership and control of land, business and public utilities such as the sources and supply of water and electricity, transportation, schools and mass media.
Several provisions in the 1987 Constitution that seek to protect the rights of the workers, farmers, urban poor, national minorities including Moro and indigenous people were deleted such as security of tenure, agrarian reform, protection from eviction and customary laws on ancestral domains.
On the other hand, more powers were accorded to the President giving him both the executive and legislative power (to a point even judicial) during the transition period and leeways to officials and legislators such as hold-over positions and income tax exemptions.
Colmenares further stated that the power of the people was curtailed when the meaning of national sovereignty was limited to “through suffrage” hence the power of the people to amend the constitution, to change a dictatorial regime is lost.
More contentions to Duterte’s charter change were voiced at the launch of the No to Chacha Coalition on February 13 attended by several personalities involved in the campaign against anti-Marcos dictatorship and Martial Law, then and now, and with presentations from constitutionalists former Chief Justice Hilario Davide and 1986 Constitutional Commission Member Christian Monsod and former lawmakers Rep. Erin Tañada and Colmenares.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not a defender of the 1987 Constitution. Like many Moro people and the rest of the economically and politically marginalized sectors in our country, we hope to have a constitution where the rights of the majority of the people are stipulated and protected instead of the few elites, where the provisions are based on the concrete situation of the majority. It should be a constitution that is in the context of an empowered people to prevent the few elites to use the constitution against them.
At the CENPEG forum, the question that kept on nagging the presenters was the timing of the willingness of the Duterte administration to change the constitution. Prof. Ma. Ela L. Atienza, chair of the Department of Political Science, said that there was no public clamor for it and that there is a need for a long process of deliberation including how to include the outcomes of the peace processes, most specifically the GRP-MILF peace negotiations and to a point even the GRP-NDFP negotiations, to the revisions in the Constitution.
I for one was constantly asking what’s in it for the Moro people knowing that President Duterte has a different view about resolving the conflict in Mindanao. Who would trust a president’s offer of peace having already tasted his peace and order policy which was mostly through extrajudicial killings, flattening of Moro communities such as Marawi through aerial bombardment, arming of Lumad to kill fellow Lumad, threaten to bomb Lumad schools, shoot-to-kill order against members of the New People’s Army (NPA) and “shoot them in the vagina” order against NPA women.
Second, the Duterte government does not give an assurance that the BBL will be passed despite the marathon legislative hearings (the same process under then President BS Aquino III) and the watering down of its “unconstitutional” provisions. Much to the dismay of BBL crafters, legislators that deliberate BBL in the Senate such as Senator Miguel Zubiri, who is a son of a political scion in Bukidnon, to put another condition for the BBL to be passed – that of adding provisions to abolish political dynasties in the provinces to be included in the new Bangsamoro government.
DILG Assistant Secretary and PDP-Laban Federalism Institute Executive Director Jonathan E. Malaya said in the CENPEG forum that it’s good to have two approaches, should the BBL not be passed because of its unconstitutionality then Charter Change will resolve it. A carrot approach to entice the Moro people, especially the supporters of the BBL, to rally behind the President for charter change.
Third, government apparatuses have only perpetuated violence against the Moro people, inequality, and marginalization, as well as impoverishment. Just like the rest of the government structures in the Philippines, the “failed experiment” Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) did not only continue feudal bondage of Moro to Moro warlords in the region and the “imperial Manila,” it also created new warlords and enriched bureaucrats in the guise of reforming the ARMM.
We have representatives in Congress that do not represent the Moro people but are loyal to the President and tow the line of the political party. Heck, even the party list system that should have been reserved for the marginalized belong to the same clans in the Moro provinces and party mates of the contending presidentiables.
Federalism through Duterte’s Charter Change does not guarantee the breaking of the monopoly of wealth and power of the elite in the Philippines and in the provinces. It will only enhance it. We know who in proposed federal states are qualified to form and join political parties, to win the seats in the federal government, to have the monopoly of facilitating the unbridled selling out of Moro natural resources and labor.
Finally, it is most important for the Moro people to ask ourselves – are these the real instruments to achieve our right to self-determination? Just like the rest of the Filipino people, the Moro people’s rights are a product of a long struggle, struggle that is not confined in the halls of Congress and Senate, nor to the whims of a president. Until there conditions for injustice and inequality remain, the struggle of the Moro people should continue. (davaotoday.com)