Which should come first? Pass BBL or shift to federalism?
- Naguib Sinarimbo
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Naguib Sinarimbo of the Bangsamoro Study Group is a member of the GPH-MILF Joint Normalization Committee and part of the technical team of the MILF peace panel that negotiated the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro. This commentary first appeared on MindaNews.
With the proposal to shift to federal-parliamentary government gaining traction in the country as a result of the election of Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte as President, the most critical question that needs answer for the Bangsamoro is how do we reconcile this shift with the implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) through the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL)?
Let me proffer a suggestion. The shift to federal-parliamentary would require a constitutional amendment, and given that our constitution is formal and rigid, it will take time and a lot of effort to realize. Note also that the shift is not merely to federal (like the USA where you still have a President) but also to a parliamentary system of government in which case, the office of the President will be removed and replaced with that of a Prime Minister.
I am sure, that even if the President-elect, on several occasions, said he is not interested in keeping the Presidency, he would still have to fulfill the promises he has made to his people. And that takes time. My bet therefore, is that he would not want to lose the Presidency in the next three years and therefore he would not quickly shift to federal-parliamentary.
The most critical issue for the Bangsamoro therefore is sequence. Which should come first, the implementation of the CAB thru the passage of the BBL or the shift to federal-parliamentary?
There are those who hold the view that the shift to federal-parliamentary would ultimately lead to the implementation of the CAB with the creation of a Bangsamoro state.
I also dream of that but given that the shift to federal-parliamentary would take time, it is logical that we should push for the passage of the BBL within the next two years so that we can use this as the template (and I heard the President-elect say this in Darapanan and Cotabato City Plaza) for the federal-parliamentary project for the whole country.
What is at the heart of a federal set up is the State List and the Federal List which is the Power/Wealth Sharing Arrangement between the Federal Government and the State Government.
The CAB perfectly captures this arrangement in its Power Sharing and the Wealth Sharing Annexes.
We should also expect a more favorable tendency among lawmakers to vest more power to the Bangsamoro government (proxy for state government) as against the central government, because in the end their respective territories would later enjoy the same powers and privileges. Besides, the experience we will gain in running the Bangsamoro Government under this set up will present valuable lessons for the whole country which can inform the shift towards a federal-parliamentary system in the last two years of a Duterte Presidency.
These are indeed interesting times, and I hope, not in the sense of that old Chinese curse.
What is important for the Bangsmoro is to be conscious and clear in its advocacy. After all, we have not ceased to be Moro nationalists and advocates even if our Mindanawon candidate has become the presumptive President.