Duterte gov't to push federalism over BBL

Trishia Billones, ABS-CBN News

Bangsamoro region concept is part of federalism, says Alvarez

MANILA - The Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) will be taking a backseat given presumptive president Rodrigo Duterte's preference for a federal form of government, his candidate for House Speaker said on Thursday.

Incoming Davao del Norte Representative Pantaleon Alvarez said the concept of a Bangsamoro region will be part of the shift to a federal form of government.

"The BBL will be absorbed by the federal form of government, kasi pareho 'yun e. Yung concept ng BBL is the same dun sa federal form of government," said Alvarez Thursday.

Speaking on ANC's Headstart, Alvarez said the current administration took the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) for a ride with the unrealistic promise of passing the BBL as part of the peace process without charter change.

"How can you implement the provisions of the BBL without amending the constitution? You cannot do it because there are provisions in the BBL that [run] contrary to the provisions of the constitution," he said, adding it would have been struck down by the Supreme Court for unconstitutionality.

To rectify this, Alvarez said they will amend the constitution in the 17th Congress "to provide what is inside the agreement of the BBL."

A constituent assembly, he said, seems to be the cheapest way to enact these amendments.

TRIPOLI ACCORD

In the meantime, the full implementation of the Tripoli Agreement would offer the Muslims immediate relief while the shift is being drafted, Alvarez said.

"Yung economic benefit, kasi dun sa budgeting yata, parang di pa rin naibibigay talaga 'yung totoo. We can start with that," he said.

The Tripoli Agreement was an agreement between representatives of the government of the Philippines and representatives of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), with the participation of the Quadripartite Ministerial Commission Members of the Islamic Conference and the Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC), that established "Autonomy in the Southern Philippines within the realm of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of the Philippines."

Duterte, who will be the first Philippine president from Mindanao, campaigned for federalism as the unifying peace framework for the country.

Alvarez said the presumptive president seems to favor a federal- parliamentary model of government, but hasn't specifically assigned the regions to be named as states.

"Di naman pwedeng pabayaan natin yung mahirap na region, gawin mong state. Kailangan yung poorer regions, pwede mo syang ihalo dun sa mayaman na regions para kaya niyang i-subsidize," he said.

INCOME SHARING

In a federal government, he explained, most of the state's income is retained, with only a quarter being remitted to the national government for its upkeep of national defense and foreign affairs.

The current unitary government prescribes all provinces to remit their full income to the National Treasury, and the national government distributes and allocates the budget per province.

"It is the central government that determines the happiness and misery of the regions. In this particular system, dito nanggagaling yung gaya ni Napoles, for instance, kasi napaka-laki ng kaban ng bayan," remarked Alrvarez.

Allaying fears of possible corruption at the state level with the pool of money left at the hands of "inexperienced" governors, Alvarez said this again is an issue of Manilans believing it is only those from the capital who can run a government well.

"Iniisip palagi ng Manila, hindi namin kaya dun. Parang sila lang ang may alam. Hindi naman ganun. In fact, we run our government better than the Manilans do."

The federal government they are pushing for, he said, will give the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao "better chances" as they would have independence in deciding how to use their resources.

This particular mode of government, he added, will encourage competition for investors among states as they adopt and implement their own economic laws.

"For instance, there are states that [have] the potential for lower electricity. So pag ginawa mo yun, mababa yung electricity mo, then meron kang tax benefits, siyempre pupunta dun yung mga investors," he said.

He stressed that it will then be imperative for people to elect good governors and state officials.

As Alvarez and his coalition in the lower house are eyeing the mid-term elections in 2019 as the deadline for the passing of these changes in a plebiscite, and the shift in the form of government would take effect after Duterte's term expires in 2022.

"Transition government na yung remaining three years. So [enforcement will be] by the end of his term; di na siya president noon," said Alvarez.

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