Autonomous regions, federalism: VP bets tackle Mindanao peace


MANILA - How do you solve a 40-year armed struggle which has taken over 150,000 lives and tallied more than P700 billion in economic loss?

Vice presidential candidates on Sunday presented different paths to achieve lasting peace in conflict-wracked Mindanao during the #PiliPinas Debates at the University of Santo Tomas Sunday.

Senators Antonio Trillanes IV and Ferdinand Bongbong Marcos, Jr. insisted that negotiating peace with rebels is the key to progress, and not all-out war.

They clarified, however, that the present form of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), which resulted from government negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), would not suffice.

Saying that the current draft BBL has unconstitutional provisions, Trillanes instead proposed the creation of two autonomous regions in the south: one for Central Mindanao and another for Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi.

"Historically and culturally, magkakaibang grupo iyan sila. Hindi natin pwedeng pag-isahin. Isa iyan sa mga major flaws ng policy makers natin na itinutulak silang pag-isahin pero talagang hiwalay sila," he reasoned.

Marcos also slammed the draft BBL, saying that it stemmed from negotiations which did not include the views of women, local government units, sultans, Christians and other militant groups.

"Lahat po ng sektor ay kailangan nakakaunawa dito sa ating ginagawa dito sa proseso ng kapayapaan," he stressed.

Marcos said he has filed an alternative BBL that also accounts for these "neglected" sectors.


Meanwhile, Senators Alan Peter Cayetano, Gregorio Honasan II and Francis Escudero tackled the issue of peace from a social viewpoint, giving propositions which identify poverty and poor basic services as the root of the Moro wars.

Cayetano noted that 13 of the country's poorest provinces are in Mindanao. He added that despite this, Metro Manila alone receives one-third of the national budget.

Echoing the sentiments of his running mate, Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, Cayetano said: "Nothing short of federalism will solve the problem in Mindanao."

Cayetano advocated for the "political will, the leadership for a federal government -- or at the very least, equal opportunity for Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao."

Honasan, meanwhile, said that good governance is the first steps to curb insurgency.

"Address the root causes: social injustice, poverty, hunger, ignorance, homelessness, health," he said.

"We must commit ourselves to the fundamentals of the peace process and we must recognize the right to life, basic services, food, clothing, shelter, health services," he said.

Escudero also agreed that poverty and widespread hunger drive many Mindanaoans to arms.

If elected, he and running mate, Senator Grace Poe, will allocate one-third of the national budget to Mindanao.