Egalitarian | On BBL and Federalism

OVER some series of talks, I have gathered that there are sentiments that the Bangsamoro Basic Law needs to be approved ahead of the pursuit of Federalism. The reason is there is the urgent case of providing particular attention to the pursuits of the Bangsamoro for anything of lethargic attention may cause more decay on the trust that had been meticulously built on over time. Second, any initiatives that do not halter from the BBL could be labeled as blanket cover to derail the Bangsamoro aspiration. Thus, the expressed intention is BBL first.

In this pursuit, it is but also relevant to understand each corner of the whole political table. Suppose the BBL is promulgated by the current government which follows a unitary setup, then the details of the BBL poses the potential of water down given the unusual design of a BBL which follows federal configuration within the entrenched unitary structure, this is on top of the trouble that those who will dip their hands. It has been proven across history that in the long-run, the national government will seize powers of the autonomous regions. Another scenario bids that if the BBL is made outright at times when the country is shifting to federal, how would the transition of the BBL be consistent with the transformation happening in the country as a whole.

If we are to see these scenarios happening differently, then we may face huge problems that we cannot solve as everything seems to be seamlessly connected with one another with one causing the other into endless effects. A little tilt on the perspective may help. The intention of shifting to federal is to realize that a unitary government cannot effectively govern the whole nation from the top. But it should be emphasized that federalizing the country is not dividing the country into regional powers; instead, it is creating regional governments that can readily provide public service to its people. The principle of proximate government; people know their government due to access and exact familiarity. Alongside proximity is the size of the government; a small government is an efficient government. The size of the government depends on the nature of public services that it offers; in the federal government, it will not mind functions of national defense, currency, standards, and measurements, international relations, foreign concerns. The regional governments will focus on culture and sensitivity, public safety, health and welfare, education, food, and employment. These things are consistent in both the BBL and Federalism. Both express the same intention, only that the former is focused on the Bangsamoro, while the latter is for the whole country.

So, therefore, whichever comes first, the BBL must be given significant attention. If the BBL is made into law first, the Federal Constitution upon its implementation will accommodate the BBL as its Organic Law. If the federalization process comes ahead of the BBL, the Federal Constitution will list down all the powers distributed for the National government and the primary powers of the Regional/State government. A unique provision of the Federal Constitution is the article for the Organic Act. Hence, the BBL will constitute the Organic Act of the Regional government where it is located. But note, the Organic Act provision is not a requirement of every regional government; it is only called when there is apparent cultural, historical, social and political asymmetry. The message is clear; the BBL will have a special place in the federalization process and in the eventual Federal Republic of the Philippines.

Posted in Opinion