Home | Opinion | Bangsamoro sub-state, not federalism

Bangsamoro sub-state, not federalism

Jude Josue Sabio .

AS envisaged, the proposed “federalism” will divide the country into  several “states” comprising more or less the existing geographical regions. It is pompously claimed by political pundits that “federalism” will arise from a proposed “federal” constitution.

But that is not federalism in its truest sense. Federalism did not arise that way in the US or Germany which represent the political model for federalism. In the US and German model of federalism, there were previously long-standing existing states with their own separate state “constitutions” and they eventually  grouped together in a federated union characterized as “federalism.”

In fact, in the US, the Federal Constitution never mentions anything about “federalism,” even if it is of common political knowledge that the US has a federal form of government. The US Constitution does not create “states,” but rather merely allocates governmental power between the federal government and the already long extant state governments.

In the case of Germany, the German federal constitution expressly states that it is a federal republic. But it is merely descriptive because the fact is that there have been existing “states,” called “lander” in German, with their own state constitutions. These “lander” grouped together after World War II to form the federal republic of Germany.

In political science, the true characteristic of federalism is the existence of independent states with their own state constitutions which form together into what is known as “federalism.”  In other words, federalism is not formed by carving up regions to constitute the “states.” The lack of a separate constitution for each state in such artificial set up even detracts from the true nature of federalism.

In modern times, what comes as another model of federalism is the European Union with different full-blooded European nation states coming together in a union along federal lines.

In essence, federalism is nothing more than a political system or mechanism under which independent, existing states group together to form a federal state. It is the function of the federal Constitution to allocate governmental powers between the states, on one hand, and the federal government, on the other hand.

It is in this context that a federal constitution can truly be considered as such. A constitution, like the one being foisted by the Duterte administration, is not federal in nature when it purports to carve out regions into “states.” It is more in the nature, rather, of a glorified local government code masquerading as a “federal” constitution.

For if one looks closely at the local government code, it divides the country into different political subdivisions like provinces, cities, municipalities and barangays. The proposed “federal” constitution just partakes of the nature of a local government code; the only difference is just in its name and its object, because it is called a “constitution” creating “states” out of groups of provinces and cities.

In our history and political culture, it is ineluctable that there have been no independent, existing states at all. There is no public desire for “regional states,” as evidenced by the low public awareness and support for “federalism.”  Even the Cordillera region rejected just the concept of autonomy in a plebiscite.

Only our Muslim brothers in Mindanao have consistently demanded self-government from the time of the MNLF up to the Bangsamoro Liberation Front.  It is only this distinct minority that has consistently evinced, through decades of wars of liberation, a long-standing desire for a “sub-state” as expressed in the recently passed Bangsamoro law.

If “federalism” is meant to provide a “sub-state” not only to the Bangsamoro  but also to the other “regional states” for the sake of political equality, it could be the right political goal for the wrong reason. Why create other “regional states” out of a political vacuum just in order to give a “sub-state” for the Bangsomoro?

As a matter of practical politics, the most viable solution to the problem of the Bangsomoro is just to push through with its clamor for a “sub-state.” This solution should be threshed out even up to the Supreme Court where the government and the Bangsomoro should ardently defend its constitutionality.

And if there is a need to amend the 1987 Constitution to forestall any constitutional challenge, then the proper constitutional amendment should be done to accommodate a Bangsamoro “sub-state.” This political nonsense about “federalism” should be stopped as an exercise in political witchcraft.

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