Book says federalism may be best remedy to Mindanao conflict


The publication of “Regional Autonomy and Federalism: Concepts and Issues for the Bangsamoro Government”  (MSU-Iligan Institute of Technology OVCRE-MMIDU, 2012, 152 pp) comes at a time when a more peaceful atmosphere is felt with the assumption into office by a new administration led by the son of late President Cory Aquino, who had laid the groundwork for peace in Mindanao during her term; and, the hostilities between the Philippine Armed Forces and the MILF in Mindanao have relatively scaled down,  as more civil and nonbelligerent ways are considered in the attempt to bring   an end to the Mindanao conflict.

Sukarno D. Tanggol covers five major topics in this book:  Regional Autonomy in the Philippines; Theory  and Practice of Federalism; Federalism, Nationalism and Ethnic Conflict; Federalism in Switzerland; and Federalism in the Philippines: Status and Prospects.

The book may serve as an important resource for  political  science,  governance and even contemporary Philippine history.  Its discussions of the evolution and ideology of federalism are brief but substantial.

Option for governance

Tanggol starts  his book  with a short background of the conflict in Mindanao. The points he raises in this chapter are really nothing new since these issues have been raised  and echoed elsewhere by  Rudy Rodil, Samuel Tan, Jamail Kamlian  and  Nasser Maruhomsalic, among others. What is novel about  Tanggol’s work is that he attempts to craft his account  of history  in such a way that the narrative paves the way  for federalism as an option for governance.

A significant part of the historical background is the inclusion  of the  Memorandum of Agreement on the Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD), a major setback in the GRP-MILF  peace process. I agree with Tanggol when traced the failure of the failed agreement to the wounds “borne of past animosities and conflicts.”

Tanggol has every right to lambaste some politicians who “ride on the emotions of the public to score points even without the benefit of objectivity and rationality.”

He continues by citing one of the causes of conflict in Mindanao, i.e. land. He writes that “some landed Christians fear the consequences of Moro self-governance to their properties. The issue of land is one of the causes of conflicts in Mindanao that sometimes invite the involvement of the MILF or AFP, thus clouding the real factors behind.”

In  the next chapter, Tanggol tackles federalism. For him, if there are successfully federated states such as those in the Americas and Europe, there are failures as well like the former  Soviet Union, United Arab  Emirates and Indonesia.  He’s partial toward Watt’s federal model.

Source of conflict

Tanggol considers issues of ethnicity and nationalism as conditions that may affect federalism.  He points to marginalization as  a major source  of conflict and how  federalism can serve as a tool for its resolution.

But Tanggol is not quick to propose federalism as the ultimate solution to the Bangsamoro issue. He shows how federalism worked for Switzerland, a country of diverse ethnicities and religion like the Philippines.

He underscores that even though the Philippines and Switzerland  are  “both faced with diversity… they have very diverse diversities”  in many aspects.  Despite this,  the Swiss model may be emulated and adapted for the Philippines.

In  the penultimate chapter, Tanggol lays down a clearly articulated proposal for federalism  in the Philippines using  Watt’s theories.  What is worth noting  is that  while federalism has the potential for bringing closure to the Mindanao problem, Tanggol is quick to point out gaps  that may cause its failures. For instance,  he cites  mutual distrust  between the  GRP and the Moros and the Christians.  There’s also the  existence of a small group that “always  succeeds in stalling peace efforts for their vested interests.” There are also the perennial problems of poverty, violence, and graft and corruption of Mindanao leaders.

Overall, the book is a good read and deserves a space in the shelves of  those who are interested in the Bangsamoro issue.

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  • Joey

    until we have an enabling law that actually bans political dynasties in the philippines, we cannot resort to federalism. the way things are set up now, the enriles cannot merely rely on the votes coming from the cagayan valley region to have a seat in the senate. binay’s daughter has to work hard and not just rely on the urban poor of metro manila. the same goes with the marcoses. what federalism will do is to divide representation in the senate among the regions, thereby almost ensuring the perpetual presence of these people and their families at top of the political pyramid.

    • CyberPinoy

      your opinion has a sense bro. Good point !  

  • CyberPinoy

    In my opinion the Philippines has no choice but to go federal to solve these rebelions and conflicts, for Muslim they should have a separate state while for communist i think we should legalize the Communist party of the Philippines pero bago mangyari yan dapat may signed agreement na they will dismantle their army para kung gusto nila tumakbo sa eleksyon magtalaga sila ng party member nila like other political parties do. Kailangan na isipin ng gobyerno kung papano tayo makakatransfer from Presidential Form to Parliamentary form of Govt.  We need to decentralize our country and spread the economic development to other provinces and cities.

    opinion lang po, correct me if im wrong.

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