CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY – Several indigenous and sectoral leaders in Northern Mindanao are wary of changing the 1987 Constitution now, even as they also prefer a constitutional convention to a constituent assembly as a mode of Charter change.
At the Senate’s first Regional Consultative Hearing on Charter Change here, Datu Brunz Babilon of the Indigenous Political Structure said his group will consider Charter change only if he and his people are given more freedom to implement the Indigenous People’s Rights Act of 1997 (IPRA), which has allowed them some autonomy.
But, he added, that autonomy is incomplete, as highlighted when the budget of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, together with the Commission on Human Rights and the Energy Regulatory Commission, was given a P1 budget last year on the whim of the House of Representatives.
“IP autonomy po sana — malaya kaming matupad ang IP Law. Dahil sa IPRA, ngayon lang namin nadama na tao kami. Specific na share para sa amin. Pero nakakapanlumo na pinag-usapan ang P1 lamang na budget,” he said.
Atty. Ernesto Neri of the Oro Youth Development Council echoed Babilon’s reservations, adding that his group supports Charter change, but not now.
“There are things that we need to put into consideration like expanding the social justice provision, distribution of political power to the grassroots, decentralization and devolution, recognition of gender and cultural diversity, and provisions for climate change,” he said.
For this, Neri proposed three items that should first be considered.
“We have to strengthen the autonomy of our bureaucracy. We have to regulate our political dynasties, and we need to consider professionalizing political parties,” he said.
MOVES TO FEDERALISM
Dr. Sukarno Tanggol, Chancellor of the Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology (MSU-IIT), said he believes that a shift toward federalism will positively affect certain Filipino values.
However, he stressed the need for more time to educate the people about the proposed changes in the Constitution.
“It removes the congestion toward regional centers. Leaders will be able to come equally from the states or the regions. It increases the chances for regional leaders to become national leaders,” said the university chancellor.
Tanggol also he prefers a constitutional convention to a constituent assembly, as well as voting separately, explaining that Congress voting jointly would dilute the power of the Senate.
Aileen Bautista of Balay Mindanao also said she believes in the shift to federalism, but not in changing the Constitution through constituent assembly.
“We hope to empower ourselves economically and politically. The rich and poor, the powerful and powerless — we think and feel that this is not possible especially with the constituent assembly,” she said.
After the hearing, Doris Campos, executive director of the NGO Service Inc., told the media that most people don’t know what federalism is.
“Naririnig nila yun, lumalabas sa TV…Pero yung mga tao doon sa grassroots, yung mga marginalized, yung mga poor or yung tinatawag nating laylayan, talagang hindi nila alam kung ano yung federalism. Ang alam lang nila, sinasabihan sila sa mga LGUs na dapat suportahan natin yung federalism (They hear it on TV…But people at the grassroots, the marginalized, the poor, they really don’t know what federalism is. All they know is the LGUs tell them to support federalism),” Campos said.
“Pag tinanong namin, ‘Ano ba ang alam niyo sa federalism?’ ‘Hindi namin alam kung ano yan (When we ask them, ‘You know what federalism is?’ ‘We don’t know what that is),’” she added.
The hearing, held at the Ateneo-Xavier University, is the first in a series of regional consultative hearings presided by Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, who heads the Senate Committee on Constitutional Amendments and Reforms.
“Kaya tayo nandito ay para marinig mismo sa inyo ang inyong pananaw at sentimyento sa panukalang Charter change at federalism. Sa lahat ng usapang ito, kayo ang hindi dapat makalimutan, kayo ang pinakamahalagang elemento na bubuo ng desisyon tungkol sa usaping federalism (We are here to hear from you your views and sentiments on the proposed Charter change and federalism. In all these discussions, you cannot be set aside, you are the most important element that will form the decision on the issue of federalism). We are going around the country to listen to you,” Pangilinan said.
“We are faced with challenges as a nation, and we cannot solve them unless we solve them together. We will listen to each other and hold on to the understanding that wherever we hail from — Metro Manila, Luzon, Visayas or Mindanao — we have common hopes and dreams for this nation,” he said.
Cagayan de Oro is the first leg of the nationwide initiative for an inclusive discussion and debate on Charter change. Subsequent hearings will be held in Cebu on March 1, Cotabato on March 8, and Baguio City on March 15.