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Random Thoughts | The continuing chase for Federalism

“Given the nature of our pluralistic society, the establishment of a federal form of government in the Philippines in place of the current over-centralized republic is Justice (Jainal D.) Rasul Sr.’s thesis in his book (STILL CHASING THE RAINBOW). He earnestly dedicated himself to such objective in life as can be gleaned from his various writings. Under the federal system, the Muslims of the country can be allowed not only to profess Islam, but also to practice their customs and tradition.

Thus, ethnic linguistic groups with varied religious and historical aspirations may be separated from each other by natural barriers yet together forming our great Philippine Society, in as much as they are linked to the country by geographic propinquity. This idea of federalism is a Constitutional Solution to the Moro problem. As the only solution so far untried, it is the brightest ray of hope for peace and justice in Mindanao. Admittedly, a federal system of government in the Philippines serves as the only answer to the Moro rebel’s dilemma: secession or assimilation.” (A-Gaza Rasul, Editor of the book STILL CHASING THE RAINBOW,1999).


The Philippines is in a CROSSROAD now of Federalism and Mindanao Secession. A No-Federal System scenario during President Duterte’s term could lead to the revival of the Mindanao Independent Movement (MIM) or One People Mindanao Movement (OPMM). Take your choice. Remember former Assemblyman Ruben Canoy’s wise word that “Federalism is the antidote to Mindanao Secession.”

Is the establishment of the new Bangsamoro Entity the solution to the Mindanao problem? Partially we would say. The full solution to said problem is Federalism as Justice Rasul is proposing.

Chapter 10 of Justice Rasul’s book mentioned earlier was titled “Federal Form of Government: A Constitutional Solution to the Moro Problem”. In said Chapter, this question was raised: “Can Federation serve as an alternative to the Tripoli Accord?
Per Editor Al-Gazel Rasul, “this proposal was submitted to the officers and members of the 1986 Constitutional Commission “for consideration. This Commission entirely rejected the recommendation of Justice Rasul ironically without any whimper from the PDP-Lapan Party which was in power at that time.

Part of Chapter 10 stated: “It would seem that in Southeast Asia, there is no state that has an entirely homogenous population. The prevalent situation seems to be that in every state, there are population groups based on race, religion, language and culture.. Malaysia as an archipelago adopted a federal form of government and its federal Constitution” known as “merdika” (freedom) lays down division of functions between the federal (central) government and the states… How do we consider the Philippines being similarly situated as Federal Malaysia in the light of our political history and our people’s religio-cultural dichotomy?

Justice Rasul quoted Thomas Jefferson: “Laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. Where the adequacy of the fundamental law (Constitution) for the solution of grave problem of the state is doubted, the changes are necessary to make it more responsive to the needs of the times. Historical events are Supportive of Federation. A flashback into our history will enable us to understand the idea of federation through two historical events in our country namely: 1) Spanish colonization or oppression) 2) American Imperialism and domination.

“(Justice Rasul’s) Conclusion and recommendation.. (Previous) national governments seem stubborn and to recognize this pluralism and to accommodate the Muslim’s distinction by opening its mind to the idea of Federation. This deliberate neglect and inattention by those national governments place the Muslims in a dilemma… Muslim’s dilemma therefore faces these two impossibilities: Secession and Assimilation. What is therefore the alternative for the Muslim Filipinos? Undoubtedly, a Federal form of government is a constitutional solution to the age-old Moro problem. It is the answer to Filipino Muslims’ dilemma “and other Filipinos as well we may add.”

With the present situation, only President Duterte can save Federalism with his political will and high trust rating. The “ball is in his hands”. He cannot trust Congress and majority of his cabinet members to help him do this job. Recently NEDA Secretary Ernesto Permin said that the Philippines was not yet ready for a federal form of government.” He further stressed that “this is also the stance of the finance and budget secretaries” and that “federalism was not considered when the Philippine Development Plan for 2017-2022 was drafted.” See the gall of these cabinet members! Is Federalism, The Mother of all Changes, really coming during the term of President Duterte? Yes we think.

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