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Kris-Crossing Mindanao

Federalism is a road to discord

The more Nene Pimentel and Pantaleon Alvarez voice their dissonant versions on federalism, the more cacophony is created over what portends to be the most discordant issue in the modern annals of this country.

That both are Mindanawons is enough indication that, even in Mindanao, federalism is a subject dear only to political oligarchs like them. The more they open their mouths, the more that federalism sounds more like political gibberish.

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Pimentel is an old believer in federalism. But if recent pronouncements he gave to media are any indication, even he himself has been a source of obfuscation.

In 2008, for instance, Pimentel proposed Senate Resolution No. 10, which aimed to revise the 1987 Constitution by creating 11 “states.” Pimentel divided Mindanao into three—Northern Mindanao, Southern Mindanao, Bangsamoro; and likewise the Visayas—Eastern, Central, Western.

Then, in May 2016, Pimentel said in a television interview that North Mindanao State “may be separated” into northwest and northeast.

In January 2017, Pimentel announced in a forum that Masbate, currently counted as part of Bicol, would be included in Central Visayas. Perhaps he was thinking cultural: Masbate is a mixture of Bicolano, Cebuano and Ilonggo. That already poses a predicament when it comes to subdividing regions based on ethnolinguistic factors.

He also proposed a “Minparom” region that does not actually differ from the current “Mimaropa”: Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan. Pimentel said Minparom would be a Visayan state, and in that he is partly correct. That Mimaropa has always been appended to Southern Tagalog is an anomaly: Romblon’s Asi-speaking people and Palawan’s Cuyonon, along with Occidental Mindoro, are part of the Visayan family. But Marinduque and Oriental Mindoro are both Tagalog.

The unreliable Alvarez, meanwhile, insists on retaining Mimaropa.

Pimentel gave provocative points in that January 2017 forum. He said: “Scarborough Shoal/Bajo de Masinloc shall be part of the Central Luzon State through Zambales.” Again, that was on point. He also asserted: “The Philippine territories in the Spratly Islands shall be part of Minparom State through the municipality of Kalayaan, Palawan.”

Today, these proposals are nowhere to be found in the present draft of the President’s consultative committee. Which makes us wonder: What has happened to Nene’s integrity? And this as well:

The committee members say there were no instructions ever from Malacañang. Oh? Why, then, did it adhere to Mr. Duterte’s capitulationist stance toward China? Its biggest joke is that only the Philippine Rise is named part of the national territory, and nothing on the West Philippine Sea. That is treason.

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Another important Pimentel point: “Warlordism and political dynasties shall be prohibited by the Constitution itself.” But, since the committee’s draft appeared, he has been silent on this particular point. How far will he go to defend what Mr. Duterte wants?

We can see the old Pimentel who is sensitive to Mindanao ethnic divides in this statement: “The Bangsamoro State shall be divided into two autonomous regions, namely, Muslim Mindanao and Sulu archipelago, as the two Muslim areas are distinct from each other in terms of culture.”

Pimentel, lastly, proposed the inclusion of the Sabah claim under a federal constitution.

In February 2018, Pimentel clarified that he wanted Bukidnon to be part of Northeast Mindanao State (with Agusan Norte and Sur, Surigao del Norte and Sur, and Dinagat Islands). This, when Bukidnon is more ethnolinguistically connected to Misamis Oriental.

Alvarez’s proposals are more hubris than realpolitik. His trademark proposal, of course, is “no term limits.” In the same February 2018 forum, he said he shall “input an indigenous state in the Cordilleras and an indigenous state in Mindanao.”

If we listen to these two, the message is obvious: federalism is nothing but a nebulous, indefinable and vague proposition.

Alvarez underscores the major dilemma: constitutional change through the so-called Con-ass, appropriately named after the a—holes of Congress who will never legislate against their own interests.

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