Opposition Rejects Charter Change; All-Out Drive vs Constitutional Revision Readied Federalism Not Answer to Problems in South - Tamano

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The United Opposition (UNO) has declared an all- out war against any government attempt to revive moves to amend the Constitution even if it would help put an end to the secessionist conflict in Mindanao.

UNO spokesman Adel Tamano aired UNO's stand after Mindanao peace adviser Jesus Dureza underscored the need to revise the 1987 Constitution as part of the government's commitment to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to push for a shift in the form of government to a federal system.

Tamano warned that any bid to amend the Charter will be seen as a step towards term extension by the Arroyo government.

Tamano, a Muslim, told reporters that the shift to federalism should not be seen as a "simple cure-all to the ills of Mindanao."

Dureza disclosed that the MILF's demand for a federal form of government that would give birth to a Bangsa Moro federal state remains the principal stumbling block in the government's push for a final peace agreement with the secessionist group.

A shift to federalism requires an amendment of the Constitution.

The House Committee on Constitutional Revisions has started discussing at least 10 bills on proposed constitutional amendments, either through a Constitutional Convention or a Constituent Assembly.

"I don't think federalism alone can solve the peace problem in Mindanao. Hindi ito ang sagot sa kahirapan, pagnanakaw ng lupa at iba pang problema sa Mindanao," Tamano told reporters in the Usaping Balita News Forum at Serye Cafe, Quezon City.

He said UNO stands strong against any new moves to amend the 1987 Constitution.

Paranaque City Rep. Eduardo Zialcita, Lakas- CMD deputy secretary general, said the ruling party is not ready to make an official stand on the Charter change issue.

"We're split down the line on Charter change. Timing is very important, we don't want our moves to be misinterpreted," Zialcita stressed.

He said the administration is not yet prepared to face the same debacle it experienced when it batted for Charter amendments two years ago.

However, Zialcita said Lakas-CMD may be expected to discuss the issue when it stages its planning session at the historic landmark Manila Hotel soon.

Meanwhile, lawyer Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III revealed that while PDP-Laban, a member of the UNO coalition, has been a firm advocate of federalism, the party will block Charter amendments if it would only be used in an "insidious" attempt to extend the term of President Arroyo beyond 2010.

"We have to first examine the motives and present the issue to the public. The best time for Charter change is after the 2010 elections," said Pimentel, who has filed a case before the Senate Electoral Tribunal protesting the results of the 2007 senatorial race.

Another oppositionist, Paranaque City Rep. Roilo Golez, said the federal system may not be advisable for the Philippines.

"Federalism will only introduce a new layer of bureaucracy and add to the burden of governance," he explained.

Golez pointed out that under a federal system, at least half of government funds would only go to federal states.

Malacanang to push 'one-item agenda' for Charter amendment


Malacanang yesterday declared it would push for a "one-agenda item" in revising the 1987 Constitution, which is the proposed creation of a Muslim federal state in Mindanao, and nothing else.

Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Anthony Golez said the government has no plans of inserting other amendments in the constitution amid speculations that a move to extend President Arroyo's term was also in the offing.

"The Cabinet cluster on security has approved (the adoption of) an option to set up a Bangsamoro Federal Governance unit as a way forward in our negotiation with the ongoing peace talks," Golez said. …