Ermita backs Charter change to accommodate Moro homeland
by Christine Avendaño
Philippine Daily Inquirer
A new proposal that will see the government resorting to constitutional amendments possibly in 2008 to push the stalled peace negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) would likely have the backing of Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita.
“If this will help peace talks and governance in Mindanao, why not?” Ermita said in expressing his possible support for the proposal that government officials were expected to present to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her security officials to move forward the negotiations.
Ermita said that the government peace panel was expected to make a presentation of its new proposal to bring back the MILF to the peace table in mid-January.
Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza last week disclosed a proposal now being worked on by the government peace panel led by its chief negotiator Rodolfo Garcia that will see the creation of a Bangsamoro federal state in Mindanao.
Dureza said the proposal would require amendments to the 1987 Constitution and that hopefully this could be done in 2008.
He said this proposal would help move forward the talks, which for years, were repeatedly hampered by issues involving the Constitution.
The MILF pulled out from exploratory talks set in December in Malaysia to protest the inclusion of a phrase “constitutional process” as the mode of implementing a draft agreement on territorial boundaries. For the MILF, “constitutional process” meant that any Bangsamoro territory would still be subject to a plebiscite in accordance with the 1987 Constitution.
In a phone interview, Ermita acknowledged that many people in Mindanao, including political leaders, saw the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, as a “model” of a federal state in the South.
“Many leaders there are opting for federalism,” he said.
He said the government wanted to see better governance in Mindanao, as he pointed out that the Palace’s budget allocation for the region rose by 30 percent in the proposed 2008 national budget.
“We gave this increase for the welfare of those in Mindanao,” he said.