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Mar 30th
Home Sections Politics Congressional Initiative for Sustainable Peace and Development: A Roadmap to Autonomous Regions
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Monday, 04 February 2008 04:59

Congressional Initiative for Sustainable Peace and Development:

A Roadmap to Autonomous Regions  and a Possible Federal Republic

A bold, transforming initiative is needed in the nation's quest for a peaceful, just, humane and democratic society by empowering our people through their participation in meaningful local and regional governance. Government must be brought closer to the sovereign people if it is to be really responsive and accountable to them.  

A Working Paper by Dr. Jose V. Abueva 

President of Kalayaan College and Director of its

Institute of Federal-Parliamentary Democracy,

U.P. Professor Emeritus of Political Science and Public Administration, and

Chairman of the 2005 Consultative Commission 

      A bold, transforming initiative is needed in the nation's quest for a peaceful, just, humane and democratic society by empowering our people through their participation in meaningful local and regional governance. Government must be brought closer to the sovereign people if it is to be really responsive and accountable to them.  

      Transcending individual and political partisanship, and uniting for peace and development and for nation-building and good governance, the Senate and the House of Representatives, in accordance with Article XVII, Section 1 (1) of the Constitution, urgently seek agreement  to propose specific amendments to the Constitution for the people's ratification in a plebiscite to be called for by Congress..


The purpose of the proposed amendments by Congress is to extend the application of the constitutional principle of local and regional autonomy to the entire country in fulfillment of the ideal of self-determination and self-rule by the citizens of the Republic, in whom "sovereignty resides" and from whom "all government authority emanate."  

Regional and Local Self-Determination in a Transition to Federalism 

The bottom line in the quest for a peaceful, just, humane and democratic society is a fundamental change in the structure of power, authority and resources in the historic relations between the National Government in the National Capital Region, and its   regional offices, on the one hand, and on the other hand the local governments and people in the cities and provinces around the country.  

To begin with, this fundamental change means achieving substantial, sustainable, and meaningful regional and local self-rule (or regional and local autonomy) in the assertion of self-determination by the Moros, the Lumads and other peoples in the ARRM. However, what is good for the people in Muslim Mindanao should also be good for all Filipinos wherever they are. 

In support of the ongoing peace process in particular and the protracted quest for sustainable development of our country's second largest island as a whole, it is proposed to optimize regional and local autonomy in the ARRM.  

The Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARRM) is the country's pioneer autonomous region authorized in the 1987 Constitution and established by an Organic Act (R.A. 6734). In a final political settlement and peace agreement ARRM is proposed to be re-designed as Bangsamoro (the MoroNation state), to be more effective, meaningful and sustainable. Equally important is for the leaders in all sectors of ARMM to reform and modernize their traditional ways of using the powers and resources of their regional and local governments for the common good. 

Following the model of ARRM and Bangsamoro, other ancestral, ethno-linguistic and cultural communities in the various geographic regions—that are now administrative regions of the National Government—shall be given the opportunity under the amended Constitution to assert their self-determination for local and regional self-rule. This will involve the gradual transformation of our centralized unitary political system into a devolved system of autonomous regions as proto-States of a future Federal Republic of the Philippines. In becoming the BangsaMoro State, ARRM will spearhead the process of transforming the structure of our whole political system.  

The gradual and participatory transformation of the Republic of the Philippines as a unitary republic into a possible Federal Republic of the Philippines is the essence of "The Congressional Initiative." 

Congress shall propose the amendments to the Constitution 

The appropriate mode of amending the 1987 Constitution for the purpose stated is for Congress itself to propose the amendments by a vote of three-fourths of all its members voting separately. As recent experience has taught us, a people's initiative is very difficult to bring about. And a constitutional convention now or before the 2010 national elections will open the gate for a wholesale revision of the Constitution that would be ill-timed and deeply divisive  

It is therefore respectfully submitted that Congress propose the amendments in 2008, so that these may be submitted to the people in a plebiscite in May 2009. Upon the people's approval in the plebiscite, the amendments can begin to take effect in the elections to be held in May 2010. 

Autonomous Regions as Proto-States of a Federal Republic of the Philippines 

As already explained the proposed constitutional amendments shall gradually transform our traditional highly centralized unitary system to a decentralized and devolved structure of autonomous regions, preparatory to establishing a Federal Republic of the Philippines at the end of a period of transition. 

1. Local and Regional Self-Determination. In amending the 1987 Constitution, a participatory process is proposed for extending substantial local and regional autonomy nationwide. In a sovereign act of regional self-determination, the citizens living in contiguous provinces and cities that share common ancestral, ethno-linguistic, cultural and historical features may petition Congress to form their communities into an autonomous region through an organic act of Congress.  

2. Constitutional Devolution to the Autonomous Regions. By constitutional mandate in the approved constitutional amendments the organic act of the autonomous regions to be passed by Congress shall provide for primary legislative powers of their assemblies over the following: (1) administrative organization, planning, budget, and management; (2) creation of sources of revenues and finance; (3) agriculture and fisheries; (4) natural resources, energy, environment, and ancestral domain; (6) labor and employment; (7) public works and transportation, except railways, shipping and aviation; (8) health and social welfare; (9) education and the use and development of language, culture and the arts as part of the cultural heritage; (10) science and technology, indigenous appropriate technologies, and inventions; (11) trade, industry and tourism; (12) housing, land use and development; (13) urban and rural planning and development; (14) a regional judiciary consisting of the regional trial courts, the Sharia courts, and city and municipal courts; and (15) such other matters as may be authorized by law for the promotion of the general welfare of the people in the autonomous region.  

3. The Government of the Autonomous Regions. The creation of autonomous regions as proto-States of a future Federal Republic requires the setting up of regional governments between the National or Federal Government and the local governments or LGUs. The government of each autonomous region shall consist of the Regional Assembly and its Cabinet. However, it is not necessary or desirable to elect a different set of political leaders at the regional level. In order to ensure the integration of the local government units with the government of the autonomous region, and to minimize the cost of regional government, the Regional Assembly shall be composed of the provincial governors and the mayor of the capital city of the provinces. The members of the Regional Assembly shall elect the Regional Governor and the members of the Cabinet from among themselves. These officials shall exercise executive and legislative powers as in a parliamentary government. 

4. Plebiscite. The organic act passed by Congress shall be subject to approval in a plebiscite in the proposed autonomous region.  

5. Federal Powers, Authority and Functions. All powers, authority and functions not assigned by the Constitution to the autonomous regions shall remain with the National Government and future Federal Government. 

6. Establishing the future Federal Republic. When 60 percent of the provinces and cities become autonomous regions, they shall become Federal States of the Federal Republic to be established by Congress as provided for in the amended Constitution. As an alternative, after a transition period of not more than 10 years from the amendment of the Constitution authorizing the creation of autonomous regions, all the autonomous regions shall become Federal States in the Federal Republic.  

7. Restructuring the Tax System and Federal Grants in Aid.  A restructuring of the tax system shall re-allocate the tax bases for Federal, State, and Local Government taxes. As in all federal systems in the world, the Federal Government shall provide financial assistance to the various States, and especially the less developed ones. Congress shall give the highest priority to forming a Preparatory Commission for the Tax System of a Federal Republic. 

   Expected Advantages in Changing the Unitary Republic to a Federal Republic. 

    1. The Federal Republic of the Philippines will build a just and enduring framework for peace through unity in our ethnic, religious, and cultural diversity, especially in relation to BangsaMoro and our lumad/ indigenous peoples everywhere.

Responsive federalism will accommodate the legitimate interests of the Moros and indigenous peoples, discourage rebellion and violence, and preclude secessionism. 


    • The Federal Republic will empower the citizens through their participation in the affairs of their autonomous local and regional governments. As the people become more involved in government decisions, they will raise their political awareness and learn to demand better performance and public accountability. Their participation and efficacy in elections and the making of government decisions will enhance the quality of governance. Better policies and implementation will enable the people to raise their standard of living. At the same time they will be more willing to pay taxes that will finance government programs and services for their direct benefit.


3.  The creation of autonomous regions that will become federal states under a federal system will improve governance by challenging and energizing local and regional leaders, entrepreneurs, and citizens around the country. It will release them from the costly, time-consuming, stifling, and demoralizing effects of excessive central government controls and regulation in our traditional unitary system.  

4.  Federalism through autonomous regions will specifically strengthen the powers of the provincial governors, city and municipal mayors, and other elected local government leaders. The organic acts of Congress will make key local government executives—the governors and mayors of the capital cities—the members of the regional assembly as a parliamentary regional government. No new set of regional officials will be elected in order to ensure the integration of the regional government with the local governments and to economize. 

5.  Federalism with parliamentary regional or state governments will improve governance by promoting the development of strong, united, disciplined, and program-oriented political parties that are responsible and accountable to the people for their conduct and performance in and out of power.  

6.  Federalism will promote equitable regional development by supporting the less endowed and developed regions  and the poor and the needy across the land. 

    1. Thus,

federalism will  stimulate  and  hasten  the  country's political, economic, social, and cultural development and modernization. There will be in-regional competition in attracting domestic and foreign investments and industries, professionals and skilled workers. Regional languages will be official languages along with Filipino and English. A renaissance of regional languages and cultures will enrich the national language and culture and broaden and deepen our democracy.  

    1. In other words—with political will and sustained effort for the common       good—federalism will gradually broaden and  deepen democracy, enabling it to deliver on the constitutional promise of human rights, a better life for all, a just and humane society, and responsible and accountable political leadership and governance. Our unitary system has not done this for our citizens.

·  Possible Autonomous Regions of the Federal Republic

Pursuing the ideal of local autonomy and the creation of autonomous regions in the 1987 Constitution, the Citizens' Movement for a Federal Philippines (CMFP) has been advocating the goal of federalism for some years. In its Draft Constitution for a Federal Republic of the Philippines with a Parliamentary Government the CMFP proposed eleven or more autonomous regions as future federal states in a possible Federal Republic.

When the 2005 Consultative Commission began, some commissioners belonging to the CMFP proposed the creation of autonomous regions in addition to the existing Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao. The list below was suggested to the Committee on the Structure of the Republic, including Palawan as a possible autonomous region, alone or as part of MIMAROPA (the Mindoros, Marinduque, Romblon, and Palawan). In the end the Consultative Commission decided not to name the autonomous territories and regions it proposed to be created. However, some possible new Autonomous Regions may be created.

1. BansaIloko [Ilocos Region [Region I: Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, La Union, Pangasinan];

2.  BansaCagayano [Cagayan Valley [Region II: Batanes, Cagayan, Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya, Quirino].

3. BansaCordillera [Cordillera Administrative Region: Abra, Apayao, Benguet, Ifugao,   Kalinga, Mt. Province]; 

4. BansaTagalo Sentral. Central Luzon [Region III: Aurora, Bataan, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Pampanga, Tarlac, Zambales];

5. Metro Manila [Manila, Quezon City, Makati City, Mandaluyong City, Pasig City, Pasay City, Marikina City, Caloocan City, Muntinlupa City, Las Piñas City, Parañaque City, Valenzuela City, Navotas, Malabon, Taguig, Pateros, San Juan];

6. BansaTagalo Sur. [Southern Luzon. Region IV: Rizal, Quezon, Laguna, Batangas, and Cavite only; or also Mindoro Occidental, Mindoro Oriental, Marinduque, Romblon];

7. BansaBikol. [Bicol Region. [Region V: Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, Catanduanes, Albay, Sorsogon];

8. BansaPalawan. [Palawan only; or Palawan with Mindoro Occidental, Mindoro Oriental, and Romblon];

9. BansaIlongo. [[Region VI: Aklan, Antique, Capiz, Guimaras, Iloilo, Negros Occidental];

10. BansaBisaya [Central Visayas [Region VII:  Negros Oriental, Cebu, Bohol, Siquijor]; 

11. BansaWaray [Eastern Visayas [Region VIII:  Biliran, Leyte, Southern Leyte, Northern Samar, Samar (West), Eastern Samar];

12. BansaZamboanga-Misamis [Region IX: Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga Sibugay, + Misamis Occidental;

13. BansaMindanaoNorte [Region X: Camiguin, Misamis Oriental; Region XIII Caraga Region: Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Surigao del Norte, Surigao del Sur, Bukidnon];

14. BansaDavao-MindanaoSentral [Region XI: Compostela Valley, DavaoDavao Oriental, Davao del Sur, South Cotabato, Sarangani;  Region XII: Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Lanao del Norte];

15. BangsaMoro [ARRM: Lanao del Sur, Marawi City, Maguindanao, Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi] 

Originally drafted January 24, 2008 

Dr. Jose V. Abueva
Kalayaan College at
Riverbanks, 1803
Marikina, Philippines
Telefax (632)934 4865



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Last Updated on Monday, 04 February 2008 05:04

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