“Baka nga po kung ano yung BBL, pwede siyang maging template for federalism (The BBL as it is could be a template for federalism),” Sangcopan, a vice chairman of the House peace, reconciliation and unity committee, said.

The lady lawmaker was reacting to claims that the BBL, which the House of Representatives has passed on third and final reading, could put efforts toward the shift to a federal type of government on the back seat.

“Hindi po natin siya tinitignan na ganun (We don’t look at it that way),” Sangcopan said.

“Hindi naman natin sinasabi na yung kabuuan ng BBL ay yun ang magiging template. What I’m saying is, posible siya na masundan sa pagbubuo ng federalism (We’re not saying that the entire BBL would be the template. What I’m saying is, it’s possible that it could serve as a reference in forming federalism),” she explained.

The BBL is the enabling law of the 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) between the Philippine government and secessionist group Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). It bats for the creation of the Bangsamoro juridical entity, which is designed to supersede the existing Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

“The [BBL] is a Congress priority because we want to prove to our brother Filipino Muslims that they matter to us and to the entire country. The ARMM was inadequate to address many of the core issues, so we have the BBL,” commented Siao, a vice chairman of the committee on tourism.

Siao said that while the BBL is largely specific to Muslim Mindanao, “does have features which adhere to federalism.”

“There are many features of the BBL that apply only to Muslim Mindanao because of its cultural context and not to anywhere else, but those parts of the BBL can be examples on how federalism can be done elsewhere in our country,” he noted.

Pointing to the BBL, Sangcopan said: “This is the alternative we have to peace and the only option we have to address the situation in Mindanao is peace.”

Being pursued by the House alongside the BBL is the switch to a federalized government by way of Charter Change or Cha-Cha. It is one of the top advocacies of President Rodrigo Duterte, who is also a Mindanaoan.

The current unitary system of government has been criticized for overcentralization, and dividing the country into federal states would supposedly solve longstanding socioeconomic issues.

“Note though that there is still no working Congressional document for a Federal Philippines. It is still being worked on,” Siao said.

In December, Malacañang formed the Constitutional Commission (Con-Com) to help the lawmakers review the existing 1987 Charter and come up with possible revisions. Highly respected former Supreme Court (SC) Chief Justice Reynato Puno heads the Commission, which includes other legal luminaries and experts.

“What we want are federal regions that will empower citizens and local governments, not create medieval little kingdoms. We want federal regions which are symbiotically helping each other where the ‘wealthy’ states can help ‘poorer’ states that lack the needed natural resources; and where new and future generations of Filipino leaders will emerge to serve our country on the basis of human dignity, greater subsidiarity and self-reliance,” the Iligan solon said.