Press Release
March 8, 2018

Cotabato City
8 March 2018

Maayong aga, Cotabato City! Assalamualaikum sa lahat!

Thank you for hosting this seventh hearing of the Senate Committee on Constitutional amendments on the proposals to amend the 1987 Constitution.

These are interesting times for the people of Cotabato and the ARMM as you are faced with two very crucial issues: the Bangsamoro Basic Law and Charter change.

Bangsamoro, Christians, Indigenous Peoples -- are at a crossroads between the promise of change and its perils if gone awry.

Several years ago, there were attempts to pass the BBL, but Congress ran out of time. It has been resurrected this 17th Congress with the hope that this would be acted upon favorably to address the pressing issues of the Bangsamoro region.

As we tackle BBL, we are also confronted with moves to revise the current 1987 Constitution. Some are of the view that both issues are intertwined and should move at the same parallel path simultaneously.

We hope today's discussions will help bring about clarity and will lead to a concrete plan of action that is a product of many voices of the very people who have always aspired for a peaceful and progressive region.

We have resource persons invited today, whether in favor or against Charter Change and believe in democracy that all views should be given the opportunity to be heard and respectfully.

As in the previous hearings, we will ask the following questions:

Una: Kailangan bang amyendahan o baguhin ang 1987 Constitution?

Ikalawa: Ano ang mga dapat baguhin sa Konstitusyon at bakit?

Ikatlo: Ito ba ay gagawin sa pamamagitan ng isang Constitutional Convention o "Con-con", o sa pamamagitan ng Kongreso mismo bilang isang Constitutional Assembly o "Con-ass"?

Ikaapat: Kung "Con-ass" ang magaganap, boboto ba ang Senado at ang House of Representatives nang hiwalay, o iisa?

But we are here in ARMM, Cotabato City, let us also try to discuss and provide answer to these questions:

- Is the BBL version that we have constitutional? Can it pass constitutional scrutiny?

- Do we need Charter change so that the BBL would be realized in a federal context? What do we need to change in the 1987 Constitution in this regard?

- How will Charter change address the challenges of Mindanao and ARMM?

- Will Charter change, or even federalism, be the answer to the region's problems on poverty, lack of jobs and opportunities, lack of access to education, and armed conflict and violence?

I'm certain we will all agree: the goal of Charter change should neither be to gratify the political ambitions of the few nor put in place a new oppressive, exploitative system, but to rectify and address the underlying problems of the country. The aim should be peace, justice, progress and prosperity for all.

I am looking forward to hearing the voices of all the people here in Cotabato City and in the ARMM, Bangsamoro. Daghang salamat!

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