BBL proves self-governance possible without federalism

Mara Cepeda
BBL proves self-governance possible without federalism
Senator Franklin Drilon says the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law is an example of how the 1987 Constitution 'allows the alleged benefits of federalism to be done by legislation'

MANILA, Philippines – Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is proof that a region can achieve self-governance without a shift to federalism. 

“The Bangsamoro Basic Law, which we are about to finish today, is proof that we do not need federalism or amending the Constitution in order to achieve the self-governance or the benefits of federalism that is being presented to the people. Why? The BBL grants self-governance,” Drilon told reporters on Wednesday, July 18. 

“It’s clear we do not need a federal system to achieve what we want to do. And the present Constitution allows the alleged benefits of federalism to be done by legislation,” he added in a mix of English and Filipino.

The opposition senator granted a media interview before the bicameral conference committee on the BBL continued its deliberations on Wednesday afternoon. The bicam, which was still sorting out issues over the plebiscite and preamble provisions, aimed to finalize the BBL draft by 4 pm. 

According to Drilon, the proposed BBL identifies 55 powers of the Bangsamoro, the new and more powerful region that would replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.  

These include fiscal autonomy, devolution of health, urban land reform, the Bangsamoro justice system, control over free ports and economic zones, the power for administrative reorganization, and creation of government-owned and -controlled corporations, among others.

Sa ilalim po ng panukalang batas na ating binubuo, mga at least P60 to P70 billion ang block grant, automatically released. ‘Di po pupuwedeng bawasan. Hindi po pupuwedeng sabihin kung saan gagamitin. Ang Bangsamoro govenrment po ang may kapangyarihan na mag-appropriate kung saan ilalagay ang pera,” said Drilon.

(Under the bill we’re drafting, the block grant pegged at P60 to P70 billion would be automatically released. This cannot be reduced. We cannot impose where it would be used. Only the Bangsamoro government would have the power to determine where the money would be appropriated.)

Meron pang kapangyarihan na mag-impose ng taxes, excise tax at iba’t ibang mga tax na sa ngayon, sa gobyerno lang (They would also have the power to impose different types of taxes that only the national government can impose right now),” he added.

President Rodrigo Duterte’s government continues to push for federalism even as surveys conducted by Pulse Asia Research Incorporated and the Social Weather Stations say that a majority of Filipinos are opposed to the shift.

The Constitutional Commission already gave both houses of Congress copies of their draft federal charter, which proposes a federal-presidential form of government creating 18 federated regions, including federated regions of the Bangsamoro and Cordillera. (DOCUMENT: Con-Com draft constitution submitted to Duterte

Duterte had argued federalism would decentralize power and wealth away from Imperial Manila and further empower the rest of the regions. But Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia regions are not ready for the shift to a federal system of government at this point in time. –

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at or tweet @maracepeda.