Federalism and Other Options

Posted on June 20, 2016

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This is a CONTINUATION of Prof. Macapanton Yahya Abbas‘s “Is a Bangsa Moro State within a Federation the Solution?”

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federalism

CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT

The infirmities of the New Organic Law are serious that it must be declared unconstitutional especially the power of control of the National Government over the Regional Government as a Local Government Unit when the constitution grants only the power of supervision over the ARMM.  The Organic Law is ill-considered and violates the fundamental principles of “regional political autonomy”, hence, the need for more powers to be embodied in a proper legislative act or constitutional amendment.

It is imperative that a peaceful political solution be arrived at before the conflagration in Mindanao continues to have negative consequences on the entire country.  On May 22, 2000, Senator Pimentel, together with Senators John H. Osmeña and Francisco S. Tatad, filed a Concurrent Resolution (S. Dt. Res. No. 26) in the Senate calling for a constitutional convention to revise the Constitution by adopting a federal system of government and for other purposes.  On June 14, 2000, the Senate Committee on Constitutional Amendments, Revision of Codes and Laws chaired by Senator Miriam D. Santiago, conducted an inquiry in aid of legislation or public hearing vis-à-vis S. Ct Res. No. 26.

Sen. Santiago’s committee invited among others this author as Chairman of the Islamic Directorate of the Philippines (IDP) and former Rep. Michael Mastura of Maguindanao to share their respective opinions and expertise on the subject matter at hand.  This author and Rep. Mastura, both agreed that federalism may satisfy the needs of the Bangsa Moro for a greater say in determining and running their own affairs.  At the public hearing, Sen. Santiago announced that their committee would endorse S. Ct. Res. No. 26 before the Senate.  Nothing came out of this move because of EDSA II resulting tin he removal of Estrada from the Presidency.  Today (2003), the change to Federal-Parliamentary form of government is at the core of the debate in Congress whether to do it by Constitutional Convention or Constituent Assembly.  After the Senate vote, it is clear that it will be by Con-Con.  Still the Federal issue is a main question in the Con-Con and Senator Pimentel believes that a  Federal System will be the best political option because it can create a Bangsa Moro state.

The process of revising the Constitution is a long and arduous affair.  First of all, Congress has to pass a bill calling for a constitutional convention (ConCon) which the President has to sign into law.  The said law may have to be submitted to the electorate in a referendum unless it was passed by a two-thirds vote of Congress.  Then, elections for delegates to the Concon would have to be held.  Still, it is a good option for serious political change.  There are new options that may be considered.

1.BANGSA MORO STATE OR COMMONWEALTH

The Bangsa Moro supports federalism but only if a truly autonomous Bangsa Moro state or commonwealth government is established first as demanded by the Civil Society of Bangsa Moro and as the MILF also demand.  If the government again tries to cheat the Bangsa Moro by simply expanding the ARMM and not extend to it the basic powers and rights of a federal state, then the conflict would intensify.  In a genuine federal government (such as the United States, for instance), each state or regional government enjoys certain basic powers and rights, such as the following:

 

  1. The power to draft and implement a state or regional government or provincial (as in Canada and Kosovo) constitution;

 

  1. The power to enact and execute laws pertinent to the state only;

 

  1. The power to levy and collect taxes, independent of taxes accruing to the Federal Government;

 

  1. The power to establish a police force that shall maintain peace and order in the state and protect its citizens from danger and Federal Armed Forces can only intervene if called upon by the state government;

 

  1. The power to establish and maintain political, judicial, social and industrial structures and organizations for the benefit and welfare of the state and its citizens that conforms to its history, culture, religion and social institutions. These structures/organizations include state government executive offices, legislatures, courts of law, business corporations, social service agencies and the like;

 

  1. The power to exploit all natural resources and deposits within the state and give a share to the Federal Government through negotiations and formalized in an Agreement;

 

  1. The right to choose for itself a state flag anthem, motto and the like and use them for whatever legal intent and purpose that it may so desire; and

 

  1. The right to enjoy such power and privileges that the Federal Government may extend to it and those that are purely local in character.

 

Considering the urgency of reaching a peaceful political solution to a problem that has troubled the country for decades, the Philippine government may enter into a binding International Agreement establishing a truly autonomous Bangsa Moro state or commonwealth or regional government as soon as possible.  It would be impractical to wait for the ConCon or ConAss to revise the Constitution, as this would take too long.  The Agreement can be considered a treaty and given a constitutional status.  This can be the product of the GRP-MILF negotiations with the participation of OIC countries and the USA.

The GRP can propose to the OIC to mediate with the MNLF and MILF to agree to work-out a new International Agreement under Article X of the Constitution to establish a Bangsa Moro commonwealth or regional government giving it all the powers of a state except foreign affairs and national defense as proposed by former Senator Juan Ponce Enrile and Senator John Osmeña.  Even Senator Biazon said that it is all right, as long it will not seek independence.  This is possible under the Resolution 02/30 at Tehran OIC-ICFM, May 28-30, 2003, No. 15 supporting the Agreement of Unity of MNLF and MILF wherein a united delegation attended the Conference. The acceptance of the MILF and MNLF of such an agreement subject to approval by the Bangsa Moro citizens in a Referendum.

The policy conference sponsored by the National Defense College of the Philippines Foundation and the ISIP Foundation of the ROTC UP Vanguard Alumni on April 28, 2000, where this author participated also recommended the establishment of a Bangsa Moro State in the Philippines as in China’s “one Country-Two System” policy.  This was also the day that the war in Narciso Ramos Highway started.  This solution can be the comprehensive, lasting and just solution to the Bangsa Moro struggle.

“The best political solution may be the creation of a Bangsa Moro State or Regional Government comprising of the Muslim provinces and Municipalities by constitutional amendment and call a provisional constituent assembly composed of elected delegates to enact their state or regional constitution and establish the system of government and election of officials.  The State or Regional Government shall be federated to the Philippine Republic.  If the solution is effective, then the other regions of the Philippines can be converted to states and form the Federal Republic of the Philippines.  The second option, is to recommend a referendum by the United Nations with the consent of the GRP to allow the Muslims only to vote for independence or federal state with the Philippines under the “One country, Two systems” proposal.[59]

The Central Policy Issue as previously mentioned involves the present constitutional approach to the Mindanao Question under Article X of the Constitution implemented by the Organic Act for ARMM in compliance with the MNLF-OIC-GRP 1996 Peace Agreement.  The New Organic Act passed by Congress lost because in the 9 provinces and 9 cities where the plebiscite was held, the majority of Christian voters definitely rejected the New Organic Act.  Therefore, the present constitution cannot solve the impasse in the political solution for Muslim Mindanao.  Art. X of the Constitution also involves the establishment of the Autonomous Regional government for the Cordillera but it has also failed.

The proposal to establish a Bangsa Moro State or Islamic Regional Government within the Philippine Republic should consider the “Four Dimensions of National Security i.e. political, socio-cultural, economic, governance and military.  “National Security” is defined “as state or condition wherein the people’s way of life, institutions, their integrity and sovereignty, including their well-being are protected and enhanced.”  It was proposed that the concept must be changed because the Filipinos are not only one people but many peoples’ because of our ethnic nations like the Ilocano, Ilongo, Cebuano, Cordillera, Maranao, Maguindanao nations and also as religious communities – Christian Filipinos and Bangsa Moro Muslim people.  It was also proposed that national security must not concentrate on sovereignty and territory because the AFP is the protector of all the peoples’ and therefore the well-being of all the peoples’ must be fully implemented to insure religious, ethnic and communal peace, security and happiness.  The new concept should read, “National Security as a state or condition wherein the peoples’ way of lives, institutions, their integrity and sovereignty, including their well-being are protected, enhanced, and fully implemented to insure religious, ethnic and communal peace, security and happiness.”[60]

 

2.BANGSA MORO ISLAMIC REGION

In the “Constitutional Accommodation of a Bangsa Moro Islamic Region” written by Soliman Santos, Jr., 2003, he states that:

“A rethinking of constitutionalism and sovereignty should lead to key mutual compromises, as we said, on national sovereignty but not territorial integrity on the part of the GRP and on independent statehood but not Islamic system on the part of the MILF.  Then, informed by comparative and international law and practice and by Mindanao’s tri-people character, we can create a constitutional structure or space that we might call a Bangsa Moro Islamic Region (BI’R, from the Arabic work BI’R for well of water) within the Republic of the Philippines.  What follows is a brief description which could also be the wording of a proposed constitutional amendment (with which there is no needs to even touch the rest of the Constitution):[61]

 

“There shall be created a special Islamic region to meet the aspiration for a system of life and governance suitable and acceptable to the Bangsa Moro people who opt for it.  This region shall exercise maximum autonomy with independent legislative, executive and judicial powers under an Islamic system, as the Philippine constitutional system shall not be practiced there.  This region shall be established pursuant to a peace agreement which shall have constitutional status as defining, among others, the relations of constitutional association between the region and the Bangsa Moro people, on one hand, and the Republic and the Filipino people, on the other hand.  “The constitutional arrangements shall include personal or cultural autonomy for Moros outside the region, and guarantees for the protection of human rights.

 

“Among the special considerations for this constitutional arrangement are upholding national unity and territorial integrity, securing the blessings of cultural diversity and lasting peace, and taking account of the history and realities of Mindanao.[62]

 

Atty. Santos emphasized that the BI’R will be governed in accordance with Islam even if it is not called a state or independent.  He enumerated the features such as the following:

 

  1. “The BI’R would have a very high degree of autonomy, except for national defense, foreign affairs and possibly currency. The governing law in this highly autonomous Islamic region would be shari’ah to the fullest possible extent.  The Qur’an, as the first primary source of shari’ah, would be the real constitution of the BI’R.  The Qur’anic blueprint covers all aspects of a whole way of life but Islamic governance is the most crucial aspect of an Islamic system.

 

  1. “In addition to the human rights regime under the shari’ah, including the status of the dhimmis (non-Muslim minorities), the initial common ground of commitment to protect and respect human rights in accordance with the UN Charter’s principles and the UDHR should be carried through and eventually cover other international human rights standards, ideally with a unified approach to human rights which covers both individual and collective rights.

 

  1. “Aside from common terms of reference which should include human rights and other generally accepted principles of international law, and aside from mechanisms for dispute resolution in cases of conflict of laws and jurisdiction, the constitutional negotiations should also determine relations of interdependency, cooperation and even protection between the BI’R and the RP. A highly autonomous Islamic system need not be an enclave unto itself within the Philippine polity.  A fair interaction is still the best policy for mutual benefit from cultural diversity. (Numbering Supplied).[63]

 

Atty. Santos also prefers the BI’R to a Federal State according to his concept of Autonomy or self-rule.  He explains:

 

  1. “The BI’R can be established whether the Philippines remain unitary or go federal. Be that as it may, autonomy has certain advantages compared to federalism.  Basically, autonomy is more purposively addressed to the particularities of an ethno-cultural region, including serving as a conflict-solving mechanism, while federalism applies across the whole country as a national structure – which makes it really another debate.

 

  1. “Autonomy is, therefore, more flexible, with a wide range of options from minimum to maximum, up to just short of full independence. It can also assume a personal nature, as in personal or cultural autonomy, while federalism is always territorial and functional.  Autonomy’s flexibility also extends to the instruments of creation such as a constitution, statute, treaty or a combination of these, while federalism is usually created only by a constitution.” This definition of Autonomy which empowers the Region of state powers short of Independence can still hold for a Bangsa Moro state in a Federal government or as a free associated state with the Philippines as discussed in the next option.[64]

 

3.INDEPENDENT BANGSA MORO

Atty. Mohammad Musib Buat, Chairman of the MILF Legal Technical Committee and Spokesman of the MILF Panel in a paper delivered before the 1st Summit of Muslim Leaders held last April 24, 2003, on the question of Bangsa Moro Independent State, declared:

“Why not?  The Sultanate of Sulu and the Mindanao principalities were deemed protectorates of the United States of America under the Kiram –Bates Treaty of August 20, 1899.  Regrettably, the US President unilaterally abrogated the said treaty in 1904 thereby prompting protest from the Sultan of Sulu.  The abrogation of the Kiram – Bates treaty by the US according to some legal scholars had the effect of restoring to the Sulu de jure sovereignty over the Sulu dominion and its dependencies.

“The restoration of the Bangsa Moro sovereign statehood is well supported by historical records.  It has historical and legal bases under the so-called Moro treaties.  While the Philippine state makes use of the Moro treaties for its claim over Sabah, it denies any historical right to the Bangsa Moro people its claim for statehood over its ancestral territories or homeland.  Far more ironic is the fact that while the Treaty of Paris of 1898 disregarded Philippine Independence under the Malolos Constitution, it was used by independent Philippines to justify its illegal inclusion of the Bangsa Moro territories in the Philippine national territory.

“On the other hand, the restoration of the date of Philippine independence on June 12, 1898 reaffirms President Emilio Aguinaldo’s recognition of Bangsa Moro sovereign status at the time the first Philippine Republic was proclaimed.  As an unincorporated territory of the United States of America, the Bangsa Moro people could well fall under the decolonization principle of the United Nations as a colonized people or nation.[65]

 

GAINS OF MORO INDEPENDENCE

In a paper entitled Referendum for Independence or Autonomy: Framework for a Peaceful and Permanent Solution to the Moro Problem presented during the Peace Consultative meeting at Iligan City in 1999, Professors Manaros B. Boransing and Luis O. Lacar of the Mindanao State University (MSU) justified the gains to be achieved by granting independence to the Bangsa Moro people similar to the one given by Malaysia to Singapore, Namibia by South Africa to East Timor by Indonesia and also to Eretrea by Ethiopia as compared to the continuing violence and war between Chechenya and Russia, Kashmir and India, Amilnado and Sri Lanka and others.

Should the Bangsa Moro people gain independence through a UN sponsored referendum, then Bangsa Moro will become an independent state and it must fend for its self and use its independence to attain the legitimate aspirations of its people.  The kind of state that will be established is not yet certain. It could be Islamic or secular or a mix, or it would be a western democracy model or an Asian democratic state.  However, there will be definite gains for the Philippine Republic.

 “On the other hand, the gains for the Philippine government are easily identifiable and quantifiable. The great bulk of Mindanao, Sulu and Palawan or (4/5) of the area is already owned and occupied by the Christian migrants and Lumads.  The Bangsa Moro dominated areas constitute only about a fifth of Mindanao, Sulu and Palawan; allowing this area to separate would have no material impact on the Nation’s economy.  In addition, the Annual National government subsidy to Muslim Mindanao amounts to billions of pesos; specifically the IRA for LGU’s and the yearly budget for the ARMM, MSUS and the Office of Muslim Affairs, etc.  The financial subsidy would also include the annual budgetary allocations for National government Agencies with operating units in Muslim Mindanao, like DPWH, DA, DAR, etc.  The annual government expenditure for Muslim dominated areas, including those spent by the AFP and the PNP; would roughly add up to about P50 billion annually.  All of these billions would be saved and used for the socio-economic development of the remaining regions in the Philippines.”[66]

 

4. FREE ASSOCAITED STATE

In the letter of Chairman Hashim Salamat of the MILF on January 20, 2003 to US President George W. Bush, he explained the MILF position:

“On December 14, 1960, the United nations General Assembly proclaimed the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples under resolution 1514 (XV).  Also in 1960, the UN General Assembly approved resolution 1541, defining free association with an Independent State, integration into an independent State, or independence as the three legitimate options offering full-self-government.[67]

Atty. Buat also presented the option of a Free Associated State by ASIM in his paper:

“Under the first option, Gilles Fireagle proposed an Associated Free State of Mindanao (ASIM) (Philippine Star, June 13, 2002).  Initially, he proposes that the Republic of the Philippines will give up sovereignty over the islands of Tawi-tawi, Sulu and Basilan.  The inhabitants of these islands will be free to create their won country.  The only limitation is that the new country will have to be associated with the Republic of the Philippines.  It will be self-governing in all respects, except that it cannot declare was against the Philippines.  The Free State of Mindanao as conceptualized will exist for 15 years.  On its 16th year, it must conduct a referendum among its citizens on whether or not to continue as an associated free state or return to the folds of the Republic.

At the same time, a referendum will also be held, open to all administrative/political units, including the ARMM to determine whether other Philippine provinces and/or cities would decide to join the said free state.  Should 50 percent or more elect to join the Free State, then the new state will become an independent nation.  This option may not be acceptable to the Bangsa Moro because it divides the people and their historic homeland.  The leadership of MILF is also based in Central Mindanao.  ARMM will not agree to be so divided because only Lanao del Sur, Marawi City and Maguindanao will remain in the ARMM for 15 years.  The proposal is unconstitutional because the Organic law is based in Article X of the constitution.

There are many models of a free state association.  An early model of association is that of the North American Indians who were considered dependent nations under treaty relations with the US Federal Government.  Based on American Jurisprudence, “the settled doctrine of law of nations (e.g., the Cherokee Nation) is that a weaker power does not surrender its independence – its right to self-government, by associating with the stronger and taking its protection (through a treaty).[68]

The Treaty of 1878 between Spain and the Sultanate of Sulu recognized the Sulu realm as a protectorate rather than as a territorial possession of Spanish colonial administration.  This was officially adopted as a policy by the United States of America in the Instruction of President William Mckinly to the First  Philippine Commission of 1900.  Thus, the Congress of the United States regarded the Moro Nation as dependent nation similar to the North American Indians under treaty relations with the US Federal Government.  The Treaty entered into between Sultan Jamalul Kiram II of Sulu and General John C. Bates of the United States Army confirmed the protectorate status of the Sulu Sultanate under the Spanish Treaty of 1878.

The most familiar model known to Filipinos was the former Commonwealth of the Philippines.  Other examples are the Estado Libre Associado de Puerto Rico, the British Commonwealth countries of Australia, New Zealand and Canada.  The more recent trust territories of the Pacific islands that became self-governing in free state association with USA in 1990 are the Federated States of Micronesia, Republic of Marshall Islands and the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands.  Another Pacific Island, Palau became fully self-governing in free association with the USA in 1994.

The Associated Free State can only be established by Treaty or International Agreement between the GRP and the MILF supported by the MNLF and submitted to the Bangsa Moro voters in a Referendum with UN supervision.  This option can accommodate the powers under the BI’R concept and a Federal state concept.  What can emerge maybe a system like that in the Federation of Serbia and Montenegro, both independent states and Kosovo a non-independent state but part of the Federation or the one between Puerto Rico and USA.[69]

In the document entitled, “Declaration of Intent and Manifestation of Direct Political Act” issued by the Bangsa Moro Organizations under the umbrella of the Bangsa Moro Consultative Assembly gathered almost a million signatures and submitted to the Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers of the OIC.  The document was dated August 16, 2000.   The document stated:

“We hold these to be the true relationships between the Bangsamoro People and the Filipino People at large:

 

  • That the concept of “protectorate” rather than “territorial possession” was adopted officially by the United States Government in the Instructions of President McKinley to the first Philippine Commission of 1900. The course taken by the US Congress in regard to the Moro population resembled initially that of the Indian tribes as “dependent nations” until the unilateral abrogation of the Bates Treaty of 1904 that was premised on other matters than “the de jure sovereignty of the Sultan.”

 

  • That an operative clause in the Treaty of Paris of 1898 was that “the civil rights and political status of the native inhabitants of the territory Spain ceded to the United States” was to be determined by Congress. Not only that the Philippine commission did not completely concede to the Christian Filipinos the right to govern the Moro population but that considerable autonomy was granted in a separate structure for the Moro Province until 1913.

 

  • That the governance of the Moro population and other indigenous inhabitants under the Moro province in Mindanao and Mountain Province in Luzon was defined as “territorial periods” between 1904 and 1914 until the US congress had finally determined the fate of the Philippine Islands. The unilateral abrogation of the Bates Treaty of 1904 that was superseded by the Kiram-Carpenter Agreement of 1915 was shrouded by unresolved controversy, with reservation in giving consent to the disposition of any territorial possession of the Sultanate.

 

Justification

“In the course of thirty-year transitory period from 1916 to the final grant of Philippine Independence in 1946 by the United States Government, the Moro population and their leaders did not fully relinquish their right to self-determination.  Nor had they given up their common identity.  With intent and purpose they never waived their political will but adhered repeatedly to the maxim “no domination of one element over another.”  So we seek open, direct democratic justification as such:

 “As the direct political act of association formed that of a body politic so those who were associated with it take collectively the name of people i.e. nation.

 “As the exercise of civil rights formed that of a citizen action so those who participated in the political life of the nation share in the power of the sovereign i.e. government.

 As the indigenous ancestry of claims formed that of a homeland so those who occupied it in the name of the bangsa institute the ancestral domain i.e. territory

“Considering, at first, that the Bangsamoro People attempted to reconcile with the idea of a new Government of Mindanao, they were gradually integrated as minorities into the national body politic.  Yet the units of political power and governance have not necessarily guaranteed them political justice.

“And thus we hereby reiterate the continuous, consistent and collective Bangsamoro people’s opposition to their unjust annexation into the Philippine national territory and their statutory incorporation without plebiscitary consent on their part.  These major assertions of civil rights are fully documented:

 

  1. The Cotabato Memorial of Datus and Persons dated September 30, 1916.  Said document acknowledges the benefits of the establishment of the new Government of Mindanao, including the right “to perform part of the work of the Government” and “to take part in the making of laws for us.”

 

  1. The Petition of the People of Sulu Archipelago dated June 9, 1921. Said document assails the failure of the Philippine Legislature to pass laws for the Moro people’s benefits, citing instances of inadequacy of appropriations, diversion of infrastructure programs, abuses of the constabulary, failure to give justice and equity, and failure to maintain law and order.

 

Complaints that the executive acts of Filipinization has made Mindanao merely the “dumping ground” for undesirables of Luzon and the Visayas such as abusive police officers coupled with excessive militarization still prevail as instruments of neo-colonial domination.

 

“Recalling, once more, that the Bangsamoro People moved to propose alternative solutions to the “Moro Question” when it became a pivotal issue to the grant of Philippine Independence.  Fully documented are the following petitions for redress:

 

  1. The Zamboanga Declaration of Rights and Purposes dated February 1, 1924. Said document petitions the US Congress that 50 years after independence may have been granted to the rest of the Philippines, a plebiscite be held in “the proposed unorganized territory” consisting of the islands of Mindanao and Sulu and the island of Palawan.

 

“To decide by vote whether the proposed territory will be incorporated in the government of the Islands of Luzon and Visayas, remain a territory, or become independent.”

 

  1. The Dansalan Declaration in Protest of Moro Inclusion in Philippine Independence dated March 18, 1935. Said document cites the discriminatory act of Christian Filipinos in that in the Constitution of the Philippine Commonwealth “no provision whatsoever is made that would operate for the welfare of the Moros.”  In the event the American people decide –

 

“To grant the Philippine independence, the islands of Mindanao and Sulu should not be included in such independence.”

 

“We do reaffirm the intendment of these declarations for which reason we appeal to the President of the United States and the US Congress to correct the injustice done and/or to rectify it by legitimate means such as a resolution for referendum on the Moro Question under UN supervision.”[70]

In another document signed by Muslim Organizations entitled “Janji O Ra’yat Bangsamoro” (Covenant of the Bangsamoro People dated July 15, 2000) also submitted to the OIC, stated:

“Preliminary Statement

 

“The Bangsamoro People profoundly acknowledges, the great and unselfish efforts of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) in pursuing the support of the Muslim World to the BANGSAMORO PEOPLE’S EPIC STRUGGLE FOR THE RIGHT OF SELF DETERMINATION as an ancient nation existing before the coming of Islam to the Malay people’s and known in the Chinese chronicles as MIN-TO-LANG and ZULO and in the Ortelius Map of New Asia in 1570 as Mindanao, Pahlawan and Zulo long before there was a Philippines, Luzon or Visayas.  Mindanao was also called MALUKU BESAR – The Land of Great Kings.  Our ancestors accepted ISLAM freely without conquest and STRUGGLED FOR ISLAM (AGAMA), HOMELAND (HU’LA’/INGUD) AND FREEDOM (MARADIKA/MAHARDIKA) for over four centuries against Spain, America and Japan in their attempts on Christianization and colonization as well as the commonwealth and later the Republic of the Philippines for accepting alien and foreign rule and dictation and systematic GENOCIDAL CAMPAIGNS AGAINST THE BANGSAMORO PEOPLE resulting in the loss of over 605 of the historic Homeland in MINDANAO, SULU, TAWI-TAWI, BASILAN AND PALAWAN AND REDUCED THE BANGSAMORO PEOLE TO A MINORITY STATUS EVEN IN THE SZOPAD AREAS COVERING THE AREA OF AUTONOMY UNDER THE TRIPOLI AGREEMENT OF 1976 thus making it imperative on all Muslims of Bangsamoro to re-establish ‘PARENTA ISLAMI” (ISLAMIC GOVERNANCE) in our historic territories of the Bangsamoro Sultanates.

 

“Also considering, that the MNLF urged the OIC 27th Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers (ICFM) at Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia from 27th June to 29th June, 2000 to seriously investigate the failures of the government to comply faithfully and conscientiously with binding international commitments and obligations to the OIC and MNLF under the Tripoli Agreement of 1976 and the Final Peace Agreement of 1996 sanctioned by the Senate of the Philippines in Resolution No. 50, August 22, 1996 and send a Fact-Finding Mission to establish whether the government will honor or not its obligations under the Peace Agreement by November 2000 to be submitted to the Islamic Summit of Heads of States and Governments, and if, the GRP shall continue to refuse to comply with its obligations, then OIC should accept the Bangsamoro as a member of OIC and the MNLF as the sole legitimate representative of the Bangsamoro people as an umbrella organization form the National Front (Barisan Nacional) with all sectors of the our society to promulgate a state constitution in accordance with Islam and International Law and Practice based on the International Covenant on Civil and political Rights and Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, particularly:

 

“Article I – All peoples have the right to self-determination by virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.”

 

“And in the Final Peace Agreement of 1996, GRP recognized this Right of Self-Determination, stating:

 

“WHEREAS, the MNLF, led by Professor Nur Misuari, inspired by their guest for peace and prosperity and had in the past asserted the right of the Moro people to freely determine their political status and pursue their religious, determine their political status and pursue their religious, social, economic and cultural development.”

 

“Considering further, that the MILF leadership believes that it is to the national interest of the Philippines and the Bangsamoro that a solution to separate a Bangsamoro Islamic State be submitted to a REFERENDUM supervised by the United Nations on the issue of INDEPENDENCE OR FEDERAL STATE OR AUTONOMOUS REGION based on historical precedents such as:

 

  • As Malaysia allowed the separation of Singapore
  • As Indonesia allowed the independence of East Timor
  • As Yugoslavia allowed the separation of Eritrea
  • As Ethiopia allowed the separation of Eritrea
  • As USSR dissolving itself and gave birth to several independent states, including five Muslim states
  • As Israel has agreed to the establishment of the Palestinian authority that may lead to the Palestinian state.

 

Realizing, that the MNLF and MILF positions can be reconciled under a process wherein the MNLF will exert its best efforts with OIC to make the GRP comply fully with the Peace Agreement only up to November 2000 otherwise it will now apply as a Bangsamoro State as member of the OIC and establish a national Front with all Moro Fronts, Forces and Organizations which principally refers to the MILF while the MILF is seeking GRP compliance with existing agreements which have been torn to pieces by the artillery and bombs of the military and seeks for the UN REFERENDUM for Self Determination on Independence or Federal State or Regional Autonomy by espousing UNITY OF THE MNLF and MILF and the whole Bangsamoro leadership and petition to OIC to bring to the UN the issue of REFERENDUM for the Bangsamoro people to decide their political status as Fr. Dr. Joaquin G. Bernas, S.J. as one of the framers of the 1987 Constitution wrote:

 “In all of these, moreover, self-determination has never been limited to independence.  The heart of the right is the freedom to choose.  Thus, for instance while Puerto Rico has chosen to remain with the United States, East Timor, when given the choice, opted for independence. 

 “… Although there is no legal authority for secession, there is no obligation on the part of the minorities to stay with states, which oppress them if they succeed in seceding and in establishing themselves as new state, international recognition will folow.”[71]

The matter of “dismemberment of the country” has been questioned since the Bangsa Moro Homeland as declared by Bangsa Moro Consultative Assembly and many Muslim Organizations as well as the MNLF and MILF, was never legally a part of the Philippines.  When Spain sold the country to the United State (US) in 1898, the Bangsa Moro country was independent from Spain and, therefore, it could not have been included in the said sale as claimed by the Moro Sultans and leaders then.  The US occupied the Bangsa Moro states by force and created colonies by resettling Filipinos in Mindanao in lands owned by the Moros.  This was the same form of settler colonization in the Americas, Africa, Australia, New Zealand which has been historically condemned and these countries are making the reparations and restitutions to the colonized peoples.
The Filipinos were given land in Mindanao and Palawan stolen from the Moros and the Lumads.  This was illegal annexation because foreign occupation is only valid to acquire sovereignty if the land is terra nullus or there is no organized society or even tribal sovereignty as decided by the International Court of Justice in the case of Western Sahara vs. Spain, Morocco and Mauritania 1975.  The ICJ held that tribal societies even of nomadic communities has sovereignty and its independence must be recognized under international law.  This is the legal basis why the American Indians, the Canadian Tribes, Australian aborigines and New Zealand indigenous peoples were all compensated in billions of dollars and new treaties and laws were enacted to enforce these binding international obligations.

The Bangsa Moro sultanates preceded the Philippines State by at least 500 years recognized as states by China, Indonesia, Brunei, Mughal, and Ottoman Empires.  They were part of the constellation of Malay-Indonesian, Bornean Kingdoms and later Sultanates which existed during the eras of the Sri-Vijaya and Majapahit Empires before the coming of Islam. The civilization of the Bangsa Moro is at least a thousand years and they have persevered for half a millennium in fighting for the Freedom, Homeland and Islam.  In ASEAN, Moros can claim to be the uncolonized Malay Muslims because Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei were victims of European colonization.  Dean S. Worcester, Secretary of Interior during the US occupation of Mindanao, “wrote that among the Malay race, it is the Bangsamoro that has attained unaided the highest state of civilization in their Sultanic system.”[72]

The Spaniards failed and US partially succeeded and annexed the Bangsa Moro Sultanates to the Philippines under the illegal treaty of Paris that also liquidated the Philippine revolutionary Government of 1896.  ARMM Regional Governor Dr. Parouk Hussin pointed out that the “Conflicting Histories” must be understood so Bangsa Moro aspirations can be repeated.

“The history of the Philippine Muslims is part of the backbone of the historical development of the whole country.  Filipino historians like Renato Constantino asserted that no Philippine history would be complete without a study of Muslim development.  But it is the victors, a popular adage reminds us, who write history.  And as such, even in history, the Moros have been marginalized.  The problem here lies in the diverse and numerous historical developments, and, consequently, the different identities that were formed by these events.  So different, in fact, that to Christian Filipinos, Moro history and identity is but marginally noted in the history of their nation.  Similarly, Moros never considered themselves as integral to the Philippine nation-state.

The Philippine has, in fact, two lines of political and historical developments.  The first line, which is the older, came to develop in Mindanao and Sulu.  And this refers to the Muslim line of historical development.  Had not this line been disturbed by western colonialism, Islam might have charted the entire destiny of the Philippine nationhood.  On the other hand, external factors swept into the country to bring the second line.  This is the product of the great historical experiences of the Filipino people under western rule.  It is this diverse historical trajectory that inflames the animosity between the Philippine government and the Moro people.  Obliterating one contesting parties would have to find a way to respect each other’s identities and history, to agree to compromise and meet each other half-way in the true spirit of brotherhood and fraternity.”[73]

When the Americans contemplated granting independence to the Philippines, more than a million Moros of Mindanao and Sulu led by Sultan Mangigin, Hadji Panglima Nuno, Datu Sacaluran, Maharajah Habing, Abdullah Piang and Datu Benito sent a petition to the US congress on February 1, 1924.  The petition read, in part thus:

 

“… In the event that the United States grants independence to the Philippine Islands… it is our firm intention and resolve to declare ourselves an independent Constitutional sultanate to be known to the world as Moro Nation…”

 This declaration was followed by the Dansalan declaration of 1935 of the same import and held at the Torogan Dayawam Sultanate of which this author was the Sultan for several years and where my family resides.

The Bangsa Moro Civil Society feels that the government should negotiate with the Bangsa Moro with full recognition of their right of self-determination after almost 100 years of US and then Filipino exploitation and oppression of the Bangsa Moro people. The Filipinos should be “Christians” enough to allow the Bangsa Moro to exercise its rights to chart its own destiny in accordance with international law.  The Filipinos, confident in their strength in numbers and their superior fire power, would fight “toe-and-nail” to keep the Bangsa Moro Homeland within the republic.  But Yugoslavia is a lesson that despite its military victory against the seceding states, it lost politically and President Milosovich is under indictment by the International Criminal Court at the Hague.  Learn from Malaysia when it allowed Singapore to be an independent state rather than have political turmoil in Malaysia.  Now both countries are the most successful in ASEAN.

The exercise of the right of self-determination does not necessarily mean secession but may be an option for a self-governing but federated Bangsa Moro State or one associated with the Philippines as in the Confederation of Independent States in the former USSR like Puerto Rico and US or a Free Associated state.  There could be common security agreements, coordination in foreign policy, common market arrangements, and this can be discussed and settled peacefully, without bullets but through a peaceful and democratic referendum wherein the Bangsa Moro people will be asked to determine their political status by remaining within the Philippines as in the case of Puerto Rico and Quebec because the exercise of the right of self-determination does not mean independence automatically as in case of East Timor and Eritrea, or Singapore.

The political debate that must be resolve by the reasonable democratic debates and through the ballots.  The GRP should not show lack of confidence in its ability to have its option prevail in the said referendum.  It will be like an election but it will finally settle the issue of independence with the acceptance of all parties; GRP, MNLF, MILF, OIC, the Filipino people and the Bangsa Moro people.  Whatever will be the democratic outcome will be the best interest of all parties and the Bangsa Moro will no longer be a burden to the Bansang Pilipino or be an obstacle to building a strong nation for the Pilipino and also a strong nation for the Bangsa Moro.  They can be parts of a Federal System like the Federal State of Serbia and Montenegro and the Province of Kosovo.

REFERENDUM

Many people, both Muslims and Christians have already died in the war in Mindanao and more may still die.  It is important to bear in mind that a solution will only be effective so long as the parties involved accept the said solution.  Therefore, the Bangsa Moro must be consulted first before the government undertakes any action.  The Bangsa Moro must be presented with a number of alternatives to choose from.  It would not be judicious to try to force the Bangsa Moro to accept a particular solution.  To do so would be to invite more trouble and that would be something not devoutly to be wished for.

The MILF and other Bangsa Moro NGO’s advocate referendum with UN and OIC participation may be called wherein the Bangsa Moro would be asked to choose one (1) among four (4) possible alternatives as already explained above. The Independence alternative is, undoubtedly, anathema to the government but if it is what the Bangsa Moro wants, then the government must accept the latter’s decision. This is what happened to end the decades of  war between Ethiopia and Eritrea and between Yugoslavia and Bosnia-Hersegovina.  The Bangsa Moro enjoys the inalienable right of self-determination.  This right is upheld in the 1966 Covenant on Civil and Political rights and Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of the United Nations (UN) as already quoted.

The MILF contend that as a member in good standing of the UN, the Philippines is obliged to recognize and respect the Bangsa Moro’s right to self-determination.  The government recognized East Timor’s tight to secede from Indonesia as East Timor’s right to self-determination.  Then the government cannot deny the Bangsa Moro its right to freely determine its destiny.  If the Bangsa Moro desires independence from the Philippines, then the latter has to accept the Bangsa Moro’s decision in a free and democratic manner.  The essence of the right of self-determination is the right to choose or decide the political status of a people.  Fr. Joaquin Bernas, President of Ateneo de Manila University and one of the members of the Concon of 1987 has so opined as demonstrated in the cases of Puerto Rico and Quebec wherein the electorate rejected independence.  He even recognized the right to secede by an oppressed minority.  This is also the jurisprudence in International Law.

“In all of this, more over, self-determination has never been limited to independence.  The heart of the right is the freedom to choose, thus, for instance while Puerto Rico has chosen to remain with the United States, East Timor, when given the choice, opted for independence.

“This, however, still leaves us with the question of which “people have the right of self-determination.  Is the right possessed by the people as a whole in a given states or do minorities in the state have the right of self-determination?  Again Higgins says that “the desire for secession of certain groups… will be at its most intense when their human rights are being suppressed.  Just as the desire of individuals to leave their country is strongest when their rights have been violated, so the desire of ethnic groups to break away is most noticeable when they are oppressed.”  Do minorities, therefore, have the right to secede?

“The prevailing doctrine on territorial integrity prevents a categorical positive answer to the question.  What international integrity prevents a categorical positive answer to the question.  What international law does guarantee is protection of minority rights.  As Article 27 of the Covenant on civil and Political rights says: “In those states in which ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities exist, persons belonging to such minorities shall not be denied the right, in community with other members of the group to enjoy their own religion and to use their own language.

This, however, does not mean that new boundaries can never be recognized.  Although there is no legal authority for secession, there is no obligation on the part of minorities to stay with states, which oppress them if they succeed in seceding and in establishing themselves as a new state, international recognition will follow.

“I suggest that these developments are very relevant and should be considered in our search for a solution to the Mindanao question.”[74]

 IS THERE A PEACEFUL POLITICAL SOLUTION?

In the Peace Consultative meeting held at EDSA Shangri-la Hotel, Isla Ballroom, Mandaluyong City on September 28, 2000 sponsored by the Negotiation Panel for the Peace Talks with the Southern Philippines Autonomous Groups attended by almost a hundred participants from the National Security Adviser to active military officers, members of the negotiating panels, Muslim government and civil society leaders, as well as Filipino leaders concerned with the Mindanao situation came up with the following consensus:

“That the Mindanao problem has many dimensions to wit,

Historic

Security

Political

Socio-economic Cultural

 

The Conference agreed that the Mindanao problem must address the  following priorities:

  1. Historical, Islamic aspirations of the Bangsa Moro people and historical aspirations of the Indigenous peoples as recognized by the Philippine Constitution, International Laws and Covenants.

Respect for the historical, legal, cultural and religious rights of the tri-peoples of Mindanao.

  1. Political restructuring which may include:

 Federal Parliamentary system or

UN referendum on statehood and independence

       3. Adoption by the GRP of a ceasefire policy, whether unilateral or negotiated.

 

  1. Recognition that the only viable solution is a peaceful, negotiated, political settlement.

 

  1. Rejection of any military solution by all parties involved.

 

  1. Pursuit of a process towards peace and development which must be popular, participatory and inclusive of all sectors, to be led by the Mindanaoans.

 

  1. Integration/inclusion of the peace component in the development programs of the government.

 

  1. Full and effective implementation of the 1996 GRP-MNLF Final Peace Agreement.

 

  1. Undertaking by the national leadership of actions that would ensure that all military actions in Mindanao should/must respect the constitutionally protected human rights as well as other laws and international agreements and pursue criminal elements without quarters.

 

  1. For President Joseph Ejercito Estrada to lead a nationwide media campaign with the churches and Islamic Groups, Business Sector, women’s Sector, and other peace advocates in the Philippines to eradicate the anti-Muslim prejudices by the media.”[75]

 

Unfortunately, then President Estrada refused to consider any of these prescriptions for peace.  He, instead, launched an all-out war against the MILF and tried to oust Misuari as ARMM Regional Governor.

 

BANGSA MORO LEADERS COMMUNIQUE

In the past few months there have been two important developments among the Bangsa Moro Muslim Leaders, namely, The 1st Mindanao Political Forum on March 11, 2003 held in Davao City, second, the 1st Summit of Peace, Unity and Development sponsored by the Philippine Muslim Leaders Forum held at Midtown Hotel, Manila.

The Davao Conference was convened by Gov. Pax Mangudadatu of Sultan Kudarat Province and Mayor Rodrigo Duterte of Davao City from the authority of the President because of the bombing of the Davao City International Airport on March 4, 2003 using C4 explosives.  A Communique was issued by the elected Muslim Leaders as well as those from the civil society and the civil service.  The leaders appealed to the President to consider the resumption of the negotiations with the MILF and evaluate the following measures:

“4.     The majority of the delegates believe that in view of the turmoil in Muslim Mindanao in particular, and Mindanao as a whole in general, it is imperative that Her Excellency, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, issue immediately a “policy for peace and not war in Mindanao”  and provide as the framework for implementation all agreements between the MILF and the GRP to attain a comprehensive peace that will bring sustainable development that must benefit the Bangsa Moro masses and not only a select few.

“5.1   Separation of forces of the AFP and the MILF under the supervision of the Coordinating Council for Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) with monitors from Malaysia, OIC or even the United States of America.

“5.2   Immediate relief and rehabilitation of the refugees and war damaged areas in accordance with MILF-GRP agreement and there is already the Bangsa Moro Development Agency.

“5.3   Establishment of a Joint Task Force of AFP-PNP-MILF and representatives of the Muslim Governors and Mayors to pursue criminals in accordance with law and due process.

“5.4   Diplomatic demarches between the GRP, Malaysia and OIC to “restore negotiation between the MILF and the GRP” after achieving the First Three points to pursue the political solution to the conflict for only peaceful solution can succeed.

“5.5   The full implementation of an agreed socio-economic programs agreed to by the ARMM, the Muslim provinces, cities and municipalities outside the ARMM to be funded from national sources, international grants, soft loans and donations and waqf (endowment) from Islamic countries for the improvement of the quality of life and sustainable development of the Bangsa Moro people under the direction of the Muslim Leadership.”[76]

They presented this Communiqué to President Arroyo on March 13, 2003 at Malacañang Palace in the presence of her Cabinet Secretaries, Angelo Reyes, Eduardo Ermita, Simeon Datumanong, Jose Lina, Alberto Romulo and Jess Dureza.  The Muslim leaders were led Deputy Speaker Gerry Salapuddin as Chairman and Governor Pax Mangudadatu as convenor.  The author was the Chairman of the Plenary Session and signed the Communiqué.  The President read the entire Communique consisting of 11 pages and she declared after some discussions for almost an hour that she is for peace and gave instructions to the Cabinet Secretaries on that matter.  On March 17, she issued a memorandum to Secretary Reyes of DND to order all field officers to consider impact or violations of human rights before they conduct operations.  This was definitely an assertion of the President as her powers as Commander-in-Chief and the exploratory talks between the MILF and the GRP was conducted in Kuala Lumpur.

On March 28, a Joint Statement was signed between the MILF and the GRP panels at Kuala Lumpur which was welcomed by the Bangsa Moro people and the civil society as a milestone for peace.  The Bangsa Moro leaders were hopeful that this agreement will be implemented because a new member of the GRP panel was appointed in the person of DND Usec. Gen. Antonio C. Santos (Ret.).  The technical committees of both panels were scheduled to meet in Davao City 2003 but the bombing of Sasa Wharf again derailed the implementations of the agreements and more violence erupted between the MILF and the AFP.

The Philippine Muslim Leaders Forum issued also a Communique on April 24, 2003 and submitted it to President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo who graciously attended the First Summit of Muslim Leaders and inducted the members of the National Executive Committee.  The Communiqué related the brief history of the Bangsa Moro Struggle for Federalism or Independence in the 1960’s up to the armed struggle under Martial Law, as well as agreements between the MNLF-GRP and the MILF-GRP.  The Summit declared that, “It is a matter of Islamic duty and patriotism that all citizens and leaders will not only give lip service to the peace process and be mere onlookers to senseless violence that has been going on for decades, and agreements between GRP and MNLF remains to be fully implemented to benefit all the Muslims and the agreements with MILF remains to be enforced to end the armed conflict between the parties since it is causing the refugee population to rise above 300,000 persons.  The fighting must stop and the agreements must be enforced and no sabotage like unsolved bombings be allowed to derail said agreement.  We all fully support the peace process but it must be effective, sincere and immediate.”[77]  This statement was directed at the suspicious bombings at the Sasa Wharf just like the bombing at the Davao Airport and also to the MILF attack killing civilians in Maigo, Lanao del Norte.

The Communique also appealed to “the President to consider the dropping of the charges against Nur Misuari of the MNLF and Salamat Hashim with the leaders of the MILF” and instruct “the Secretary of Justice to recommend legal and just solutions to this problem to advance the cause of peace.”[78]  The Communiqué also stated on the issue on Balikatan 03-1 that there was no consensus between the Sulu Mayors and Governor and the Sulu Civil Society and recommended consultation with the people and their views must be brought to the attention of the US government.  This Communique was signed by Congressman Gerry Salapuddin, Deputy Speaker for Mindanao of the House of Representatives, Chairman of the Executive Committee; Secretary Simeon Datumanong and Regional Governor Parouk Hussin, Co-Chairman and certified by this author in his capacity as Secretary. The Bangsa Moro leaders are unanimous in their support for a peaceful settlement of the Bangsa Moro conflict because this state of war in the Bangsa Moro areas will only bring more complicated and intractable problems that will push the use of violence as the primary instrument of both parties to win in the armed conflict.

In a recent study entitled the “Re-imagination of the Bangsa Moro : 30 Years Hence” by Eric U. Gutierrez, whose work is still in progress and published in the Internet, April 2003, recommends a negotiated settlement even on the issue of Negotiated Secession: Ultimate Test for Moro Nationhood:

“Conditions are such that neither the MILF nor the MNLF can aspire for winning secession through war.  Even the Organization of Islamic Conference, which has sustained the Moro cause through the years, officially advocates autonomy.  The only way then that nationhood can be won is to continue the process of Moro nation-building while negotiating for secession with the Manila government.

* * *

“Manila, however, could not evade the secession question for long.  If it refuses to negotiate with the MILF on the basis of this agenda, the peace talks will inevitably fail.  Having no reason to continue negotiations, the MILF will have a case for a unilateral declaration of independence.  It can tell the international community that since Manila refuses to discuss the issue, they have no other recourse but to proclaim their independence and sovereignty, unilaterally.  The battle will then become more difficult and painful.  Locally, both sides will seek to demonstrate who has control over Moro territory.  Internationally, it will be a fight for recognition form the community of nations.

“Contrary to conventional wisdom, a negotiation on secession will not necessarily turn Mindanao over to the Moros on a silver platter.  If Manila will take that big step of recognizing the right of Moros to self-determination and ultimately to independence, it will force the Moro leadership to prove their case and meet the stringent requirements of nationhood.  They will first have to show that they are indeed a people, not only in theory but also in actual practice.  One way of doing this is to demonstrate that a majority of Moros backs not only the MILF leadership, but also the cause of independence.  This will be through the process of a referendum.”[79]

 

Professor Ben J. Kadil, PhD of the Department of History, Mindanao State University has published a book entitled “History of Moro and Indigenous People of MINSUPALA” and he entertains the same concern of a distinct Bangsa Moro Nation and the need to allow that nation to exercise of self-determination either as an Independent state or a Federal state or perhaps an associated free state or a Bangsa Moro Islamic Region.  Professor Kadil appeals that:

“The history of Bangsa Moro and indigenous peoples is nothing but a history of struggle and survival in their Minsupala homeland.  They inhabited the region since civilization began five thousand years ago and established their kerajaan and sultaniyyah before colonization by western powers.  Their history was reconstructed not as a history of colonial powers, but of the emergence and appearance of their own societies.

“This struggle simply means the preservation of Moros as Bangsa, or an “Islamic society,” and to strive towards restoring a “just, equitable, fraternal, and free society” that is protected from every form of tyranny (fitnah) and ignorance (jahiliyyah) that characterized the west, including Filipinas.  Miserably the Moros, or Muslims, have been contaminated by such a cancerous experience, hence they must aspire to restore and establish their Bangsa – their sense of chastity, pride, honor, dignity and prestige as an Islamic people sharing a common national ideology, distinct from the rest but part of the Ummah, or universal Islamic society.

“The Bangsa Moro as an Islamic people aspire to fulfill their stewardship (khalifah), in accordance with Qur’anic injunctions, and not imposed by satruh (enemy) or kufr (evil) forces, in their homeland in order to restore a muttaqu (God-fearing, just and upright) society that can redeem majority of their people from the agonizing and miserable future the country is currently or has been actually experiencing.”[80]

 

The proposed constitutional convention if it pushes through should not commit the same mistake of refusing to discuss the constitutional proposals to the Bangsa Moro as the convention/commissions of the 1935, 1973 and 1987 which produced constitutions that merely aggravated the conflict in Mindanao.  The first priority must be discuss the Bangsa Moro aspirations for the exercise of their historic, legal and Islamic rights as a federal state, an autonomous Bangsa Moro Islamic Region (BI’R),  Free Associated State or even as an Independent Bangsa Moro State to be established by UN Referendum.

It is proper at this conclusion of this dissertation to quote a non-Muslim, Protestant Christian, Tausog Scholar from Siasi, Sulu and who is nationally respected as a scholar, on his observation of the roadblocks to a just, comprehensive and peaceful political settlement of the conflict with the Bangsa Moro Fronts Professor Samuel K. Tan, wrote:

“Although the administration is trying its best to correct the imbalance, it is handicapped by at least three perceived roadblocks:

  1. The colonial heritage and bias against non-Christians have not been reduced or meaningfully altered but on the contrary have increased in importance.

 

This fact was revealed by a social-scientific survey of prejudice level by a Filipinas Foundation-Funder team in 1977 supervised by two prominent UP professors, Dr. Alfredo Lagmay, and Dr. Ruben Santos-Cuyugan.  After thirty years, I repeated the survey but in a comparatively smaller scale and limited to just a seminar group.

The random survey indicated an alarming increase, not decrease, in mutual levels of prejudice between Christians and non-Christians.  The implication becomes quite pronounced against the background of numerous peace process initiated by the government and the private sectors in the local, national, and international levels.

        2. The increasing level of frustrations of the marginalized sectors regardless of differences, on account of the State’s inability to full redress their grievances and satisfy their needs. The frustration has been ideologically transformed into Islamic fundamentalism in the case of the Muslim community and into Marxist-Leninism in the case of the poor masses.  Lamentably, the State does not have as yet an ideological answer to either the Islamic or Marxist-Leninist paradigm beyond palliatives for hungry mouths and homeless families and rhetorics and propaganda for the tri-media.

     3,   The unwillingness of the individual and corporate sectors that control the economic resources and potentials of the region from within or without, to equitably share the greater part of their profits and incomes with the masses.  In short, there is an absence of true altruism which should be the controlling principle in our capitalist system – if such system were to truly serve the ends of social justice and the universal principles of Christian, Islamic and animistic ideology.

 

Lastly, it is imperative to conclude that the search for a lasting breakthrough in the Mindanao peace process might ultimately be found in what genuine federalism can offer to a highly pluralistic society as the Philippines, a society marked by increasingly irreconcilable religious ideologies and by diverse ethnic traditions that refuse to die.  The merits of federalism as an approach to the nagging Mindanao problem had been recognized as far back as the Malolos Republic.  No less than Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo advocated this system to integrate the various sectors that Aguinaldo advocated this system to integrate various sectors that constituted the national community.  Surprisingly, even, James Blount in his The American Occupation of the Philippines, 1898-1913 supported this model and even suggested the structural justification for federalizing the whole archipelago.  In short, the government must seriously consider federalism if it wants to pre-empt the inevitable implications of social movements that advocate either independence or radical reform of society.”[81]

The government position that was explained by Sec. Eduardo R. Ermita, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process and Chairman of the GRP Panel negotiating with the MILF,during the recently concluded Christian Bishops and Muslim Ulamas Conference for Southeast Asia at the Westin Philippine Plaza Hotel, August 18, 2003, that :

 

“First, THE NEGOTIATIONS OUTCOME WILL STRONGLY ADHERE TO THE SPIRIT AND

INTENT OF ALL PAST AND EXISTING GRP-MILF AGREEMENTS.

 

Two, THE OUTCOME SHALL LEAD TO THE ENHANCEMENT OF THE SYSTEM OF

AUTONOMOUS  GOVERNANCE FOR THE BANGSAMORO PEOPLES WITHIN THE

CONTEXT OF THE PHILIPPINE CONSTITUTION AND WITH THE END IN VIEW OF ELEVATING THE LEVEL OF SIGNIFICANCE OF SUCH A LANDMARK CONSTITUTIONAL PROVISION. [82]

 

This government declaration is an opening to the possibility of a new constitutional formula that will satisfy the Bangsa Moro aspirations as well remain in a Federated Philippines. Maybe under Federalism, if a Bangsa Moro state or states will be established to the satisfaction of the Bangsa Moro, Mindanaoans, Lumads and the Filipino people as whole since the majority must ratify the new constitution, genuine peace and a comprehensive political solution that will accommodate the Bangsa Moro Identity claims, protection of their ancestral domains and ancestral lands, preservation and enforcement of the Sharia Judicial system, the Madrassah Islamic Education, authority on local peace and public security, effective Islamic governance and clean elections,  meaningful participation as partners in Federal governance, and other Bangsa Moro Concerns, will be finally attained, by the Grace of Allah, Insha-Allah.

 

 

————————————————————————————————————-

[59] The Policy Conference National Defense College of the Philippines Foundation and the ISIP

Foundation of the ROTC UP Vanguard Alumni on April 28, 2000

[60] Ibid. Policy Conference

[61] Santos, Soliman  Constitutional Accommodation of a Bangsa Moro Islamic Region, 2003

[62] Ibid.  Santos, Soliman  Constitutional Accommodation of a Bangsa Moro Islamic Region,

2003Santos Soliman, Jr.

[63] Ibid.  Santos Soliman, Jr.

[64] Ibid. Santos Soliman, Jr.

[65] Atty. Musib Buat, Chairman of the MILF Legal Technical Committee and Spokesman of

MILF Panel, PMLF held last April 24, 2003 on the question of the Bangsa Moro Independent

State

[66] Prof. Manaros B. Boransing and Luis O. Lacar, Referendum for Independence or Autonomy,

“Policy Conference in Mindanao” sponsored by Iligan Chamber of Commerce and Industry and

GRP Panel, Maria Christina Hotel, Iligan City, 1999

[67] Letter of Chairman Hashim Salamat to Pres. Bush on January 20, 2003

[68] Worcester v. The State of Georgia, 483, 501 (1832).

[69] Op-cit. Buat, Musib

[70] Declaration of Intent and Manifestation of Direct Political Act, Bangsamoro Consultative

Assembly, 2000

[71] Covenant of the Bangsa Moro People (Janji’ O Bangsa Moro), July 2000

[72] Marohomsalic, Nasser, Roadmap to  “The Bangsamoro Islamic State, AIM Policy Center, 2003

Muslim Perspective on the Mindanao Conflict,” pp. 18-19

[73]Hussin, Parouk, “Challenge of War and Search for Peace”, Muslim Perspective on the Mindanao

Conflict, AIM Policy Center, 2002, pp. 18-19

[74] (More on Self-Determination, Today Newspaper, May 14, 2000 by Joaquin G. Bernas, SJ).

[75] Peace Consultative meeting held on September 28, 200 at EDSA Shang-rila, Mandaluyong

[76] Communiqué of the First Mindanao Political Leaders Forum at Davao City on March 13, 2003

[77] PMLF Communiqué, April 25, 2003 held at Manila Midtown Hotel

[78] Ibid. PMLF Communiqué

[79] Re-imagination of the Bangsa Moro: 30 Years Hence” by Eric U. Gutierrez, published in

the internet on April 2003

[80] Kadil, Ben J. PhD “History of Moro and Indigenous People of MINSUPALA, Mindanao State

University Press, 2002

[81] Dr. Tan, Samuel K., Muslim Perspective on the Mindanao Conflict, AIM Policy Center, 2003

[82] – Ermita, Eduardo. “Role of the Bishops-Ulama Conference in the Peace Negotiations”, 21st BUC General Assembly, Westin Philippine Plaza, August 18-21, 2003

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