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Volume 1, No. 2010-01
A monograph series on peace, justice and development in Mindanao published by the Ateneo de Manila School of Government and the Institute of Bangsamoro Studies through the support of the Australian Agency for International Development
Volume 1, No. 2010-01
Steering Committee Antonio Gabriel M. La Viña (ASoG) Abhoud Syed M. Lingga (IBS) Peter Bartu (AusAID) Sam Chittick (AusAID) Editor and Research Coordinator Vanessa Remoquillo (ASoG) Research Associate Cristyl Mae B. Senajon (ASoG) Administrative and Financial Assistant Venus V. Vinluan (ASoG) Alibai U. Mantukay (IBS) Layout Ray Leyesa Cover Design Narwin Espiritu
Views and opinions expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect those of the Ateneo de Manila University, the Ateneo School of Government, the Institute of Bangsamoro Studies and the Australian Agency for International Development.
Mindanao Horizons is a monograph series that gathers the viewpoints of thinkers, opinion leaders and innovators in Mindanao, with the aim to contribute constructively to the discourse on Mindanao—its peoples, its history and heritage, and, most importantly, its future. It is our hope that Mindanao Horizons will inspire new ideas that will strengthen dialogue and engagement, spur deeper understanding, and give rise to lasting peace, justice, security and development in the region. Mindanao Horizons is published by the Ateneo de Manila School of Government (ASoG) and the Institute of Bangsamoro Studies (IBS) through the generous support of the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID). The ASoG and the IBS have collaborated on the selection of Mindanao-centered topics, and of the authors who can capably develop them and put forward innovative thinking and fresh insight. Each monograph is published with a joint editorial. When one of us is a contributor to the monograph, the editorial appears under a singular byline. Apart from the monograph series, the ASoG and the IBS also host Mindanaofocused, thematic roundtable discussions in Manila and in various Mindanao cities. In these gatherings, the ASoG and the IBS create the opportunity for free, provocative and unconventional idea exchange on ways to advance peace in Mindanao. For more information about Mindanao Horizons, visit the website www.mindanaopeace.org. Peace! Salam!
Antonio Gabriel M. La Viña
Dean, Ateneo de Manila School of Government
Executive Director Institute of Bangsamoro Studies
Abhoud Syed M. Lingga
Assertions of Sovereignty and Abhoud Syed M. Lingga Self-Determination:
The Philippine-Bangsamoro Conflict
This paper discusses the view that the armed conflict between the Philippine Government and the Bangsamoro people is rooted in the assertion of the government of its sovereignty and the assertion of the Bangsamoro to exercise their right to self-determination, and argues that finding solutions that will take into consideration the two positions will be the viable and sustainable way to achieve peace in the Bangsamoro homeland.
Nature of the Conflict
The conflict in Mindanao between the Philippine Government and the Bangsamoro people is seen from different perspectives. To the government, it is the problem of integrating the national cultural communities into the body politic (Republic Act 1888), while to the Bangsamoro, the problem is the refusal of the central government to recognize and allow the exercise of their right to self-determination. There are also some sectors of Philippine society who view the problem as MuslimChristian conflict.
Problem of integration
The situation of the Bangsamoro people as described by government is backward (House of Representatives 1954:85), “poor and lacking education and training.” (Abueva 1977) Summarizing his findings on the perceived problems of the cultural minorities, Abueva (1977) wrote: “From available written sources and from the responses of the delegates who were polled for this paper, one is struck by the sense of relative deprivation, neglect, exploitation, misunderstanding, discrimination, and therefore of a degree of elimination, felt by informed members of the cultural minorities.” Abhoud Syed M. Lingga is the Executive Director of the Institute of Bangsamoro Studies in Cotabatao City.
Government policymakers (House of Representatives 1954) believe that this deprivation triggers the violence in Mindanao. The relationship of deprivation to violence is explained by Magdalena (1983-1984:55) as follows:
“… communities which have higher deprivation and higher displacement tend to experience more violence than those which are low on these. Together, the two variables are much more highly related to the occurrence of violence than are the separate effects of either one.”
In response to this deplorable situation, the central government adopted the policy of integration. The objective of government’s national integration policy towards the Bangsamoro, who were earlier categorized as Non-Christian Filipinos and later re-categorized as National Cultural Minorities, is to render real, complete and permanent their integration into the Philippine body politic. Their integration has to be accomplished “by all adequate means and in systematic, rapid and complete manner” and includes their “moral, material, economic, social and political advancement.” (Sec. 1, RA 1888) The integration policy was reframed after President Ferdinand Marcos’ martial law. The new policy emphasized the preservation and development of the culture, traditions, institutions and wellbeing of Muslim Filipinos, in conformity with the country’s laws and in consonance with national unity and development. (Executive Order 122-A as amended by EO 295) Lately, with the passage of the law creating the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos, state policy was rephrased with the aim “to ensure the rights and well-being of Muslim Filipinos with due regard to their beliefs, customs, traditions and institutions, as well as to further ensure their contribution to national goals and aspirations and to make them active participants in nation-building.” (RA 9997)
The Bangsamoro see the problem from a different perspective. They want to exercise their right to self-determination, but the central government does not allow them. They tried to use peaceful and democratic means, to no avail. When they resorted to armed struggle to defend their communities from military incursions, the toll on human life and property has been heavy on both the Bangsamoro and the government. Realizing that the costs of being part of the Philippines far outweigh the benefits derived, the Bangsamoro attempted several times to separate from the republic. During the Fourth Congress, Representative Ombra Amilbangsa filed House Bill No. 5682 that sought the granting and recognition of the independence of Sulu. When the bill was sent to the archives without action, then-provincial governor of Cotabato Datu Udtog Matalam made a dramatic move, issuing the
Mindanao Independence Movement (MIM) manifesto calling for the independence of Mindanao and Sulu to be known and referred to as the Republic of Mindanao and Sulu. In 1974, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) issued a manifesto proclaiming that “the Bangsamoro people…are disbanding all their political, economic and other bonds with the oppressive government of the Philippines”, and appealing to the international community to accept the “Bangsamoro Republik as one of the members of the family of independent and sovereign nations in the world”. (MNLF Manifesto 1974) Salah Jubair (2007:11), in defining the problem as seen by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), writes: “Essentially, the problem, to the MILF, is about giving the Moros their (right to self-determination) RSD as enunciated in international law, which will in the end determine which of the various shades of self-governance they freely choose: associative, federative or any other form of self-determination, although the most natural meaning or expression of RSD is independence.” Even Bangsamoro academics see the problem as that of self-determination. In her suggestions to improve the relations between the Moros and Christians, Prof. Carmen Abubakar (1987:134) of the University of the Philippines made it clear that “(v)ital to this effort is understanding the Moros’ claim to self-determination and their demand for self-rule. This is a demand that has moral, legal and historical foundations and cannot be withheld or denied on the basis of colonial prerogatives.” The Bangsamoro assertion of self-determination is anchored on historical narrative and consideration of the costs that they pay for being part of the Philippine republic. The Bangsamoro consist of 13 Muslim ethno-linguistic groups living in contiguous areas in Mindanao. Prior to their incorporation to the Philippines, they exercised sovereign power over 2/3 of Mindanao. Today only around 1/3 of their original homeland remains in their possession after several decades of being part of the Philippines. The Bangsamoro claim that they have significant early experience in state formation and governance compared to the Filipinos. In the middle of the 15th century, Sultan Shariff ul-Hashim established the Sulu Sultanate, while in the early part of the 16th century, Shariff Muhammad Kabungsuwan established the Magindanaw Sultanate. These were followed by the establishment of the Sultanate of Buayan and the Pat a Pangampong ko Ranao (Confederation of the Four Lakebased Emirates). These states were already engaged in trade and diplomatic relations with other countries, including China, before the creation of the new political entity called the Republic of the Philippines. Administrative and political systems based on the realities of the time existed in those states. In fact, it was through the existence of
the well-organized administrative and political systems that the Bangsamoro people managed to survive the military campaign waged by Western colonial powers against them for several centuries and to preserve their identity as a political and social entity. When the United States government promised to grant independence to the Philippine Islands, the Bangsamoro leaders registered their strong objection to be part of the Philippine republic. Unfortunately for the Bangsamoro, their territory was made part of what the United States handed over to the Philippines in 1946. The Bangsamoro view the annexation of their homeland as illegal and immoral as this was done without their plebiscitary consent. Despite their protests, some Bangsamoro leaders cooperated with the Philippine government in the hopes of benefiting the Bangsamoro society, but their experience under Philippine rule has been unsatisfactory to many Bangsamoro. • Studies have shown that the Christian majority is prejudiced against Muslims.1 Prejudice has led to the exclusion of the Bangsamoro from opportunities in jobs, education, housing and business, as recounted in the Philippine Human Development Report (PHDR 2005). The PHDR 2005 study reveals a considerable percentage (33% to 39%) of Filipinos are biased against Muslims. The exclusion from job opportunities is very high. For example, 46% of the Christian population would choose a Christian male worker, while 40% would choose a Christian female domestic helper. Only 4% would choose a Muslim male worker, while 7% would choose a Muslim female domestic helper. The majority of the Christians have difficulty accepting Muslims as neighbors; a study shows that in Metro Manila, 57% would opt to have a residence with higher rent but far from a Muslim community. An earlier study of Filipinas Foundation (1975) showed that MuslimFilipinos were the “least likeable group”. Fifty four percent of those who responded to the question describing Muslims gave unfavorable comments, using terms such as “treacherous” and “killers.” In a study among youth in Mindanao, “majority (91%) of Christians showed stronger biases and prejudices against the Muslims than the
See Filipina Foundation (1975) and Philippine Development Network (2005) See Alfaras (2004) 3 See Rodil (2007)
Muslims had for Christians.” In terms of acceptance, the study reveals that “more than 90% of the Muslim youth respondents were more willing to accept Christians as associates or to work, live together, while majority (87%) of the Christians are not.”2 • The Bangsamoro lost vast tracts of their lands and became a minority in their own homeland. (Rodil 1994) The Philippine government opened the whole of Mindanao to resettlement and corporate investments. In 1903, the Philippine Commission declared as null and void all land grants made by traditional leaders like sultans, datus, and tribal leaders if done without government consent. Through the years, the government implemented public land laws that are discriminatory to the Bangsamoro and other indigenous peoples of Mindanao, while being favorable to Filipino settlers and corporations.3 The introduction of public land laws, which were based on the Regalian doctrine, “became an opportunity for the colonized north-Filipino elites to own or lease substantial landholdings as well as a chance for the ‘legal’ or systematic land-grabbing of traditional lands” (Fianza 2004:5) of the Muslims. In 1954 the National Resettlement and Rehabilitation Administration (NARRA) was established. Under this program, from 1954 through 1958, nearly 23,400 Christian Filipino families were resettled in Cotabato. (Mastura 1984:245) The consequence of the state policies on land ownership and the encouragement of Christian communities to settle in Mindanao was the minoritization of the Bangsamoro in their traditional homeland. The lands that remain to the Bangsamoro are those located in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and small areas in other provinces. • The government failed to deliver basic services and needed development to Bangsamoro communities. In the ARMM, which comprises provinces where the Bangsamoro are majority, poverty incidence was the highest in the country. Poverty incidence among the population is 60% in 2000, 52.8% in 2003, and 61.8% in 2006, while the national figures are 33%, 30% and 32.9%, respectively. Functional literacy rate in the region is 62.9% (2003) while the national average is 84.1%. Out-of-school children and youth are also highest in the ARMM (23.1%), whereas the national average is 14.7%. The ARMM’s under-five mortality rate (UFMR) and child mortality rate (CMR) are very
high at 45 and 12 deaths per thousand live births, respectively—compared to the country’s UFMR and CMR at 32 and 8 deaths per thousand live births in 2006, respectively. • The government also failed to protect the Bangsamoro people. There were reported massacres of Muslims and destruction of their properties, but the government failed not only to give them protection but also to give them justice. No serious investigations were conducted and no one was held responsible in many of these incidents of human rights violations.
Those who see the religious factors in the conflict have labeled it “MuslimChristian conflict”. This label is used by observers whose sight is trained only on the actors in the conflict, rather than on the issues involved. Visibly it can be seen that the majority, if not all, of the soldiers fighting the Bangsamoro forces, including the militias that the military are supporting, are Christians. On the other side, the majority, if not all, of the Bangsamoro forces are Muslims. It is also a fact that religious discourses are sometimes used to win over supporters. However, these do not make the conflict a religious one.
Attempts to Resolve the Problem
To pursue the national integration program of the central government, the Commission on National Integration (CNI) was established in 1957 for the purpose of achieving the national policy “to foster, accelerate and accomplish by all adequate means and in a systematic, rapid and complete manner the moral, material, economic, social and political advancement of the non-Christian Filipinos, hereinafter called national cultural minorities, and to render real, complete and permanent the integration of all the said National Cultural Minorities into the body politic.” The Commission had wide range of power and functions. With the creation of the Southern Philippines Development Authority (SPDA), the CNI was abolished. After a while, the Ministry of Muslim Affairs was established. This ministry was later abolished with the creation of the Office for Muslim Affairs and Cultural Communities (OMACC) by virtue of the Executive Order No. 969. During the presidency of Corazon Aquino, Executive Order No. 122-A was issued in 1987 creating the Office on Muslim Affairs (OMA). More recently, OMA
was abolished with the creation of the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF). To appeal to the religious sense of the Muslims, the Code of Muslim Personal Laws of the Philippines was decreed into law in 1977. These laws were extracted from Islamic jurisprudence on person and family. Shariah courts were subsequently organized in Muslim communities and Shariah judges were appointed to adjudicate cases involving marriage and inheritance. In 1973, President Marcos created the Philippine Amanah Bank, with a mandate to operate in accordance with Islamic banking principles. Its charter as an Islamic bank was passed by Congress in 1989. After half a century of the adoption of the integration policy, the central government remained unable to integrate the national cultural communities to the nation’s body politic. According to Quilop and Villamin (2009:9) of the AFP think tank, the problem in Mindanao is the failure of the Philippine state to develop strong sense of nationhood among its citizens.
“The situation in Mindanao reflects a fundamental issue the Philippines faces as a society–a weak sense of nationhood and the inability of the Philippine state or government to develop among the archipelago’s inhabitants the sense that they share and belong to the Filipino nation.”
To hasten the development of Mindanao, the Mindanao Development Authority (MDA) was established in 1961. The objectives of the MDA were “to foster the accelerated and balanced growth of the Mindanao, Sulu and Palawan region…within the context of national plans and policies for social and economic development, through the leadership, guidance and support of the government.” (RA 3034) After the conflict grew into armed confrontation between government and MNLF forces in the early 1970s, the government created a Presidential Task Force for Reconstruction and Development, the purpose of which was “to pool all government resources from its economic development, financial, welfare, and health agencies as well as military units” (Mastura 1984:248) in order to assess the damage caused by the conflict, to prepare an integrated plan for the full reconstruction and rehabilitation of Mindanao, and to restore peace and order. To attend to the needs of evacuees, the Special Program of Assistance for the Rehabilitation of Evacuees (SPARE) was created under Letter of Instruction No. 30. In 1992, President Corazon Aquino issued Executive Order 512 creating the Mindanao Economic Development Council (MEDCO) with the task to “promote
and coordinate the active and extensive participation of all sectors to effect the socioeconomic development of Mindanao.” MEDCO was abolished in 2010 with the passage of RA 9996 creating the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA).
Although the Marcos regime did not recognize the Bangsamoro right to selfdetermination, after the start of the talks with the MNLF in 1975, the government started to devolve powers to Regions 9 and 12 where Muslims have sizeable numbers. On July 7, 1975 by virtue of Presidential Decree No. 742, the Office of the Regional Commissioner (ORC) for Regions 9 (Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Basilan, Zamboanga del Norte and Zamboanga del Sur) and 12 (Lanao del Norte, Lanao del Sur, North Cotabato, Maguindanao, and Sultan Kudarat) were created by President Marcos. On March 25, 1977, by virtue of Proclamation No. 1628, Marcos declared autonomy in 13 provinces in Mindanao in response to the terms of the agreement signed in Tripoli, Libya between the government and the MNLF on December 23, 1976. Following the proclamation, a plebiscite was conducted to determine which of the 13 provinces mentioned in the Tripoli Agreement would join the autonomous region, resulting in only 10 provinces, the areas comprising Regions 9 and 12, deciding in favor. Marcos retained the original arrangement of having two autonomous regions, wherein the Muslim population became part of two regions instead of having one autonomous unit. This arrangement was objected to and largely discredited by the MNLF. From administrative autonomy, Regions 9 and 12 evolved into political autonomy in 1979 when Batas Pambansa Blg. 20 and Presidential Decree 1618 granted the regions limited powers to exercise executive and limited legislative powers. Under the administration of Corazon Aquino, changes were made in consonance with the provision of the new constitution that provided for the creation of autonomous regions in Muslim Mindanao and the Cordillera. An autonomous region was established for the Muslim population in Mindanao, but this time only four provinces constituted the autonomous unit. The ARMM, established in 1989 by virtue of Republic Act No. 6734, enjoyed more powers compared to the defunct Regions 9 and 12. Despite its enhanced powers, its legitimacy was questioned by the MNLF because the ARMM was established without the latter’s concurrence. On September 2, 1996 the government and the MNLF reached the final agreement on the implementation of the 1976 Tripoli Agreement. The MNLF agreed on the ARMM as the version of autonomy envisioned in the Tripoli Agreement with
the proviso that its charter would be amended to accommodate provisions of the agreement that were not found in Republic Act 6734. Congress on February 1, 2001 passed Republic Act No. 9054 that amended Republic Act 6734. For about three decades, the national government attempted to set up political institutions in Muslim areas to address the grievances of the Bangsamoro, but the performance of the former Regions 9 and 12, and now the ARMM, was not encouraging. A longtime resident of Cotabato City observed, “Thirty years into the movement, the Muslim Autonomy has not taken off.” (Diaz 1998:144) A member of the ARMM regional assembly admitted that “the ARMM is still struggling. It has not yet taken off towards real development.”(Naraga 2004:140) The autonomous region as a political institution that would give expression to the Bangsamoro’s political aspirations was a disappointment. The observation of Vitug and Gloria (2000:82) is indeed revealing:
“The value of the ARMM lies in giving recognition to a people’s need for a distinct identity and in being a venue to govern themselves. But, given the dire conditions in the area–poverty, lack of basic services, unresponsive leadership–the experiment in autonomy is a near failure.”
The creation of the autonomous government did not end the violent conflict in Mindanao. The ARMM as an institution was “unable to solve the Mindanao problem.” (Naraga 2004:139) It failed even to prevent the recurrence of violence between the government forces and the MNLF, notwithstanding the fact that both parties reached a final agreement in 1996. The social wellbeing of the population in the area of autonomy has not improved in the last three decades. The poor performance of the ARMM is attributable to some factors. • ARMM is not accepted as expression of Bangsamoro self-determination For a political institution to generate wide political support from the Bangsamoro, it has to be accepted as expression of their self-determination. This is understandable since their struggle has been founded on their claim to self-determination. The ARMM is perceived as “a form of political accommodation that was meant to appease a restive Moro population, rather than a well-thought out autonomy project.” (Bernabe 2003:4) The problem with the ARMM, likewise with the regional governments of Regions 9 and 12 before it, is that, from the beginning, it had been objected to by the MNLF. The unilateral action of the central government to push
for the ARMM’s creation was seen as imposition rather than exercise of right to self-determination. Its dismal performance in delivering services to its constituents reinforces the impression that it was “destined to fail right from the start.” (Bernabe 2003:4) • Negative perceptions towards autonomy Autonomy refers to self-governance. A political arrangement short of independence falls within the ambit of the concept of autonomy. When used in the context of the conflict between the government and the Bangsamoro, autonomy becomes a “tired phrase” for the reason that it had been opposed by the liberation fronts for years and the autonomy project of the government failed to bring peace and development in the area of autonomy. To avoid the baggage of negative perception towards autonomy, a governing institution has to keep away from using the term. A new name therefore has to be conceptualized. Some sort of political repackaging is necessary. Free association or any other term that implies power sharing between the central government and the regional government would be helpful to pursue this aim. • Lack of participation by the Bangsamoro in the drafting of the Organic Act The drafting of an organic charter of a Bangsamoro political institution will be an opportunity to generate wide political support from the Bangsamoro if done in a participatory manner without interference from the central government. In 1988, before the establishment of the ARMM, the Regional Consultative Commission (RCC) was created to draft the ARMM Organic Act. The Muslim commissioners complained of interference from national officials in their work, saying that they “did not have a free hand charting the proceedings of the RCC.” (Basman, Lalanto and Madale 1987:45) The drafting of an organic charter of a political institution has to be free from outside interference and should involve all sectors of the Bangsamoro society to generate their sense of ownership. The selection process for membership into a body that will draft the organic charter should ensure equitable representation of all ethno-linguistic groups, including indigenous people, and all sectors of the Bangsamoro society.
• Problem of representation The ARMM population is composed of several ethno-linguistic groups. The geographic configuration of the ARMM is highly dispersed though contiguous. This makes access to the center of political power difficult to many who live in the islands and in remote areas. In designing a governing institution, a system of representation in the legislative branch and the bureaucracy for every ethno-linguistic group is necessary to generate political support. Preference has to be given to representation by ethnic groups because they are more cohesive and generally live in contiguous areas. Their representation in the bureaucracy is also necessary to ensure the delivery of basic services to their communities.
Those who see the problem as misunderstanding, mistrust and prejudices between Muslims and Christians promote interfaith dialog as way of bridging understanding. Robert D. McAmis, an American missionary and among the pioneers of Muslim-Christian dialog in Mindanao, sees dialog as a means to avoid violence and conflict. “Truly, dialog is needed at all levels to understand and satisfy the legitimate demands of the Muslim minority to avoid further violence and conflict because of the Moro Problem.” (McAmis 1987:42.) The first National Muslim-Christian dialog in Mindanao was held in Zamboanga City on September 19-21, 1974. The Muslims included representatives of major Muslim groups, while the Christians were composed of Catholics and Protestants. Since then, various Muslim-Christian dialogs have taken place. The objective of dialog is to promote understanding. It can be a good method for conflicting parties to understand each other’s position. The problem of interfaith dialog as practiced in Mindanao is that it has sometimes been used for counter-insurgency. In July 1996, in the Ateneo de Manila University in Quezon City, then Defense Secretary Renato De Villa organized the meeting of ulama and bishops, forming the Bishop-Ulama Forum (BUF). According to De Villa, the objective of the dialog was “to outflank Salamat (Hashim) because he was trying to unify the ulama and all religious leaders of the Muslim South.” He continued, “(i)f he were able to bring into his fold all the ulama, that would be dangerous. He would have been in command of the Muslims minus the politicians and Nur Misuari. First, we needed a religious countervailing force. Second, we needed to find a vehicle to examine Muslim-Christian relations.” (Vitug and Gloria 2000:150)
Through the mediation of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC), negotiations between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the MNLF started in January 1975 and lasted until September 1996. The GRP and the MNLF signed two significant agreements, the Tripoli Agreement of 1976 and Final Agreement on the Implementation of the 1976 Tripoli Agreement. Both intended to address Bangsamoro aspirations for self-governance. The Moro Islamic Liberation Front, who stayed in the sidelines during the GRP-MNLF talks, evaluated the Final Agreement on the Implementation of the 1976 Tripoli Agreement and was convinced that the agreement fell short of the aspirations of the Bangsamoro people to exercise the highest form of self-governance. The MILF, with the end in view of achieving highest form of self-governance for the Bangsamoro through power sharing and equitable sharing of resources between the Government and the Bangsamoro State, entered into negotiations in January 1997. After more than 10 years of talks, the GRP and the MILF initialed the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD), which defined the power relationship between the government and the proposed Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE). MOA-AD also defined Bangsamoro identity, delineated their homeland and provided the formula for sharing of resources that are found in the Bangsamoro homeland. Both parties initialed the document in July 2008, but the Supreme Court restrained the GRP peace panel from formally signing the document and subsequently declared the agreement unconstitutional. The negotiations were derailed. Although the talks are now back on track, the positions of the two parties are poles apart.
In addressing the conflict between the Philippine Government and the Bangsamoro, the following challenging issues will always emerge from discussions, perhaps in same words as used in this paper or couched in more ambiguous terms.
Philippine sovereignty and Bangsamoro self-determination
The root cause of the problem is the assertion of the Bangsamoro to exercise sovereign right over a territory where the Philippine Government is currently exercising sovereign power and which the latter considers part of its national territory. The foundation of the Philippine claim is that the territory was part of what the United States granted to the Philippine State when independence was proclaimed on July 4, 1946. The Bangsamoro contend that the incorporation of their territory into the Philippines was without their plebiscitary consent, a blatant violation of their rights as guaranteed
by various United Nations instruments guaranteeing peoples’ right to determine their political status. The Philippine Government is determined in asserting its sovereignty, even to the extent of going to war. In 2000 the Armed Forces of the Philippines waged war against the MILF because “(i)t was the government’s course of action in assertion of its sovereignty.” (Pobre and Quilop, 2008:117) The Supreme Court decided against the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) to prevent government peace negotiators from making any concession to the Bangsamoro people that the latter could use to pursue their struggle for liberation. That is why in the post-MOA-AD formulations of the GRP peace panel the Supreme Court decision is always invoked.4 The Government fears that, if given an opening, the Bangsamoro people would decide to separate from the Philippines. In fact, what had been contemplated in an associative relationship between the proposed Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE) and the central government was not an independent Bangsamoro state. Still, the Supreme Court declared the concept as unconstitutional because it “presupposes that the associated entity is a state and implies that the same is on its way to independence.” Ismael G. Khan Jr. (2008), former Supreme Court spokesperson, explains why the Supreme Court issued the temporary restraining order against MOA-AD: “Viewed against the backdrop of contemporary political events around the world, there is little question that had the Supreme Court not issued its TRO when it did, an inexorable chain of events would have been set in motion, culminating in the secession of the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity from the Republic of the Philippines.” He elaborated this fear in the following words:
“The GRP negotiators’ gratuitous description of the Bangsamoro as the ‘First Nation’ with ‘a defined territory and with a system of government having entered into treaties of amity and commerce with foreign nations’ would have had the effect of making it difficult for other countries, especially unfriendly ones, not to recognize it as an independent state once the MILF intensified its war of ‘liberation’ against a ‘central government’ that had, in the first place, already declared that its relationship with the BJE ‘shall be associative, and characterized by shared authority and responsibility’”.
This fear lingers, despite that the MNLF accepted the OIC formula of solving the problem within the context of the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and that the MILF demands do not include independence but rather self-governance for the Bangsamoro as well as equitable distribution of power and resources between the Bangsamoro State and the central government.
See Seguis (2010)
On the other hand, the Bangsamoro are determined to seek recognition of their right to self-determination. In negotiations, the MILF tried to include in the agreement the phrase “Bangsamoro right to self-determination”. However, stiff resistance from the government peace panel compelled the negotiators to use creative phraseology, such as “the observance of international humanitarian law and respect for internationally recognized human rights instruments and the protection of evacuees and displaced persons in the conduct of their relations reinforce the Bangsamoro people’s fundamental right to determine their own future and political status.” (2001 Tripoli Agreement) Although the expression of self-determination includes separate political independence, what the MILF is pursuing is the highest form of self-governance. The view of the Office of Strategic and Special Studies of the Armed Forces of the Philippines is that only defense, foreign affairs and currency are non-negotiable, while all other issues are negotiable (Pobre and Quilop 2009:216). This is a perspective that is encouraging in the search for a solution to the problem, especially in that this view comes from the military establishment. By all indications, the Bangsamoro can accept an arrangement that defense, foreign affairs and currency will be exercised by the central government, while all other powers will be exercised by the Bangsamoro State.
Bangsamoro identity and homeland
The Bangsamoro want to be identified as Bangsamoro, the identity by which they want to be recognized by the Philippine Government and the international community. Furthermore, the Bangsamoro want to take charge of the preservation and management of their territory. This is understandable because under the stewardship of the Philippine Government they lost most of their lands and became a minority in their traditional homeland. The territory has to be delineated to include not only the land mass but also what are beneath and above, and the body of waters and seas in between, as the Bangsamoro are a maritime people. The delineation is necessary to identify the extent to which the Bangsamoro authority can exercise power of preservation and management of the Bangsamoro patrimony.
Security arrangements shall be built on the concept that they are a shared duty and responsibility between the central government and the Bangsamoro State. To translate the concept of shared security into practice, national security shall be the primary responsibility of the central government, while internal security of the region shall be the primary duty and responsibility of the Bangsamoro authority. Close cooperation between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Bangsamoro State is the best approach in fighting lawlessness, terrorism and criminality. For years, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, with the assistance of the United States military forces,
has been fighting terrorists in the South but never been able to eradicate the menace of terrorism. For Bangsamoro security forces to be effective, a future agreement should include the professionalization of Bangsamoro internal forces to the level of international standard.
In terms of governance, the power relationship between central government and the Bangsamoro State has to be part of the negotiated agreement. Internal governance structures, policies and administration have to be decided by the Bangsamoro State and the Bangsamoro people. There is strong clamor from the Bangsamoro for good governance and the elimination of corruption. What may be needed is a broad power to restructure governance to answer the needs of the population without necessarily going through the central government. Government structures, policies and programs are dynamic and may undergo changes from time to time to respond to changing situations. To have a responsible, transparent and caring government for the Bangsamoro, the Bangsamoro State must be empowered to build, develop and maintain political, judicial, administrative, financial and banking, legislative, educational, civil service, electoral, police, and health institutions.
A Bangsamoro entity cannot be viable without its income base. Subsidy from the central government works counter to the power-sharing principle. That is why a Bangsamoro State must have greater share, at least 75%, of the income derived from within its territory.
Relations among Bangsamoro, IPs and Filipino settlers
It is true that in other parts of Mindanao there are indigenous peoples and Filipino Christian settler communities. The Bangsamoro do not lay claim over these areas. The Bangsamoro are interested only in the protection and preservation of areas where they constitute the majority. The Bangsamoro are also aware that these communities have their grievances, too, particularly the indigenous peoples, but their grievances differ from those of the Bangsamoro. The indigenous peoples have also their right to self-determination, but the expression of the same to them is different from that of the Bangsamoro. While the Bangsamoro seek territorial self-determination, the indigenous peoples of Mindanao aspire for cultural self-determination. For indigenous peoples who will be part of the claimed territory of the Bangsamoro, the GRP-MILF Declaration on June 3, 2010 has given them equal rights with the
Bangsamoro and a guarantee of the protection of their economic rights, culture, belief and traditions. To address the concerns and grievances of the indigenous communities and the Filipino Christian settlers, it might be useful for the indigenous communities and the Christian settlers to seek the opening of new tracks of negotiations with the government, separate from that of the government negotiations with the Bangsamoro. Advocates of indigenous peoples’ rights have to assist the indigenous communities as they negotiate regarding their grievances. To lump together the concerns and grievances of the indigenous people, the Christians of Mindanao and the Bangsamoro would only complicate matters and make solutions to the problems more elusive.
Conclusions and Recommendations
The conflict between the Philippines and the Bangsamoro people is rooted in the assertion of the Philippine Government of its sovereignty and the assertion of the Bangsamoro people to exercise their right to self-determination. To move forward in the search for solutions to the conflict, it is necessary for the government and the Filipino people to overcome their fear that the Bangsamoro will separate. First, the MNLF has accepted the OIC formula of autonomy within the sovereignty of the Philippines. Second, the MILF demands do not include independence but instead the highest form of self-governance. In order for the Bangsamoro not to secede, the Philippine government should give them the opportunity to govern themselves, with their welfare and security assured under a negotiated agreement. To reach a negotiated settlement of the conflict, the following recommendations may be helpful: • The GRP and the MILF should continue the negotiations. A military solution will not succeed, a fact recognized even by the military think tank: “the issue of rebellion or secession is basically a political problem requiring a political solution, ideally through negotiations.” (Pobre and Quilop, 2008:117) Military victory is not all that counts; according to Pobre and Quilop (2008:118), “military initiatives must give way to the higher goal of finding a more meaningful and lasting solution to a complex internal conflict phenomenon.” • It is true there is no easy way to end a self-determination conflict, but peace talks to address the issues should not be allowed to drag on with no closure in sight. “Negotiations forever” and “ceasefire forever” will not solve the problem and certainly will not work for peace in the long run. The danger in longdrawn negotiations is that people might lose hope in the peace process, leading to the radicalization of some groups, particularly the youth.
Until there is closure to the negotiations the impression of instability in Mindanao will remain, affecting investments and development efforts. Speedy resolution of the ongoing talks will be to the best interest of the business sector and the larger Filipino society. The GRP, the MILF, the facilitator of the talks and the international community have to find ways to secure early closure of the GRP-MILF negotiations. • The Supreme Court decision on the MOA-AD gives the impression of a lack of consensus and coherence within the Philippine Government as far as the GRP-MILF peace process is concerned. It would be helpful to the negotiations if the Philippine Government can make the peace process a national agendum and bring key decision-makers on board. • Informing the public about the negotiations may not be enough. What is needed is to have both the GRP and MILF educate their respective constituencies on the importance of success of the peace process and the costs they have to shoulder if the conflict should continue. • The new administration must be open to constitutional changes in addressing the conflict. The Supreme Court decision on the MOA-AD makes it impossible to form a power-sharing arrangement between the Bangsamoro and the central government under the present constitution. If structural changes cannot be negotiated, negotiations become an exercise in futility. Both parties, but particularly the GRP peace panel, need to work out a formula to remove constitutional and institutional barriers. To allay the fears of some sectors that, in the process of amending the constitution, other provisions that they want protected might be affected, amendments can be done either through a surgical way—that is, only a particular provision will be amended—or by appending to the constitution an agreement between the GRP and the MILF. Because the constitution is limiting and restrictive, it should be not be used as the framework of the negotiations. Invoking constitutional constraints in the negotiations will lead the peace process nowhere. • Once resumed, the negotiations should begin at the point where the parties ended under the continued facilitation of Malaysia. Attempts to either disregard the gains of the 14 years of negotiations or to replace Malaysia as the facilitator will certainly derail the peace process.
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Rudy B. Rodil
Achieving peace and justice in Mindanao through the tri-people approach
There was a time when the populations of Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago were predominantly Moros and Lumad. As a result of the resettlement program initiated by the American colonial administration and later sustained by the government of the Philippines, settlers from the northern islands poured in droves into the region. Within less than sixty years, they had displaced the indigenous inhabitants and became the majority population. This created an unfeasible situation that did not benefit the local population, for whom common good was measured in terms of numerical majority. Today we must consciously reshape the relationships of the present inhabitants of the region if we are to live a life of peace and development. To this end, we propose the tri-people approach. One way of accentuating the need for the tri-people approach is by zeroing in on the Bangsamoro struggle for self-determination, which has been at the center-stage of Mindanao history in the last 42 years, from 1968 to the present. The May 1 Manifesto of the MIM (originally Muslim, later Mindanao Independence Movement) declared its intention to establish an Islamic state in predominantly Muslim areas of Mindanao. The Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) led the Moro struggle for national liberation, declaring its desire to create a Bangsamoro Republic within its claimed ancestral homeland, the entire area of Mindanao-Sulu-Palawan (Minsupala), through armed struggle. From 1972 to 1996, no less than 75% of the Armed Forces of the Philippines were deployed in Moroland and between 100,000 to 120,000 lives were lost in that Rudy B. Rodil is a former member of the Government Peace Negotiating Panel in the GRP-MNLF talks (1993-96) and GRP-MILF talks (2004-2008). He is a retired Professor of History at the Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology, IIligan City.
war—50% MNLF, 30% AFP, and 20% civilians, mostly Moros in whose areas the war raged. The Philippine government spent 73 billion pesos on combat expenses alone. After the MNLF signed the Final Peace Agreement with the government in 1996, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) felt that the desired Bangsamoro self-determination had yet to be attained and decided to resume the fight. Now it is technically at war though engaged in peace negotiations with the government. One may also include in the picture the kidnap-for-ransom activities of the Abu Sayyaf Group, whose targets tended to be non-Muslims, mostly Christians and Chinese businessmen, as a matter of fact. The social turmoil that revolved around the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the MILF highlights the reasons for the guardedness among the tri-people. The negative public reaction from Christian settlers, encouraged by opposition politicians, gave way to the petition for a Temporary Restraining Order from the Supreme Court to prevent the signing of the MOA-AD and the court’s eventual ruling that the document is unconstitutional. The very position of Malacañang, saying that it would no longer sign the document “in its present form or in any other form” regardless of the Supreme Court ruling, may have triggered the fresh outbreak of violence that was led by three top commanders of the MILF in central Mindanao. All these indicate both the complexity of the problem and the grave urgency to resolve it. One must add to this complexity the Lumad’s own collective manifestos protesting their inclusion in the MILF-claimed Bangsamoro ancestral domain, along with their political position, which states that they are not Bangsamoro and therefore have their own ancestral domain and right to self-determination. Three distinct interest groups are coming to a head. How to reconcile these positions within the Philippine republic whose very foundation is being questioned is one of the biggest challenges faced by the present Aquino administration. This paper is divided into four parts. Part One is on the historical background of the tri-people relationship; Part Two covers the Moro and Lumad assertions of right to self-determination; Part Three focuses on the basic considerations in advocacy for peace and development, and Part Four highlights specific recommendations.
Part One The Concept of Tri-People Relationship
It is only in Mindanao that we speak of a tri-people relationship. By tri-people we refer to the Moros or Muslims, the Lumad and the migrants, mostly Christian settlers and their descendants, the greater number now belonging to the second, third or fourth generations and are already considered homegrown Mindanawons; also, other migrants who are not Christians. The grouping is loose and there are several overlaps in between, but the designations are popularly used in the region.
The name Moro was originally given by the Spaniards to those Muslims of northern Africa who occupied Spain for nearly eight centuries, from 711 to 1492 A.D, and later to the Muslims of the Philippine archipelago. Now it refers to the 13 ethnolinguistic groups of the Maranao, Maguindanao, Tausug, Sama, Sangil, Iranun, Kalagan, Kalibugan, Yakan, Jama Mapun, Panimusan, Molbog and Sama Dilaut, also popularly known to outsiders as Badjaos. They are mostly Muslims, except for the Kalagan, who are only partly Muslim, and the Sama Dilaut, who are generally non-Muslims. They constitute, according to the 2000 census, about 18.9% of the entire population of Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago and they are the majority population only in the provinces of Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi and in fifteen other towns—one in Cotabato, nine in Lanao del Norte, two in Sultan Kudarat, two in Zamboanga del Norte, and one in Palawan.
The Lumad include approximately 35 tribes and sub-tribes indigenous to Mindanao, among which are, in alphabetical order- Ata Manobo, Bagobo, Banwaon, Bla-an, Bukidnon, Dibabawon, Higaunon, Mamanwa, Mandaya, Mangguwangan, Manobo, Mansaka, Matigsalug, Subanen, Tagakaolo, Talaandig, Tigwa, T’boli, Teduray and the Ubo Manuvu. There may be more because they normally refer to each other by their geographical and not by their ethno-linguistic names. They constitute, according to the 2000 census, about 8.5% of the entire population of Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago, and are the majority in only eleven towns—one in Agusan del Sur, four in Bukidnon, two in Davao del Sur, two in Maguindanao, one in Sarangani, and one in Zamboanga del Sur. The name Lumad is Cebuano Bisaya but is the product of an agreement among representatives of 15 out of 18 ethno-linguistic groups that was arrived at during the founding congress of Lumad Mindanaw in June 1986. Cebuano is their lingua
franca. Although most of them are Christians, usually belonging to various Protestant denominations, depending on which group arrived at their place first, they seldom refer to themselves in their religious identities.
The Christian Settlers and their Descendants
Composed mostly of the settler population of the 20th century and their descendants, the Christians settlers also include (in the census) the Bisayan-speaking natives of Mindanao, majority of whom came from northern and eastern Mindanao and who were converted into Christianity during the Spanish period, and the Chavacanos of Zamboanga. Many of them are still known by their geographic place names, such as Davaweño, Tandaganon, Surigaonon, Butuanon, Camiguinon, Cagayanon, Misamisnon, Iliganon, Ozamiznon, Dapitanon, and so on and by some peculiarity in their respective accents.
Table 1.1 Muslim-Lumad-Other Indigenous-Migrant Populations In Mindanao, Sulu And Palawan Based On Mother Tongue Classification By Province, 1970 Census Province Agusan del Norte Agusan del Sur Bukidnon Cotabato South Cotabato Davao del Norte Davao Oriental Davao del Sur Lanao del Norte Lanao del Sur Misamis Occidental Misamis Oriental Sulu Surigao del Norte Surigao del Sur Zamboanga del Norte Zamboanga del Sur Mindanao Palawan Grand Total Total 278,053 174,682 414,762 1,136,007 466,110 442,543 247,991 785,398 349,942 455,508 326,855 482,756 425,617 238,714 258,680 411,381 1,029,479 7,924,478 236,635 8,161,113 Muslim 1,350 1,036 3,998 438,134 28,349 12,657 1,818 9,027 83,921 404,359 485 656 412,591 430 1,701 22,098 178,146 1,600,756 32,328 1,633,084 % 0.49 0.59 0.96 38.57 6.08 2.86 0.73 1.15 23.98 88.77 0.15 0.14 96.94 0.18 0.66 5.37 17.30 20.20 13.66 20.01 Lumad 1,998 29,531 73,359 62,326 43,908 15,034 11,503 92,666 999 89 2,828 2,601 1,573 386 2,204 43,684 47,103 431,792 9,353 441,145 % 0.72 16.91 17.69 5.49 9.42 3.40 4.64 11.80 0.29 0.02 0.87 0.54 0.37 0.16 0.85 10.62 4.58 5.45 3.95 5.41 Other Indigenous Inhabitants 3 30 5,533 4,703 109 5,754 84,308 12,297 11 0 0 312 581 1 698 3,050 154,710 272,100 91,434 363,534 0.27 0.74 15.03 3.43 38.64 4.45 0.06 0.14 % 0.00 0.02 1.33 0.41 0.02 1.30 34.00 1.57 Migrant 274,702 144,085 331,872 630,844 393,744 409,098 150,362 671,408 265,011 51,060 323,542 479,187 10,872 237,897 254,077 342,549 649,520 5,619,830 103,520 5,723,350 % 98.79 82.48 80.02 55.53 84.47 92.44 60.63 85.49 75.73 11.21 98.99 99.26 2.55 99.66 98.22 83.27 63.09 70.92 43.75 70.13
Source: Republic of the Philippines. National Statistics Office, Manila. 1970 Census of Population and Housing. Table III.15. Classification by Sex, Major Mother Tongue and Municipality.
Table 1.2 Moro-Lumad-Migrant Populations In Mindanao, Sulu And Palawan Based On Mother Tongue Classification, By Province, 2000 Census Province Mindanao Basilan Zamboanga Norte Zamboanga Sur Bukidnon Camiguin Misamis Occidental Misamis Oriental Davao (Norte) Davao Del Sur Davao Oriental South Cotabato Sarangani Compostela Valley Lanao Del Norte Cotabato (North) Sultan Kudarat Cotabato City Marawi City Lanao Del Sur Maguindanao Sulu Tawi-Tawi Agusan Del Sur Surigao Del Norte Surigao Del Sur Mindanao Palawan Grand Total Total 18,104,337 332,579 821,921 1,930,822 1,060,253 74,134 485,978 1,123,529 742,206 1,902,993 445,733 1,100,511 410,137 579,719 757,084 957,294 585,768 161,517 129,809 668,860 800,369 619,550 322,066 551,265 558,414 480,691 501,135 18,104,337 752,114 18,856,451 Moro Number 3,643,032 255,239 41,335 261,224 8,684 152 1,055 9,689 16,005 49,778 18,041 50,636 37,633 9,779 189,120 187,195 129,373 97,218 125,072 616,873 632,382 590,948 306,804 4,698 1,640 679 1,780 3,643,032 51,829 3,694,861 6.89 19.59 % 20.12 76.75 5.03 13.53 0.82 0.21 0.22 0.86 2.16 2.62 4.05 4.60 9.18 1.69 24.98 19.55 22.09 60.19 96.35 92.23 79.01 95.38 95.26 0.85 0.29 0.14 0.36 Lumad Number 1,530,266 197 139,265 124,421 201,387 131 21,809 30,671 45,276 269,400 73,238 126,624 120,638 65,846 5,509 60,062 45,682 1,573 120 1,316 58,983 213 112 14,407 103,851 2,534 17,001 1,530,266 51829 1,582,095 6.89 8.39 % 8.45 0.06 16.94 6.44 18.99 0.18 4.49 2.73 6.10 14.16 16.43 11.51 29.41 11.36 0.73 6.27 7.80 0.97 0.09 0.20 7.37 0.03 0.03 2.61 18.60 0.53 3.39 Migrant Number 12,931,039 77,143 641,321 1,545,177 850,182 73,851 463,114 1,083,169 680,925 1,583,815 354,454 923,251 251,866 504,094 562,455 710,037 410,713 62,726 4,617 50,671 109,004 28,389 15,150 532,160 452,923 477,478 482,354 12,931,039 648,456 13,579,495 86.22 72.02 % 71.43 23.20 78.03 80.03 80.19 99.62 95.30 96.41 91.74 83.23 79.52 83.89 61.41 86.95 74.29 74.17 70.12 38.84 3.56 7.58 13.62 4.58 4.70 96.53 81.11 99.33 96.25
Source: Republic of the Philippines. National Census and Statistics Office, Manila. 2000 Census.
The Chavacanos were originally the Mardicas or Merdicas (meaning “free people”) who were natives of Ternate, Moluccas in present Indonesia. They were brought to Manila as soldiers by the Spaniards in 1663. Later, they were settled in Ternate, Cavite; some must have been assigned to Zamboanga, possibly about 1718.
Constituting nearly two hundred thousand in 1898, these native Christians are now integrated into the majority population. The entire migrant Christian population constitutes approximately 72.5% of the entire population of Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago.
Emergence of the Tri-People Concept
The tri-people concept did not emerge in our history until around the early 1980s, shortly before Lumad Mindanaw was founded in June 1986. The Lumads asserted their right to self-determination as a distinct segment of the Mindanao population and they wanted to govern themselves within their ancestral domains in accordance with their customary laws. Genuine autonomy within the republic was their battlecry. The Moros, for their part, have been vocal in their demand for recognition of their distinctness as a people. They are Muslims and would like to remain so. Their political awakening reached its maturation under the leadership of the Moro National Liberation Front, which originally advocated independence from the colonial clutches of the Republic of the Philippines through armed struggle. They wanted their own Bangsamoro Republic. In the face of these Moro and Lumad assertions of their respective rights to self-determination, the migrant population will have to rethink its position. Although they constitute the majority population, it no longer seems appropriate to speak in simple terms of majority rule. Democracy in Mindanao will have to be redefined. There are fundamental rights, interests and sensibilities involved that should be considered.
Stepping Back into History: Clarifying Political Realities
In the 1998 commemoration of the centennial of the Philippine Revolution, which culminated in the establishment of the Republic of the Philippines in 1898, the nation took great pride in recalling the long process through which, from the bondage of colonialism, it rose to establish national identity and won independence. But it is often overlooked, or many are simply not aware of it, that the Lumad and the Moro in Mindanao cannot identify with these commemorative activities; they were not part of that political process. Let us go back in history and examine why this is so.
Political Situation in 1898
On December 10, 1898, at the time of the signing of the Treaty of Paris between Spain and the United States, the Philippines was almost six months old, still
in its infancy but a perfectly legitimate de facto state. It declared its independence on June 12, 1898, and it is this date that is now celebrated as Independence Day. The Sultanate of Sulu, a state in its own right, was established in 1450, fought the Spaniards for 333 years and had remained free until 1898. While it is true the sultan signed a treaty with Spain in 1878 that technically reduced its political status to that of a protectorate, Sulu remained a de facto state, uncolonized to the end. The Sultanate of Maguindanao, formed in 1619 by the famous Sultan Kudarat from the two powerful datuships of Rajah Buayan and Maguindanao, also fought the same Spanish colonizers. Its leaders signed agreements with Spain in the last 50 years of the 19th century that compromised the sultanate’s sovereign status but, like Sulu, it remained uncolonized until 1898. In short, there were at least two de facto states at that time, all free and independent. If such was the case, which part of the Philippine archipelago belonged to Spain that she had the right to cede to the United States in the Treaty of Paris? We could probably say Intramuros, that city surrounded by stonewalls in Manila by the Pasig river. The political leaders of the United States were aware of this situation but chose to ignore it. When they paid the twenty million Mexican dollars to Spain for the Philippine archipelago, they claimed that there were no nations in existence here at that time, only scattered tribes fighting one another, thus neatly deflecting any possible accusation that the United States was guilty of invading free nation states. We say that the Treaty of Paris was a spurious transaction, in which Spain sold what did not belong to her. The two sultanates of Sulu and Maguindanao, including the Moros of the Pat a Pongampong o Ranaw, were never her colonies, and the Filipino people had just won their independence from her. But issues like these, questioning the legitimacy of the Treaty of Paris, were rendered moot and academic by American victory in arms in the wars that followed, specifically in the Filipino-American War and the Moro-American War. The Philippine islands, including Moroland, became, as described in American textbooks, “Our Insular Possessions”. In 1946, independence was returned only to the Republic of the Philippines, but not to the Sultanates of Sulu and Maguindanao and the Pat a Pongampong ko Ranaw. What about the case of the other indigenous peoples? Apparently, they did not have any social structures that would have merited the status of states. But in their simplicity, they contributed immensely to the anti-colonial struggle. The peoples of the Cordillera fought off the Spaniards successfully until 1898 and were never colonized. The Aetas of Luzon, the Mangyans of Mindoro, the indigenous peoples of Palawan and the Lumads of Mindanao chose to avoid or evaded contact with the Spaniards and so had remained free.
Ugly Twist in Our History
The stain of an ugly twist in our history remains with us until today. Those of our people who were colonized and became Christians fought and struggled to eventually give birth to the Filipino nation and to the Republic of the Philippines. This is what was commemorated in the Philippine centennial. Those of our people, the Moros of the two sultanates of Sulu and Maguindanao, and the Cordillerans who were never conquered and colonized because they fought tooth and nail for their independence; the Aetas of Luzon, the Mangyans of Mindoro, the indigenous peoples of Palawan and the Lumads of Mindanao who succeeded in avoiding contact with the Spaniards and also remained free—they all now suffer the status of cultural minorities. Their own struggles against colonialism have yet to find a place in the Philippine flag, while their own accomplishments have not been given their proper space activities commemorating independence. Nor are their feats mentioned in Philippine history textbooks used in schools. This is because we have yet to cleanse our consciousness of the stains of colonial mentality deeply embedded in our social structures. Colonialism contributed to the sowing of these stains, but the cleansing process is now in our hands.
American Share in the Process
One of the achievements of the American colonizers that endured to this day is the labels they neatly applied on us. First, in the census of 1903, they categorized the population into two broad groupings of Christians and non-Christians. The Christians were generally those belonging to any one of the eight linguistic groups of the Tagalog, Cebuano, Hiligaynon, Waray, Bikol, Iloko, Kapampangan, and Pangasinan, who predominated the Christian population; they were also characterized and called “civilized”. The Spaniards colonized them. It was this group of people who rebelled against the colonizers and, after more than 300 years, their struggle ripened into the Philippine Revolution. They gave birth to the Filipino nation and to the Republic of the Philippines. In 1898, they were the Filipino people. The non-Christians, also tagged as “uncivilized”, were those—let me reiterate very quickly for emphasis—who fought back and were successful in maintaining their independence throughout the period of Spanish presence. These were the proud Moros of the two sultanates of Maguindanao and Sulu and the Pat a Pongampong o Ranaw, and the indigenous peoples of the Cordillera, known today as the Bontoc, Ibaloi and Kankanaey, Ifugao, Ikalahan or Kalangoya; Isneg; Kalinga, Kankanais or Applais, and Tinguian. The others were those who kept
out of Spanish reach, thereby remaining free, among whom may be counted the Aetas of Luzon, the Mangyans of Mindoro, the indigenous peoples of Palawan and the more or less 35 Lumad tribes and sub-tribes of Mindanao already mentioned above. Because they were unconquered and had not been colonized, they never had to rebel against the Spaniards. The Moros and the Cordillerans were always at war with these aggressors. They had their record of struggle against the Spaniards, separate and apart from those fought by the Christians, and they are proud of it. Naturally, they had no part in the formation of the Filipino nation and cannot identify with the symbolisms of the Filipino flag.
Our Own Contribution to the Labeling Process
Within ten years after the Republic of the Philippines regained its independence, Congress passed R.A. 1888 that formalized and made official the labels National Cultural Minorities upon those earlier called non-Christians. The labels have since taken deep root in our consciousness. Some minor changes in the labels were later made to remove the social stigma – Cultural Communities in the 1973 Constitution and Indigenous Cultural Communities in the 1987 Constitution. However, the public continues to refer to the Lumad groups and individuals as non-Christian, uncivilized, or simply minorities.
Displacement in Their Ancestral Homelands, Only One Aspect of Marginalization
Worse than the labels, it was the American-initiated resettlement programs that created permanent damage on the lives of the indigenous population. It opened the floodgates to a heavy influx of Filipino settlers from the north, starting from 1913, leading to the massive displacement of the local people from their ancestral lands. This inflow of settlers was so heavy that by 1948, according to the census, where once the indigenous population predominated, they now had become the numerical minorities. By 1970, the Muslims retained numerical majority only in the five provinces of Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi. The Lumads remained the majority in only eight towns all over Mindanao. The provisions of the public land law and other related laws were stacked against the non-Christians. For instance, there was the Philippine Commission Act No. 718 of 1903 issued six months after the passage of the Land Registration Act, making void land grants from Moro sultans or datus or from chiefs of nonChristian tribes when made without government consent. The following table shows the discriminatory land disposition provisions of the public land laws:
Table 1.3. Public Land Laws and Resettlement1 Hectarage Allowed Year 1903 1919 1936 Homesteader 16 has. 24 has. 16 has. Non-Christian No provision 10 has. 4 has. Corporation 1024 has. 1024 has. 1024 has.
The Moros and the Lumads lost their lands to the settlers mainly by operation of law, in classic cases of class legislation. Their displacement and dispossession in their own ancestral lands was legal! This was only one aspect of their marginalization. Being now numerical minorities, they had to submit to the dominance of majority rule. More concretely, they had to submit to a majority-dominated uniform system of governance and justice, to a majority-dominated uniform system of land landownership and land use, to a majority-dominated uniform system of economic life and to a majority-dominated uniform system of education. Needless to say, what emerged in media and common usage is a majority-dominant culture.
Rodil, R. The Minoritization of the Indigenous Communities of Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago, Revised Philippine Edition, Alternate Forum for Research in Mindanao, Philippines, 2004.
Part Two Moro and Lumad Assertions of Right of Self-Determination
The MNLF-led revolution that erupted in late 1972 was the maturation of a series of Moro protests against the discriminatory treatment that they experienced within the Republic, the most infamous (prior to 1972) being the Jabidah massacre of 1968, wherein 26 of some 180 young Moro recruits undergoing secret military training in Corregidor were massacred for alleged mutiny. This was followed by the formation of the Muslim (later Mindanao) Independence Movement or MIM, and its declaration of a definite desire to put up an Islamic state in predominantly Muslim areas of Mindanao, Sulu Archipelago and Palawan. There were also several other bloody events in 1971, including the merciless massacres at Manili in Carmen, Cotabato and Tacub in Kauswagan, Lanao del Norte. The groundswell of Moro protests, spiced with reports of secret military training, became one of two excuses for President Marcos’ declaration of martial rule; the Communist rebellion was the other. Martial law provided the valve for the full-scale eruption of the Bangsamoro armed struggle for national liberation from, as the MNLF loves to say, the clutches of Philippine colonialism. In the beginning, the MNLF referred to its people as Bangsamoro and stated in unequivocal terms that Minsupala was its ancestral homeland; it wanted to establish its own Bangsamoro Republic and it aimed to accomplish this through armed struggle. The cost of that conflict was staggering to all concerned. The MNLF signed the Tripoli Agreement with the GRP in December 1976, establishing autonomy for the Muslims in southern Philippines, more specifically in the 13 provinces of Davao del Sur, South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao, Cotabato, Lanao del Sur, Lanao del Norte, Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga del Norte, Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi and Palawan, and all the cities and villages therein. Paragraph 16 further states that the entire agreement would be implemented through constitutional processes. After the two plebiscites of 1989 and 2001, only five provinces, excluding the cities of Isabela in Basilan and Cotabato in Maguindanao, have remained from the original 13 provinces. It took the GRP and the MNLF 20 years to agree on how to implement the document. Fourteen years after the two parties signed a final peace agreement, the full implementation of the accord has yet to be seen, a shortcoming that the government admits.
The 1996 Final Peace Agreement for the implementation of the Tripoli Accord, however, was not acceptable to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and it decided to pursue the Bangsamoro struggle for self-determination. At the same time, it also announced its openness to peace negotiations. When the negotiations started in January 1997, it submitted a single agenda item: to solve the Moro problem. Much ground has been covered but the peace process is still going on after 12 years, and there is no clear end in sight. The GRP-MILF peace negotiations has so far resulted in several important agreements, chief among which were the decision to a cessation of hostilities and the Tripoli Agreement on Peace in 2001, which finalized the three agenda items of security, rehabilitation and development, and ancestral domain. A high point in the negotiations was the much publicized signing of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) on August 5, 2008. However, opposition politicians, mainly from Cotabato, Zamboanga City and Iligan City, petitioned the Supreme Court to forbid the signing with the issuance of a temporary restraining order. They got the TRO and the rest is history. Malacañang announced that it would not sign the agreement “in its present form or in any other form” regardless of Supreme Court ruling. Three commanders of the MILF launched attacks on civilian targets in mid-August and by the summer of 2009, an estimated 6,000 evacuees were displaced from their homes and farms. By mid-October of 2008, the Supreme Court decided that the MOA-AD was unconstitutional. The two parties have since issued separate orders for their respective troops to cease hostilities, negotiations have resumed, and some vital agreements have been reached (e.g. revival and expansion of the International Monitoring Team IMT, the formation of the International Contact Group ICG, among others). By the first week of June 2010, the same month on which the term of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was to end, the two negotiating panels signed a Declaration of Continuity, expressing the desire of the two parties to continue the peace process. There has been neither interim agreement nor comprehensive compact. The ball is now with the new president, Benigno Simeon Cojuangco Aquino III.
Lumad Assertion A Political Act
Although never advocating armed struggle, Lumad Mindanaw and all its affiliate organizations have clearly indicated their desire to attain genuine autonomy within the republic. Lumad Mindanaw as an organization is no longer in existence but the concepts its advocates have sown are very much alive and attracting more adherents. They wanted to govern themselves within their respective ancestral
domains in accordance with their own traditional laws. This is an assertion of collective political right, not just cultural identity.
1987 Constitution Upholds Ancestral Domain of Indigenous Communities
For the first time in our political history, the 1987 Constitution states its recognition of the ancestral domains of the indigenous communities. Being a product of the EDSA Revolution, the 1987 Charter carries a sincere attempt to cleanse our political and social system of the various stigmata of the martial law regime and our colonial past. Regional autonomy is clearly provided for the Cordillerans and the Muslims of Mindanao. But it was not until October 1997 that an enabling act for this constitutional recognition was promulgated for the Indigenous Peoples.
The Indigenous Peoples Rights Act A Reason To Rejoice
Nurtured through the legislative process by committed and well informed indigenous leaders, lobbyists and sympathetic legislators, R.A. 8371 or the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) deserves to be hailed as a strategic first in the history of Philippine legislation. It was the long-awaited ancestral domain law designed to protect the interests of the indigenous peoples and uphold their identity and dignity. After 94 years, it eliminated the infamous Philippine Commission Act No. 718 of l903. Native title is now part of the law of the land. Ancestral lands and ancestral domains include not only the physical environment but also the spiritual and cultural bond to said territories. These ancestral lands or domains may now be titled. As of 2007, of the total certificate of ancestral domain title (CADT) and certificate of ancestral land title (CALT) applications covering 4.8 million hectares, only 19% had been approved; the processing of the remaining 81% is awaiting completion. Lack of funds has been identified as the cause. The right to self-governance in accordance with customary laws is also guaranteed. Communities living in contiguous areas where they constitute the majority population may form a separate tribal barangay. The same guarantee is given to the exercise of their own judicial system. They, too, shall have priority rights in the harvesting, extraction, development or exploitation of any natural resources within the ancestral domains. Outsiders who wish to tap said natural resources can only do so with the community’s free prior and informed consent.
Need for Sympathetic Cooperation to Implement the IPRA
Like any good law designed to protect and uphold the rights of cultural communities, numerical minorities that they are and vulnerable to manipulation due to their unfamiliarity with the letter of the law and its operations, the success of IPRA’s implementation will definitely require sympathetic cooperation from the rest of the government bureaucracy as well as from the general population itself. There have been recent instances of settler opposition to Lumad applications for ancestral domain claim. It can be recalled that the Commission on National Integration (CNI) of the past had very grand objectives but the government never released more than 50% of its budget allocation. The inertia of history and cultural bias are very much alive and must be viewed as a built-in obstacle to the fulfillment of the dreams visualized in this law. Decisive efforts from all concerned must be exerted to generate a spirit of mutual acceptance and mutual cooperation among the various peoples of Mindanao.
Part Three Basic Considerations in Advocacy for Peace and Development
The tri-people approach is without substitute in our peace building and development activities in the entirety of Mindanao and the archipelago of Sulu. It is also imperative that the local government units (LGUs), the provinces, the municipalities and the barangays should lead in the process. A way to carry this out is for central government to institutionalize the primacy of the peace process nationwide, and to engage the entire government machinery in the peace process, more specifically at the level of LGUs. Combining peace and development is too big and too complex to be confined to peace negotiations alone between the government and rebel forces. Given the delicate nature of the problem in Mindanao, LGUs and the people themselves must be engaged, not only through sectoral representation but also through institutionalized peoples’ dialogue.
Citizens’ Participation in Creating A Culture of Peace
The tri-people approach is best analyzed in microcosm, specifically within the framework of the 13 provinces in the Tripoli Agreement. Creating a culture of peace in these 15 provinces (from the original 13, following the recent creations of Sarangani province out of South Cotabato and Zamboanga Sibugay out of Zamboanga del Sur) is not a simple case of settling the implementation of the Tripoli Agreement. The MILF have added a few more areas beyond those specified in the Tripoli Agreement, but the basic elements affecting the inhabitants therein remain the same. The plebiscites of 1989 and 2001 merely touched on the territorial coverage of the autonomy but not on the dynamics of the relationships of the tri-people within the autonomy and without. While it is true that the Tripoli document clearly speaks of establishing “autonomy for the Muslims in Southern Philippines” in the 13 provinces, which may also be interpreted as the recognition of the ethnicity of the Muslim population, it is equally true that the same document is silent about the other major segments of the total population in the region. Naturally this is a major cause for concern among the non-Muslims; they certainly find difficulty identifying with this autonomy. The Government must constantly be conscious of the demographic peculiarity of the area of autonomy. It is not possible to leave any sector out, especially the Lumad and the Christians, whose population in 1970 and later in 2000 was decisively greater than those of the Muslims. In 1970, the total population of the region, Palawan included, based on mother tongue classification, was 8,146,652. Of this, the Muslims were 1,630,650 or 19.98%,
the Lumad 443,501 or 5.43%. The Christian settlers and their descendants composed the remaining 6,086,962 or 74.71%. There is a loose population of 363,534 or approximately 4.45% whose collective identity is classified as “Other Indigenous Inhabitants.” Even if this number were deducted from the settler population, the majority status of the Christian settlers remains overwhelming. This was not much different from the figures of the 2000 census, where the total population of Minsupala region had more than doubled at 18,856,451. Of this, the total Muslim population was 3,683,073 or 19.53%, and the Lumad 1,607,744 or 8.53%. The Christian settler majority was an overwhelming 13,565,634 or 71.94%. This population reality has a direct bearing on the implementation of the Tripoli Agreement, especially on the decision of the GRP and the MNLF to have a plebiscite, and, as the events surrounding the GRP-MILF Memorandum Agreement on Ancestral Domain have shown, also on the fate of the GRP-MILF peace negotiations. Eight of the 13 provinces2 listed as the territory of the autonomous region in the Tripoli Agreement were Christian-dominated; only five had a predominance of Muslims. So the result of the plebiscite of 1989 was not entirely unexpected, except for that inexplicable twist where the Muslim-dominated province of Basilan and the Islamic City of Marawi voted no. These same areas voted yes in the 2001 plebiscite, but the Christian dominated cities of Cotabato, a component city of the province of Maguindanao, and Isabela, a component city of Basilan province, voted no. The most intense opposition to the GRP-MILF MOA-AD of 2008 emerged from the Christian-dominated provinces of Cotabato and the cities of Zamboanga and Iligan. According to then Vice Governor Emmanuel Piñol of Cotabato, 173 barangays of his province were listed in the Category A of the MOA-AD without the benefit of public consultation. Mayor Lawrence Cruz of Iligan City complained that the eight barangays of Iligan enumerated in Category A constituted more than 82% of the entire territory of the city. He argued that, while four of these barangays are Moro-dominated, the other four cannot possibly be Moro ancestral domain because Moro population there has always been a minority. In fact, two of them, Hindang and Mainit, had only one Muslim each in the 2000 census. There were plebiscites in the territory of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) in 1989 and 2001. In both the answer in Iligan was an overwhelming no to inclusion. In 2001, only a measly 2.67% voted yes.
In 1976, when the agreement was signed, the area of autonomy included only 13 provinces. With the creation of Sarangani and Zamboanga Sibugay, there are now 15. Both Sarangani and Zamboanga Sibugay are Christiandominated, bringing to 10 the number of Christian-dominated provinces in the Philippines.
Often taken for granted and therefore left unarticulated as such are the intense emotional outbursts triggered by publicized concessions to Moros, represented by the MNLF and the MILF. The settlers’ angry reactions to the MOA-AD were not new. Similar expressions were exhibited in the 1988-1989 discussions on Muslim Mindanao and ARMM and in the aftermath of the signing of the interim agreement on the creation of Southern Philippines Council for Peace and Development (SPCPD) in 1995-1996. The following words have become triggers that set off loud and often angry reactions among settlers: “Muslim Mindanao,” “SPCPD,” and “MOA-AD.” Feeling rejected on a massive scale by these outbursts, the Muslims in turn naturally felt that their fight for self-determination is fully justified. It is equally important to bear in mind that the various Lumad tribes, all 12 ethno-linguistic groups within the 15 provinces, along with the rest of their kin all over Mindanao, have since the mid-1980s started to articulate their own right to selfdetermination within their ancestral domain. The Christian population, most of whom are third or fourth generation descendants of immigrants from Luzon and the Visayas but also of whom a large number is indigenous, see themselves as genuine Mindanawons and distinct from the others. To this extent, they may also be deemed to possess a certain level of “ethnicity”.
Need to Establish Commonalities
The tri-people must take part in identifying what is common among them and work out a modus vivendi from there. This is not something that can be the subject of negotiations between the GRP and the MNLF or the MILF. This cannot but be part of the broader peace process. We are talking about harmonious relations at the community level. The events from the early 1970s to 2008 are more than sufficient evidence to prove this. Konsult Mindanaw pioneered by the Bishops Ulama Conference (BUC) and the succeeding Dialogue Mindanaw have amply documented the same popular call for community dialogues, public consultation and peaceful resolution of conflicts. Perhaps, this is one moment in history when we must grapple with realities in a manner radically different from the way the colonizers did. If we must unite, we must do so as distinct entities; we must do so as equals accepting and respecting each other’s unique identity and dignity, regardless of population size. We must do so because unity in diversity is mutually beneficial and best for all concerned. This is an important first step in the creation of a culture of peace. Balanced with one another, ethnicity and recognition of each other’s political right to self-determination can be an instrument for sustaining a peace culture, which, in turn, is a vital component for the development not only of the autonomous region but also of Mindanao and the rest of the Philippines.
Peace Credo; the Organic Whole; Implications to Development
A number of peace advocates and educators from all over Mindanao and Sulu assembled at the Southeast Asia Rural Leadership Institute (SEARSOLIN), Xavier University, Cagayan de Oro City, in July 1996. This gathering was aptly called Consultation-Workshop on Peace Education in Mindanao, with the theme “Journey to Peace and Harmony”. It was hosted by the Mindanao Support and Communication Center for Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (MINCARRD) and the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP). The participants produced, ratified and adopted a Peace Credo in Filipino. The English translation here is mine. It is appropriate to recall it here. Kalinaw Mindanaw! Lumad, Muslim, Kristiyano Magkaiba, Magkaisa Isang Diyos Isang Lupain Isang Adhikain Kalinaw Mindanaw! [English Translation] Peace Mindanaw! Lumad, Muslim, Christian They are different, they can be one One God One land One dream Peace Mindanaw! What the Peace Credo advocates is that on the level of the people, the tripeople approach in peace advocacy is creating a stream of unifying ideals among a diverse population whose basic interests may sometimes be conflicting. It is molding a common agenda and a common vision; it is creating unity out of diversity. It is seeing ourselves as integral parts of an organic whole. Following the idea of an organic whole, the same people will do well to see themselves as one with nature and the physical environment in which they live. Then from there, find the inter-links, or the unifying thread among the various forces of nature. With a closer look, one can easily see the interactive roles of the various resources or forces of development in Mindanao in the overall forward movement of the region and the country.
Take industrialization as a case in point. One may say that industrialization is possible only with a continuous flow of electrical energy. Electricity comes largely from the Agus river hydroelectric plants, seven of them generating a total of 944 megawatts. The six dams along the Pulangi river will produce a total of 1,003 megawatts and service irrigation systems. Other smaller projects will have a combined capacity of 714 megawatts. The Mt. Apo geothermal plants alone are projected by the Philippine National Oil Company to produce a total of 220 megawatts of electricity. The 22 sites, excluding the geothermal plants, in Mindanao are expected to produce a total of 3,006 megawatts. From the sources of energy to the distribution of electricity, we can feel a very intimate interconnection between the peace process and the economic development. Water, the source of power that turns the giant generators, is dependent on the integrity of the watersheds. Keeping watersheds alive require the nurturing care of people, people who share a common desire to keep the water flowing for the common welfare. The vital watersheds in Mindanao are located in Moroland and within the ancestral lands of Lumad communities. Maintaining the watersheds will mean not only preserving the water resources in all lakes and major river systems, it will also mean a sustained supply of water for agriculture, another strong component of Mindanao economic development. The best illustration of the latter is the potential of the Cotabato and Agusan river basins. For the Lumad communities in particular, sustaining the integrity of the watersheds is respecting the sacredness of their domains, both physical and spiritual. Sustained effort from a diverse population will only be possible if the same is unified by a common goal. What this boils down to is that peace in Moroland is a vital component in the restoration and preservation of the watershed areas that will, in turn, assure us of the continuous flow of electricity. This for its part will fuel the industries. The cycle can continue ad infinitum. The cycle we have presented here is not meant to be complete but the concept of the organic whole approach to development seems worth exploring.
Tri-People Approach: Implication to National History
The Filipinos of today are not the same as the Filipinos of 1898. In those days, the Filipinos, the colonized segment of the population that felt the need to liberate themselves from the clutches of Spanish colonizers, did so and in the process produced the Filipino identity, the Filipino nation and the Filipino Republic. They put together a flag which faithfully represented their political realities and consciousness. But there were other segments of the population that we cannot so identify for lack of bases in historical fact. The Sulu sultanate fought Spanish colonialism as a state;
so did the Maguindanao sultanate, of which the Moro are extremely proud. We cannot take this away from them. The Lumad, who avoided contact with the Spaniards and were therefore not colonized, could not be identified as Filipinos either because they were not part of that process that brought about the Filipino nation. The American segment of our colonial experience changed all this. Having conquered and colonized all of us, it was the American colonizers who decided that we share the same territory and should all be Filipinos. This is why it can be said that only one independence was restored in 1946. The Muslims were not particularly happy about that. Content or not with what we have inherited from the American colonizers, we have a problem to solve. We have a shared destiny and a shared territory but we have conflicting views about it.
Mindanao is Shared Territory
At this point in our history, not a single segment of the population can claim Mindanao as theirs. It is already shared territory. The three segments of the population are capable of working out a modus vivendi that can make Mindanao a home of peace and harmony. What Mindanao has taught us is that we can still be Filipinos, but the basis of our unity cannot be our differing experiences with Spanish colonialism. Neither can it be the present Filipino flag that is the product of a different era. It must be our mutual acceptance of one another as distinct peoples in one nation, with our respective histories, identities and dignity sharing the same territory. It must be our common vision crafted from present realities. Perhaps, we should explore the feasibility of designing an entirely new flag and a new constitution, to represent an expanded historical experience and an expanded nation that allows for sufficient social spaces for the tri-people. This will make future commemorations of independence something all Mindanawons can identify with and find more meaningful.
Part Four Recommendations
There is no question that everybody wants peace and development in Mindanao. But we must get our acts together. We can start by dreaming of producing a new generation of Mindanawons in 20 years, Mindanawons who are not weighed down by deep-seated prejudice, who can come to terms with each other’s differences and social spaces, and who are willing to listen to one another in peace and define common dreams. But the government must lead this process, especially the local government units, complemented by non-government organizations and the private sector, including the various religious institutions. To accomplish these goals, this paper makes the following recommendations. First, nationalize the primacy of the peace process and engage the entire mechanism of government in the peace process. This should not be limited to the Office of the President through the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process and to the security sector, the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police. The local government units must take the lead in their respective areas. Formal peace negotiations alone will resolve neither the rebellion of the Bangsamoro nor the rebellion of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New Peoples Army (CPP-NPA). The same primacy of the peace process can be adopted in other areas of the country and adjusted to their specific requirements. In particular, it will help if: a) The LGUs at the provincial, municipal and barangay levels will be mandated to institutionalize and lead in community dialogues where citizens of the LGU can listen and decide on major community issues, especially peace and development problems; b) The national line agencies should have a peace component in their structure and projects; c) The Department of Education and the Commission on Higher Education will enshrine peace education in their curriculum, in the primary, secondary and tertiary levels; d) The universities and colleges, both public and private, will revise Philippine history textbooks to include appropriate space for Mindanao history from the perspective of the Bangsamoro and the Lumad. Second, a new Constitution is imperative to solve Mindanao’s problems. The resolution of ancestral domain and self-determination issues affecting the Bangsamoro and the Lumad will ultimately require structural changes in governance. Bangsamoro and Lumad communities need to have their ancestral territories and social spaces secured constitutionally to make the solution permanent. It is time for a new constitution that secures the Lumad and Bangsamoro where previous constitutions and legal frameworks
have been instrumental in marginalizing them. Community dialogues led by LGUs will enable the non-Lumad and non-Bangsamoro to understand and appreciate the fundamental issues involved, such as defining the concrete meaning of self-determination and how this will relate to the central government. For years, state policy was for amalgamation or integration of the non-Christian populations. The result was marginalization. The 1987 constitution gave way to autonomy and the recognition of the ancestral domain rights and distinct cultures of these peoples. Now we have the Organic Act for the ARMM and IPRA for the indigenous peoples. These obviously are not enough. There is a need for government to loosen up and allow for secured social spaces for the Bangsamoro and the Lumad, within they can develop at their own pace. It must finally be admitted that the country’s basic laws, such as the Treaty of Paris, the Philippine Bill of 1902 (The Philippine Organic Act), the Jones Law of 1916 (The Philippine Autonomy Act), the Tydings-McDuffie Act, the Philippine Constitution of 1935, the 1973 Constitution, and the present 1987 Constitution, operated within colonial logic: that there were no nations here when the American colonizers arrived and there was only room for one independent Republic of the Philippines in 1946. The 1935 Constitution, in particular, affirmed the legitimacy of the Treaty of Paris. It was within the framework of these laws that the amalgamation and marginalization of the Bangsamoro and Lumad communities took place and were justified. We must now rethink whether the same laws that created the problem can still be used to resolve the same problem. Third, fast-track the processing of Lumad applications for Certificates of Ancestral Domain Title and Certificates of Ancestral Land Titles. After a century of displacement, this requires no further elucidation. Every day of delay leaves the door open for settlers to insert themselves into Lumad domains. A CADT or a CALT is the Lumad’s best defense against unwanted intrusions; it is also their best assurance of long-term peace. Fourth, the details of the peace talks with the MILF and with the CPP-NPA should be disclosed to the LGUs and the public so that these can be discussed openly. It should be the task of OPAPP, and not of the negotiating panels, to deal with public information and public consultation. Fifth, the President of the Republic must stand by the signed agreements with rebel groups and ensure that these are duly communicated to the other branches of government and for implementation. By the non-full implementation of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement with the MNLF, for instance, the government is actually missing by default on a crucial opportunity to stabilize the situation in Moro Mindanao. What happened to the GRP-MILF MOA-AD has delivered its lessons; the least that we can do is learn from them.
Complementary approaches to the Mindanao peace process:
Antonio Gabriel M. La Viña
From diverse perspectives to a united effort
The tangled contentiousness of the Mindanao peace process and all its challenges can only be matched by the ingenuity and perseverance of the solutions put forward to achieve true peace. Two papers were written for this monograph by natives of Mindanao; the authors are deeply embedded in the island’s history and bring their insights to the discussion of the peace process. Abhoud Syed M. Lingga of the Institute of Bangsamoro Studies submits his thesis on the origins of the Bangsamoro as a political identity and, concurrent to this, their assertion to the right to self-determination, vis-à-vis the position of the Philippine Government regarding its sovereignty and authority in Mindanao. His paper, Assertions of Sovereignty and Self-Determination: The Philippine–Bangsamoro Conflict, traces the history of both sides of the conflict, the Bangsamoro community and Philippine government, on how each attempted to assert, defend, and then negotiate their respective positions on Mindanao. This history takes the reader from the years of war and government attempts to integrate the Bangsamoro with the rest of the country, through the establishment Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), right up to the controversial Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Through discussing how the Philippine government attempted to integrate the Bangsamoro with the rest of the country and the responses of the Bangsamoro people, Lingga points out the challenges raised by the conflicting positions, and offers his own suggestions on how the GRP and MILF can meet in the middle. In Achieving Peace and Justice in Mindanao through the Tri-People Approach, historian and former peace panel member Rudy Rodil advocates a “popular” approach based on the peoples in Mindanao and not simply on institutions grounded in law. Mindanao is home to three groups of different historical and cultural lineages: the Moros who were the historical majority in Mindanao but now comprise its minority; the Lumad tribes indigenous to Mindanao, and the descendants of Christian settlers who had taken their place in the land, yet had done so at the political, economic, and social expense of the other two groups. Rodil challenges these three disparate groups to overcome the pain of their shared yet contentious history in order to restore the social and cultural dignity of the Moro and Lumad peoples, through meaningful reparations for past injuries, such as land grabs of ancestral territories, and a continuing commitment to peace.
The authors take their respective approaches to resolving the Mindanao conflict—Lingga speaks to the leadership of the parties in conflict (GRP and MILF) while Rodil makes an appeal to the peoples of Mindanao to join hands for “One God, One Land, One Dream, Peace Mindanaw”. The two papers have a great deal in common, in that they actually reflect what is at the heart of the Mindanao conflict: a gap in perception driven by a history that saw the political, economic, and social marginalization of the Bangsamoro people. By outlining historical perspectives in their individual approaches, Lingga and Rodil bring to light this division in perception. Lingga explicitly points out the differences. The Philippine government saw their objective as one of integrating the South with the rest of the Philippines as a duly recognized territory even at the cost of conflict. This objective was later amended to finding ways within the peace process to maintain that Mindanao is part of Philippine territory. The MILF, along with the MNLF and other groups before them, have seen their right to self-determination denied by Manila, either by legal action, military deployment, or resettlement of their population. Even the establishment of the ARMM is contentious—the government and sectors of Philippine society may view it as a breakthrough concession in the name of peace, but Lingga argues that it is actually seen by the Bangsamoro people as an imposition from the top, not genuine self-determination, and simply a sop “to appease a restive Moro population”. Thus, the Moro and Lumad communities have been reluctant to support or embrace the ARMM, if not hostile to the concept. Rodil, on the other hand, emphasizes that Lumad and Moros do not see eye to eye with the rest of the country in terms of national history. Philippine history as it has been written and popularly disseminated glosses over Moro and Lumad independence from Spanish dominion. As a consequence of the Treaty of Paris, Mindanao became part of the continuous political domain that Spain ceded to the United States. This, however, grossly failed to consider existing autonomous states in Mindanao, such as the Sultanates of Sulu and Magindanaw, and the individual Moro communities and Lumad tribes over which Spain had no control. Subsequent migration of Christian populations from other parts of the country to Mindanao exacerbated the problem by displacing Lumad or Moro populations from their territories and marginalizing them in the political and economic arenas. Even Rodil’s suggestion of a “new (Philippine) flag” and “new constitution”, so that future commemorations of Philippine independence could truly become “something all Mindanawons can identify with” is reflective of this division in perspective; mainstream Philippine history cannot be comfortably embraced by a population that was marginalized by that same history. A second area of convergence is the emphasis on the need for the actors in the conflict to bridge this gap. Government and the MILF meet in the middle in
Lingga’s approach, but they have the benefit of encountering each other in peace talks. Rodil calls for people themselves to meet in the middle, through community dialogue, a more inclusive Philippine history taught in classrooms, peace education, and even a “new Constitution…[that secures] the Lumad and Bangsamoro where previous constitutions [have marginalized them]”. As he looks back on the MOA-AD affair, Rodil writes that a population whose emotions have been heightened by the conflict in Mindanao may not be so easily placated. He mentions the “loud and often angry reactions” of Christian settlers regarding perceived concessions to the MNLF and MILF. Lingga also notes how Christians have been shown to be more prejudiced against Muslims than Muslims were against Christians. These, in turn, engendered a feeling of “rejection” among the Moro, Rodil states, feeding into their struggle for self-determination. The third convergence between the two approaches is that both authors identify the Philippine government as the party capable of making, and needing to make, significant steps and confidence-building measures to sustain the momentum of the peace process. Lingga argues that, as the MILF has not explicitly declared that it is seeking Bangsamoro independence, there is no reason for the Supreme Court to fear an “inexorable chain of events” that would lead to eventual secession, the cause underlined by the Supreme Court for issuing a Temporary Restraining Order against MOA-AD. Taking the long view, Rodil calls for a government-led effort to review and retell the history of the Philippines, taking into account the disparate histories of the Moro and Lumad peoples, and to educate Filipino children in the ways and necessary concessions of peace. Both authors also underscore the need to amend the Philippine Constitution, seeing it either as an institutional roadblock that strangles negotiations, or an expression of national identity within which the Moro and Lumad minorities cannot locate themselves. Here both authors do not speak just to the GRP negotiating party. Rodil and Lingga address the branches and agencies of the Philippine government that can contribute to the peace process (e.g., Supreme Court, Congress, the executive department etc). They also address the rest of Philippine society, calling for support for these confidence-building measures. Amendments to or revision of the Constitution encourage the Filipino people to participate in the peace process through the potential Constitutional Convention that may result, or through their representatives in Congress, in the court of public opinion, and ultimately in the ratification of the amendments. The authors’ recommendations include measures by which the Philippine government can rebuild confidence not only with the MILF as a negotiating partner, but also among the Bangsamoro who had been marginalized in the course of history. They ask sectors of Philippine government and society to rethink their premises
about the Philippines, or the national identity, the Constitution, history and culture, economics, and politics. This rethinking will not be comfortable and can certainly inspire either a spirited defense of the status quo, or a gradual advance from there. Both parties have to make a move to converge and bridge the gap, and from both approaches as well. The tri-peoples and self-determination formulation approaches are complementary. Neither approach can thrive or survive without the other. Either needs the other to succeed. As the MOA-AD affair shows, if the rest of the Philippines cannot get behind a promulgated peace plan, the government’s hands are tied. If the government cannot convince the public of the merits of its concessions in peace negotiations, public opinion may prefer confrontation or at least inaction due to the perceived capitulation in these concessions. Filipinos do not want war, but do not like “losing” either.1 The government and the people it represents must approach the conflict as one. A house divided against itself cannot stand. The Bangsamoro, the Lumad and the rest of the Philippines must be able to meet as one, not in acrimony but in amity, considerate of the other’s interests and sensitivities, if their respective advocates can have any honest chance at meaningful negotiations. In this monograph, Lingga and Rodil attempt to bridge the gulf between two institutions (Philippine government and the MILF), three peoples (Moro, Lumad, and settler-descendant), and two sides to the argument (Philippine integrity and Bangsamoro self-determination). In bringing together diverse perspectives, perhaps a united effort to achieve peace, justice and development will succeed.
Consider the title Supreme Court spokesperson Ismael Khan chose for his Philippine Daily Inquirer (September 29, 2008) opinion article: “Who Lost Mindanao?” The article is a critique of the MOA-AD and the proposed Bangsamoro Judicial Entity (BJE) vis-à-vis the Philippine Constitution and the Arroyo Administration’s handling of the affair. Yet in the same article Khan argues that, should the MILF “refuse to agree” on negotiations within the framework of the Constitution, “to uphold [it] and swear allegiance and fidelity to the Philippines… the government should insist on the demobilization and disarmament of MILF forces. The country should be prepared to take on the MILF, with its armed force of 12,000, at that point.”
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