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PRIVILEGE SPEECH: Let us not miss this opportunity, probably the last, to win back our people

Posted on 04 October 2017 by cbcs_mike

By Sitti Djalia A. Turabin-Hataman
(Privilege speech of Anak Mindanao party-list Rep. Sitti Djalia A. Turabin-Hataman delivered at the House of Representatives on Monday, 02 October 2017. The speech was reprinted from MindaNews October 3, 2017 issue)

Madam Speaker, esteemed colleagues, ladies and gentlemen, Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullahi taala wabarakatuhu. Isang mapagpalayang hapon po sa ating lahat.

My sincerest gratitude for this opportunity to once again, and for the last time address this august chamber, and for all the opportunities this revered halls echoed this small voice from the islands and the seas of our homeland.

This was no easy decision, and perhaps the craziest I’ve done so far. But those who know me, and know my soul, have long suspected I was longing to be back home. I have always been a community worker, before I became part of government as Executive Director of the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos. In 2013 I was given the trust by Anak Mindanao to be its first nominee, and eventually the honor of being AMIN’s representative in the 16th Congress and in the 17th Congress before today. I pray that in the four years I served Anak Mindanao as its voice in the House of Representatives, I have returned this honor. Apart from our second nominee and now Rep. Makmod Mending Jr., it is also with strong conviction in her capacity and commitment that I entrust Anak Mindanao to our 3rd nominee, Ms. Amihilda Sangcopan, a friend, a comrade, Anak Mindanao sa Kongreso’s Chief of Staff from the 12th to the 14th Congress. I leave them at the helm of our priority bills which include the Bill against Discrimination on account of ethnicity and religious belief; the Islamic Banking Bill, the Bill for the Establishment of the Institute of Sulu and Mindanao Traditional Arts and the National Hijab Day which was just passed by the Committee on Muslim Affairs.

Being a member of the House of Representatives is indeed a great honor, to be the people’s voice, to be their representative, to decide and cast a vote for and in their behalf, on policies and laws that affect their lives, from conception to death. To run this government and determine this country’s future, to build the foundations upon which this nation’s tomorrow shall stand, and create a path unto which the children of this nation, our own children, shall take their journey. The very thought of this great responsibility overwhelms me, it scares me. As a struggling Muslim, I fear being made accountable in the next life of the trust given to me by the people, when I cannot even begin to imagine how I shall account for my own weaknesses. But with the guidance and hard work of all Anak Mindanao members and partners, from our AMIN sa Kongreso staff, to our AMIN volunteers in the communities, to those who continue to believe in us, who kept reminding us of the more than 700 thousand who voted and therefore trusted us, this representation held on.

Being a member of the House of Representatives is no comfortable task. Not when you have your own persuasions too, which do not always align with the people you claim to represent. Not when you know the complexities of government bureaucracy that are impossible to reform overnight, and you also know how greatly they contribute to the worse realities of our people on the ground. Not when you pour your soul out to champion a cause you believe in but you are judged by what they perceive to be your political agenda.

But despite all these, I do not regret a single moment I was Anak Mindanao’s Representative. I shall hold it one of my greatest blessings, perhaps a destiny I was meant to fulfill. The knowledge, wisdom and competencies I gained as a member of this House; the brilliance and commitment of fellow legislators unfortunately seldom seen by the public, as the most productive hard work happens in Committee meetings which, unless controversial, do not make it to the headlines; the doors of opportunities it opened not just for myself but for every deserving individual and cause; the people I met and whose friendships I shall value my whole life, all these I will carry with me beyond the walls of Congress.

All these I shall bring with me when I go back to my people, not as their Representative, but as one of them. Some of those who knew my decision said I can always go back, we are only required to be here on specific days. But going back does not only mean being with them physically. It also means, for me, being heard when I speak, not as a person of influence or power, but as me. It also means, being spoken to without the barrier of a title or a position, just me. Our sad reality today is that many can no longer see beyond titles and positions. May we realize that these are not the goals, but are mere platforms and opportunities, ways on how to fulfill a greater calling in life, and for me as a Muslim, as a path to gain a better life in the hereafter in shaa Allah. Whatever title or position or status we have, when it no longer serves that purpose, becomes meaningless. There is no higher office or lower rank, what matters is where and how you can serve best. This is a reminder foremost to myself.

This realization became strongly evident when Marawi happened. I am not from the city, but the impact of what happened brought me to so many questions and self-reflections, thoughts of where I am and where I am most needed, most effective. Although there are many factors coming together that led to the incident, it is a known fact that our people’s, particularly our youth’s frustrations over the seeming loss of our struggles, the imminent failure to realize our aspirations, became a vulnerable sentiment used by these groups to their advantage. As member of this House in the 16th Congress, I, along with some fellow Moro legislators did not fail in saying this. When Marawi happened, especially when I heard how young some of the members of this group were, 10, 12, 15, I can only ask myself, where did we fail? When and how did we lose them? Had I remained in the communities, as one of them, and spoke to them of peace, perhaps I could have convinced a child or two that it is possible. We often speak of winning hearts and minds. The fight is no longer anywhere but in our very communities and homes, the hearts and minds we so desperately need to win over are not anyone else’s but the hearts and minds of our own children.

But as I go back, I make this last plea, to all of you, honorable members of this most august chamber. There is another opportunity for you. I am grateful to Deputy Speaker Bai Sandra Sema for allowing me to co-author the Bangsamoro Basic Law drafted by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, my last act as member of the House of Representatives. I leave appealing to your compassion and discernment, with hope in our leaders, and faith in the President to make true his vow to pass the BBL. I appeal to you, we may be a little too late, as we all know now, but please let us not miss this opportunity, probably the last, to win back our people. As I go back, may this be a gift I can offer them from you, not a gift as a token of benevolence, but a gift we truly deserve, not just from the House of Representatives, not just from this administration, but from the Filipino people.

And to all those who believed and journeyed with me, who lent me their voices so I may speak in their behalf, know that I have given my all to be a worthy echo of your beautiful voices. I leave not to be silent, but just as I spoke all these years to magnify your own, I pray that you welcome me back and allow my voice to be one with yours, where it has always belonged.

Lastly, in these most challenging times we face as a nation, and as a former member of this honored House, I pray for our strength and guidance, for lights in our hearts, as individual members and as an institution, an institution that is a pillar of our democracy, a sail that sets the course of our country’s voyage. May we find the courage to overcome that which rifts us apart, and the compassion to rise above whatever barrier has been built among us, including those we ourselves built. For while it is the very nature of this institution in the performance of her mandate to always divide the House, it is our greater accountability to keep this nation and the people, whole.
Maraming salamat po. Wassalam.

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Posted on 03 October 2017 by cbcs_mike

We, the members of the coalition of broad networks of Bangsamoro/Filipino Civil Society and Grassroots Organizations serving Mindanao and its Islands had long been supporting and accompanying the GPH-MILF Peace Process towards its successful conclusion.

The peace process had been lingering with uncertainties for the last twenty years while majority of the Bangsamoro were and are holding their high hope of attaining just and lasting peace in their homeland through negotiations as they believed in the principle that the most civilized way of achieving peace is through the negotiating table.

As we feel we are nearing the peak of our efforts as well as majority of the Bangsamoro seems gradually exhaust their patience in unending dream of peace, we are launching today (September 29, 2017) our campaign under one banner of broad civil society organizations (CSOs) and networks with the grassroots called “Sustainable Initiatives of Grassroots and Networks for Bangsamoro Basic Law” to be popularly known in its acronym as “#SIGNnew BBL”. These initiatives was conceived as our means of maximizing multi-prong approaches in appeasing those becoming impatience as well as to employ every available means in advancing the passage into law of the new Bangangsamoro Basic Law in Congress.

Anent the above, we make these calls and statements to wit:

  1. We laud President Rodrigo Roa Duterte and the leadership of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) for their continuing efforts as manifested in their series of meetings undertaken on: (1) September 4, 2017 meeting of the President and MILF leadership (2) September 14, 2017 meeting of the President with the Bangsamoro Tranistion Commisioners (BTC) and Congress leaderships and finally (3) September 20, 2017 meeting of the President with the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC), Congress leadership and majority of the Cabinets and finally endorsed BBL as “Urgent Bill”.
  2. We likewise commend Congresswomen Bai Sandra Sema and Ruby Sahali for spearheading the submission of the draft new BBL in Lower House as well as their commitments to peace manifested through authoring House Bill 6475.
  3. Our calls to both members of House of Senate and House of Representives to give credence to the new BTC draft BBL. This is neither an incursion nor intrusion to your independence as Legislative Branch of the government but an appeal to uphold the gains of the now forty two year’s peace processes between the Government and the Moro Fronts (MNLF and MILF).
  4. For those whose felt exhausted of decades of waiting for peace to withhold their frustrations and instead to be calm and sober and give chance to the peace processes and benefits of the doubt to first Mindanaoan Pressident who has a very strong political will to end the Mindanao Question.

Finally, we are one in belief that the enactment into law of the BBL and eventual establishment of the envisioned Bangsamoro entity is the only effective way in suppressing rising violent extremism and narrow-down adventurism of the younger generation of the Bangsamoro.

#SIGNnewBBL Convenors:
1. League of Bangsamoro Organizations (LBO)
2. United Youth for Peace and Development (UNYPAD)
3. Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society (CBCS)
4. Mindanao Alliance for Peace (MAP)
5. People’s CART (P-CART)
6. Federation of Bangsamoro Civil Society Organizations (FB-CSO)
7. Federation of United Mindanawan Bangsamoro Women – MPC (FUMBW-MPC)
8. SEED Foundation Inc. (SEED)
9. Community Organizers Multiversity (COM)
10. Women’s Organization Movement of the Bangsamoro (WOMB)
11. Coalition of Moro Youth Movement (CMYM)
12. Confederated Descendants of Rajah Mamalu (C-DORM)

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Posted on 03 May 2017 by cbcs_mike

Fifty nine Moro multi-sectoral leaders of South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani and General Santos City (SOCSKSARGEN) converged in a forum dubbed as “Consultation/Forum on Bangsamoro Platform for Unity, Solidarity and Harmony (BM-PUSH) held at Ameliyah’s Place in General Santos City on May 1, 2017.


The activity was facilitated by Ms Aida Seddic, MUWOGEN President and which was sponsored by the Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society (CBCS) in cooperation with its network member organizations operating in the area as well as the BM-PUSH Convener for SOCSKSARGEN areas, Rajahmuda Abdulhamid Ingkong and Datu Kads Masahod as Head and Deputy head respectively.
The consultations aimed at keep posting the multi-sectoral leaders on any development in the peace processes particularly on the GPH-MILF and GPH-MNLF Peace Talks and identify appropriate responses and advocacy campaign.

The activity was opened with an input from Sheikh Abdulbayan Zacaria, a fresh graduate of Islamic Studies from Riyadh University tackled importance of unity and solidarity on the Islamic perspective where he discussed verses from the Qur’an and Hadith of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) on related issues.

In relation to peace process, Mike Kulat, CBCS Senior Program Officer and also Vice Chair of the CSO Task Force on Bangsamoro Consultative Assembly, emphasized to the participants, of the CSO identified important milestones or direction of the ongoing peace process as:
(1) Creation of the new expanded BTC (2) Drafting of the new BBL or Bangsamoro Enabling Law (3) Conduct of Bangsamoro General Consultative Assembly (4) BBL/BEL submission and certifying as “Urgent Bill” by the President (5) Congressional Enactment of BBL/BEL (6) Referendum/Plebiscite in May 2019 Election (7) Establishment of the Bangsamoro Transitional Authority (BTA) (8) Election of 1st Bangsamoro Parliament Members (9) Formation of the Ministerial Form of Bangsamoro Government (10) Signing of the “Exit Document”.

He stressed that the importance of knowing these important roadmap and timelines is “for the Multi-sectoral leaders to identify appropriate and timely advocacy campaign as the negotiation is progressing.”

On the other hand, Al-Haj Murshid Mascud, Vice Chair of Mindanao Alliance for Peace (MAP) and Chair of the “CSO Task force on Bangsamoro Consultative assembly”, emphasized that: “the task force was created under the of Office of Bangsamoro Transitional Commission (BTC) Chair Hon. Ghazali Jaafar purposely to conduct consultations and dialogues with different leaders of the civil society organizations (CSOs) all over Mindanao.” This he said: “is in preparation for the conduct of the Bangsamoro General Consultative Assembly where final BBL draft will be presented before its submission to the president or later if time does not warrant.”

This was followed by open forum where participants were given ample time to express their comments, suggestions and queries related to the inputs that were presented by the resource persons and ended with final impressions given by selected leaders from the participants.

Finally, they closed the activity by signing of their manifesto which contained their full support, recommendations and appeals to the direct stakeholders of the ongoing peace processes between the Moro Fronts and the Government.


Ustadz Ebrahim Sandigan

Area Coordinator for SOCSKSARGEN


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We oppose the burial of Marcos in the Libingan ng mgaBayani

Posted on 06 September 2016 by cbcs_mike

The Bangsamoro is the most hit hard, devastated, ravaged and traumatized people by the declaration of Martial rule under former president Ferdinand Marcos. More than 100 thousand Bangsamoro were killed and millions displaced. Their diaspora began when their homeland was heavily militarized. Many of them are now scattered in cities to escape violence, far away from home and families and in a new cultural environment alien from theirs. Under martial rule, the Bangsamoro were politically disenfranchised, economically marginalized, culturally alienated and socially dis-integrated. Others became more permanent refugees in other countries.

Massacres, notably those in Jabiddah, Palembang, Tacub and Manili among others happened during the time of Marcos. Tortures, hamleting, destruction of houses and religious structures, defamation of their women and forced evacuation are among the legacy of impunity and violence committed by the Marcos dictatorship against the Bangsamoro. These are the past but also the present because until now, these human rights violations and injustices have not been addressed.

The Bangsamoro Diaspora has not yet returned to their homeland because there is no guarantee that those violence, whose roots have not been resolved, will not recur. Those who have lost their lands became marginalized. Victims of massacres are still crying for reparation and justices.

For the Bangsamoro, Marcos is not a hero, he was a cause of miseries. To bury him in the Libingan ng mga Bayani belies the real meaning of hero’s burial. Our country needs national unity, healing and reconciliation. But these can only happen when we are able to transform our society and give justice to where justice is due.

We, the member-network of Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society (CBCS), hereby register our opposition to the burial of Marcos in the Libingan ng mga bayani until justice to the Bangsamoro is served.

Guiamel M. Alim
Chair, Council of Leaders
Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society(CBCS)

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A ‘Must’: Will Congress See So?

Posted on 30 May 2016 by cbcs_mike

Patricio P. Diaz

[Editors Note: This is a reprint from the comment written in MindaViews of MindaNews. The Author is a recipient of Titus Brandsma Media Awards honored Mr. Diaz with a “Lifetime Achievement Award” for his “commitment to education and public information to Mindanawons as Journalist, Educator and Peace Advocate.” You can reach him]

GENERAL SANTOS CITY, April 27, 2016 – His Eminence Orlando Cardinal Quevedo, OMI, Archbishop of Cotabato, convener of Friends of Peace, and Moro Elder Guiamel Alim are advocating the passage of the BBL (Bangsamoro Basic Law) according to CAB (Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro) within two years following June 30, 2016 not only to entrench peace in the Bangsamoro but also as a pilot federal state for the Philippines (MindaNews, April 23, 2016).

The passage of the BBL, CAB version, to entrench peace in the Bangsamoro is a “must”; the Bangsamoro as a pilot federal state is a long shot. Of the five presidential candidates, only Rodrigo R. Duterte has federalism in his platform; two have openly opposed the issue and the other two, ignoring the issue, are for the status quo. Will Duterte win?

Granting that Duterte wins – still a BIG IF — he cannot change the system of government through an Executive Order or a Presidential Proclamation. It needs a congressional act to convene a constitutional convention. Will the Congress agree? Federalization will be a long process on a thorny road?

Again, granting that Duterte wins and the Congress agrees to change the unitary system to the federal, can the Bangsamoro be a model? The Congress must first pass the BBL, CAB version. Will it? Even if the BBL, CAB version, is enacted by 2018, the regular Bangsamoro will be inaugurated after the election of its officials in 2019. At the earliest, only by 2022 will it be known if Bangsamoro can aptly be a model federal state. If so, federalization will not take place under Duterte. Will the next president do it?

Let’s focus on the enactment of BBL, CAB version, as a “must”. What are the odds?

It will take concerted efforts of the President and the Congress to enact BBL, CAB version. This did not happen under President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III. From the submission of Draft BBL to the Congress on September 10, 2014 to December 2015 when the Congress adjourned for the election campaign, the 16 months could have been enough time to pass Draft BBL, the CAB version.

For the lack of concerted efforts, President Aquino, Senate President Drilon and Speaker Belmonte were unable , first, to cushion Draft BBL against the backlash of Mamasapano debacle – citing it instead to explain the change of mind among the legislators; and, second, to rally the administration LP-led coalition, a clear majority in the Senate and the House, to support Draft BBL.

President Aquino was a big puzzle. Despite the repeated requests from the leaders of the Congress to certify BBL as a priority bill, he never did it. Despite the constitutionality of Draft BBL as reviewed and revised by the Office of the President’s legal team, he did not challenge contrary opinions in the Congress. In the last minute, according to reports, he approved the watered-down BLBAR (Basic Law of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region) as the substitute bill of Draft BBL.

Even the BLBAR was evidently unacceptable to the majority of legislators. What really killed it was the persistent lack of quorum – the convenient way to kill a pet bill of the President without incurring his ire by an outright “NO” vote. Senate President Drilon and Speaker Belmonte could have prevented this by imposing the Rules but they did not.

President Aquino, Senate President Drilon and Speaker Belmonte were responsible primarily for the demise of Draft BBL and, finally, of the substitute BLBAR. Will the next President and the next Congress do better?

Two presidential candidates, Manuel A. Roxas II and Rodrigo R. Duterte, have openly committed to have the BBL enacted should they win. The three others – Jejomar Binay, Grace Poe and Miriam Defensor-Santiago – have different proposals to solve the peace problem in Mindanao with no reference to BBL.

Should any of the “three” win the resurrection of BBL – the original Draft or the BLBAR – is in doubt. Should either of the “two” win, which BBL version will be refiled? Or, will there be a third version?

The Cardinal and Guiamel Alim are referring to Draft BBL. This, too, is what the Moro Islamic Liberation Front leaders want. The BLBAR is a no-no; a third version may be more objectionable than the BLBAR. Will the next President and Congress just refile Draft BBL?

Even if it is this that will be done following the Rules, there is no assurance Draft BBL will not be tampered again in the process – no assurance either that it will be enacted in two years, much less the 360 days Drilon has promised the Cardinal? The Draft will be subjected to committee hearings, debates, amendments, etc.

The only assurance is to revise BLBAR with the 40 or so amendments the Bangsamoro Transition Commission and the MILF had submitted to the House and the Senate. The resulting version will be as good as Draft BBL. Then the House and the Senate will do away with the usual rigid committee hearings, debates and amendments. They may just subject the bill to some necessary refinement and enhancement. Can this be done?

Regarding “some necessary refinement and enhancement”, Members of the Congress must read closely the CAB and the Report of the Transitional Justice and Reconciliation. The first embodies the Government and MILF negotiations within the provisions of Constitution; the second, the TJRC findings during its extensive and rigid consultations with the Moro and IP (Indigenous Peoples) communities in the five ARMM provinces and contiguous geographical areas. Will the Congress just do this?

Refining and enhancing BBL according to the CAB and TJRC Report would be most relevant to solving the Moro Problem towards lastingpeace in Mindanao.

In the 16th Congress, the senators and House representatives were most concerned with constitutionality. They declared unconstitutional BBL provisions contrary to the opinions of the OP Legal Team. But only the Supreme Court has the final say on questions of constitutionality. With due respect to the Executive, the 16th Congress should have left it to the Court to rule on the constitutionality of controversial provisions of the BBL.

Will the 17th Congress do this should the BBL be refiled? A provision can be included in the Act on how to amend it according to the ruling of the Court if so questioned.

To reiterate, the enactment of the BBL, CAB version, is a must. Will the 17th Congress see it as such? It will face so many odds, with the Congress ultimately holding its fate. Like the 16th Congress, the 17th Congress will have in its hands the BBL, CAB version, to live or die.

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BBL: Options Apt for Bangsamoro

Posted on 30 May 2016 by cbcs_mike

Patricio P. Diaz

[Editors Note: this is reprint from the comment written in MindaViews of MindaNews. The Author is a recipient of Titus Brandsma Media Awards honored Mr. Diaz with a “Lifetime Achievement Award” for his “commitment to education and public information to Mindanawons as Journalist, Educator and Peace Advocate.” You can reach him]

GENERAL SANTOS CITY, May 18, 2016 – Will the Bangsamoro be established under the administration of President Rodrigo R. Duterte? MILF Chairman Murad Ebrahim sounds optimistic. (MindaNews, May 15, 2016: MILF’s Murad to Duterte: “We will partner with you and your administration”)

Can this happen under the Duterte presidency? Being optimistic is not always being realistic. Optimism buoys the spirit; yet, fulfillment may remain elusive. The optimism gone puff under the Aquino administration is sobering and unforgettable.
What will make the establishment of the Bangsamoro happen? What are the options? What are the imperatives?


One: Refile a reconstituted House version of the BLBAR (Basic Law of Bangsamoro Autonomous Region) with the restoration of the “deleted” and “altered” provisions of Draft BBL, the original version.
Another: Disregard BLBAR and refile the original Draft BBL approved by President Aquino III and Chairman Murad.


First: The President must certify the refiled bill as “urgent” or “top priority”. This is not enough. His Office must lobby for the passage of the CAB (Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro)-compliant BBL; he must impress on the leadership and membership of the Congress the need for this BBL in establishing a meaningful Bangsamoro. These were sorely lacking in BBL’s odyssey in the 16th Congress.
Second: In either option – “One” or “Another” — a new article, “Normalization”, that embodies the recommendations of the TJRC (Transitional Justice and Reconciliation Commission) must be added.
Third: It must be passed during the First Regular Sessions of the 17th Congress; signed by the President and submitted to a plebiscite by December 2017.

Fourth: Within the period January 1 to June 30, 2018, the Bangsamoro transitional government must be fully organized so the BTA (Bangsamoro Transitional Authority) can have a full year, July 1, 2018 to June 30, 2019, to prepare the foundation of the regular Bangsamoro government for its elected officials in the May election of 2019.

Essence of Time

If a meaningful Bangsamoro is to be established under the Duterte administration, the above options and imperatives must be adhered to. Six years is not that long, really. It is fixed; once time starts ticking off, it will not come back. Not a minute is to be wasted.
Under Aquino, more of the six years was spent in negotiations – July 2010 to March 2014. With the time in drafting the BBL and refining of the Draft intervening, the President submitted the proposed bill to the leadership of the Congress on September 10, 2014 – leaving just 15 months, after disallowing the 5-month election campaign period, for the passage of the bill in Congress, the signing by the President and the plebiscite.

The Duterte administration has six years to do the task that had to be done within the constraint of 15 months during the last phase of the Aquino presidency; but it has to adhere to the above options and imperatives. Six years are not a luxury.
Either of the two options will save the time – one to two years or, perhaps, longer — that would otherwise be spent in a new negotiation involving all stakeholders as proposed by some think-tanks or sectors to insure inclusivity. Such new negotiation is unnecessary; we will discuss that in another article.

With the certification by the President, the House and the Senate can hasten the process by dispensing with some of its Rules like shortening or modifying Committee hearings, debate period, etc. The 16th Congress had to strictly follow the Rules since President Aquino III had failed to certify the bill despite repeated requests.

The new article on Normalization can be inserted at the Committee level or during the period of amendment. Ideally, the BTC should frame and submit it to the Committee. However, it can be done cooperatively or co-laterally by the BTC and the Committee.
If the 17th Congress would give BBL the top priority as certified by the President, there is a high probability that Imperatives Three and Four will be met. Of course, the President and the House and Senate leaders still have to exert their concerted efforts to push the bill through on time.


Constitutional issues will continue nagging the BBL in the 17th Congress unless the BBL is seen in the proper light and the President and his Office are given due respect. In the 16th Congress, the peace negotiation as seen by some leading members of the Congress was the act of the President alone. The Congress did not authorize it; it had no part in the commitment of the President.
Draft BBL is not an ordinary bill. It is the product of the peace negotiation between the Government of the Philippines represented by the President and the Bangsamoros represented by the MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front). Since the Congress, like the Executive, is a branch of that Government, the commitment of the President is also its own to honor.

The Legal Team of the Office of the President had vouched for the constitutionality of Draft BBL. When the 16th Congress declared Draft BBL as grossly unconstitutional it did not only disrespect to the Executive but it also usurped a function the Constitution has reserved for the Supreme Court as the sole arbiter of questions on constitutionality.

The 16th Congress should have passed Draft BBL with reservation on its constitutionality – allowing any Member to question before the Supreme Court the constitutionality of the BBL Act after its signing by the President. In anticipation of this, a provision should have been inserted to allow the amendment of provisions that the Supreme Court might declare unconstitutional.

If the 17th Congress can do this, it will ease, hasten and shorten the periods of debate and amendment.

A petition consolidated from the complaints of the Philconsa (Philippine Constitutional Association) and other petitioners questioning the constitutionality of the CAB is pending resolution at the Supreme Court. Can the Court be asked to resolve this case before the opening of the 17th Congress so as to provide a clear guide for the legislators in their deliberation – whether to delete or amend the BBL provisions based on CAB provisions the Court has ruled as unconstitutional? That will simplify and hasten the process.

Model of Federalization

At the outset, we said Chairman Murad sounds optimistic. What must have lit up his optimism was Duterte’s revelation to the MILF Central Committee last February 27 while campaigning in Cotabato City that “in my government I will convince Congress to pass the BBL then make it as a template for federal states”. The parliamentary form of government spelled out in the BBL is akin to the federal form.
Duterte’ plan is to call for a constitutional convention within 2018 or earlier to amend the 1987 Constitution. Among the proposed amendments is the shift from the present unitary to the federal form of government. If the BBL is to be among the models for a federal constitution, it must be passed, signed and ratified by December 2017.

[NOTE: The regular Bangsamoro government functioning under the BBL should be the proper template for federal states. But this can only be established after the May 2019 election. How it will function according to BBL cannot be gauged until after a few years. – ppd]
If the President and the leaders of the 17th Congress would focus on either of the two options, stick to the four imperatives, deem the BBL constitutional unless otherwise ruled by the Supreme Court and assert jointly their leadership to pass the BBL on schedule, Chairman Murad’s optimism will be fulfilled with the establishment of a meaningful Bangsamaro under the Duterte administration.
But will this happen? Skeptics or opponents of either of the two options believe that neither would solve the Moro Problem. Citing weaknesses in the CAB and the BBL, they offer alternatives perceived as the “better solution”. We will discuss these next.

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PEACETALK: Which should come first? Pass BBL or shift to federalism?

Posted on 30 May 2016 by cbcs_mike

By Naguib G. Sinarimbo on May 22 2016 5:56 pm

[Editors Note: This is a reprint from the article in MindNews written by Atty Naguib G. Sinarimbo. Lawyer Naguib Sinarimbo of the Bangsamoro Study Group (BSG) is a member of the GPH-MILF Joint Normalization Committee and part of the technical team of the MILF peace panel that negotiated the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro.]

COTABATO CITY (MindaNews/22 May) — With the proposal to shift to federal-parliamentary government gaining traction in the country as a result of the election of Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte as President, the most critical question that needs answer for the Bangsamoro is how do we reconcile this shift with the implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) through the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL)?

Let me proffer a suggestion. The shift to federal-parliamentary would require a constitutional amendment, and given that our constitution is formal and rigid, it will take time and a lot of effort to realize. Note also that the shift is not merely to federal (like the USA where you still have a President) but also to a parliamentary system of government in which case, the office of the President will be removed and replaced with that of a Prime Minister.

I am sure, that even if the President-elect, on several occasions, said he is not interested in keeping the Presidency, he would still have to fulfill the promises he has made to his people. And that takes time. My bet therefore, is that he would not want to lose the Presidency in the next three years and therefore he would not quickly shift to federal-parliamentary.

The most critical issue for the Bangsamoro therefore is sequence. Which should come first, the implementation of the CAB thru the passage of the BBL or the shift to federal-parliamentary?

There are those who hold the view that the shift to federal-parliamentary would ultimately lead to the implementation of the CAB with the creation of a Bangsamoro state.

I also dream of that but given that the shift to federal-parliamentary would take time, it is logical that we should push for the passage of the BBL within the next two years so that we can use this as the template (and I heard the President-elect say this in Darapanan and Cotabato City Plaza) for the federal-parliamentary project for the whole country.

What is at the heart of a federal set up is the State List and the Federal List which is the Power/Wealth Sharing Arrangement between the Federal Government and the State Government.

The CAB perfectly captures this arrangement in its Power Sharing and the Wealth Sharing Annexes.

We should also expect a more favorable tendency among lawmakers to vest more power to the Bangsamoro government (proxy for state government) as against the central government, because in the end their respective territories would later enjoy the same powers and privileges. Besides, the experience we will gain in running the Bangsamoro Government under this set up will present valuable lessons for the whole country which can inform the shift towards a federal-parliamentary system in the last two years of a Duterte Presidency.

These are indeed interesting times, and I hope, not in the sense of that old Chinese curse.

What is important for the Bangsmoro is to be conscious and clear in its advocacy. After all, we have not ceased to be Moro nationalists and advocates even if our Mindanawon candidate has become the presumptive President.

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Americans sued for Mindanao – Sulu autonomy

Posted on 02 May 2016 by cbcs_mike

[Editors Note: This article is reprinted from Zamboanga Today Online in its Opinion section]

Monday, 02 May 2016 12:15

“Ang hindi marunong lumingon sa pinanggalingan, ay hindi makakarating sa paroroonan.”-Jose P. Rizal, Philippine National Hero. Is this the reason why the Mindanao Crisis has remained insolvable for almost half a century now because of our deliberate avoidance of or aversion to its historical root-cause?

More than 15 years after the surprise occupation of Mindanao and Sulu by the American forces, Gov. Frank Carpenter of the Moro Province still considered Mindanao and Sulu as separate territories from the Philippine Islands when he officially issued the following statement:

“Any study of the matter, however, superficial, cannot but bring forth convincing arguments that it is to the material interest of the Philippines that Luzon and the Visayas make whatever of present sacrifice maybe necessary to extend such financial aid to the public services in Maguindanao-Sulu that the latter may quickly be made in fact a part of the Philippines.” Source: Peter Gordon Gowing, Mandate in Moroland, 1983, p. 267.

This is another corroborative written statement by the top American administrator of the Moro Province pointing to the fact that Mindanao and Sulu were not colonial possessions of Spain and were not political sub-divisions of Las Islas Filipinas or Philippine Islands. Frank Carpenter, a civilian, served not only as the last Governor of the Moro Province from December 15, 1913- July 23, 1914 but also retained the governorship of the moroland when it was renamed Department of Mindanao and Sulu which included the whole of Mindanao but excluding Lanao.

Gregorio F. Zaide who is popularly recognized as the Father of Philippine History and internationally renowned and multi-awarded historian, researcher, and author, confirmed the fact that most of Mindanao and Sulu were excluded from the Philippine Islands during the Spanish colonial period when he clearly wrote the following narration:

“Most of Mindanao and Sulu were excluded from Philippine territory during the Spanish times. Spain claimed sovereignty over them, but only a few coastal areas were really under its control. The Moros were not conquered.” – Source: Philippine History and Government, authored by Gregorio F. Zaide, Copyright 2004, p. 63.

While it was very evident that Governor Carpenter wanted the quick incorporation of the Sultanates of Maguindanao and Sulu into the body politic of the Philippine Islands, taking an entirely opposite political proposition was the second Governor of the Moro Province, Tasker H. Bliss who ardently and forcefully advocated for the creation of a separate politico-military government for these two ancient sovereign states. Governor Bliss’ administration of the Moro Province was popularly dubbed as “The Velvet Glove,” 1906-1909.

Governor Bliss was so convinced that the emnity between the Moros and Filipinos constituted an insurmountable roadblock if the Moroland would finally be incorporated into the body politic of the Philippine Islands. The conviction of General Bliss up to the present remains an incontestable security and socio- political reality since he was appointed and officially assumed the governorship of the Moro Province on April 16, 1906 more than a century ago. This must be one of the reasons why the Governor- General of the Philippine Islands at that time, John F. Smith, recommended for the exclusion of the areas inhabited by Moros and other non-Christian tribes from participating in a popular election for the choice of delegates to the Philippine Assembly which was approved by then President Theodore Roosevelt at the White House on March 28, 1907.

The Philippine Assembly whose members were chosen through popular election from the different areas not inhabited by Moros and other non-Christian tribes was the first Legislative body of the Philippine Islands created by the Philippine Organic Act of 1902 by the American Congress in the early years of the American occupation. The election was held on July 30, 1907 in compliance with the Proclamation issued by the Governor-General, James F. Smith about nine years after the Philippine Islands was sold and ceded by Spain to the United States in Article III of the December 10, 1898 Treaty of Paris for $20-Million. Deductively, the Philippine Assembly was purely composed of delegates coming from areas inhabited by Christians in the Philippine Islands.

The other islands which were missed out in the technical description of the territorial limits of the Philippine Islands (Cagayan de Sulu and Sibutu groups of Islands) were subsequently relinquished by Spain to the United States in another treaty signed in Washington, USA, on November 7, 1900 for an additional amount of $300,000.00 These groups of islands also historically belonged to the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo. Mindanao and Sulu which were not colonial possessions of the Spanish Crown and not parts of the Las Islas Filipinas or Philippine Islands, although not explicitly mentioned in Article III of the December 10, 1898 Treaty of Paris, were covertly included in the coordinates defining the territorial limits of the ceded territory (Philippine Islands), which in my opinion, is the primary root-cause of the more than four decades of armed struggle for self-determination waged against the Republic of the Philippines by the various liberation fronts because the cession of these two unconquered Sultanates was done without the knowledge and consent of their respective reigning Sultans, Councils of Elders, and adhrents. Here is what the CCP Encyclopedia of Philippine Arts, Vol. 11, 1994 wrote about this commercial and diplomatic transaction between Spain and the United States:

“The Muslims did not know that the treaty of Paris which had ceded the Philippine Archipelago to the Americans, included their land as well.”
Governor Bliss’ idea of Mindanao and Sulu as independent and separate territory from the Philippine Islands under the American Flag was vigorously endorsed favorably by the Zamboanga Chamber of Commerce which at that time was made up mostly of American businessmen. The Chamber presented a Resolution to the Secretary of War, William Howard Taft and several visiting US Congressmen appealing that Mindanao and Sulu be formed into a territory of the United States by act of Congress.

Based on the historical accounts of Peter Gordon Gowing, noted American researcher and author of the book entitled “Mandate in Moroland,” in August, 1906, the Americans residing in Mindanao expressed vigorously their collective desire not to be included in the government of the Philippine Islands. This was published in a strongly-worded editorial of “La Vida Filipino,” a Filipino newspaper in July 1906 which questioned the Americans for the creation of the Moro Province. Part of that editorial, is quoted as follows:

“ The Commission (Philippine Commission) in creating the Moro Province, evidently wanted Mindanao and Jolo considered separate and almost independent territories from Luzon and the Visayas. This has been accentuated by the passage of the Philippine Bill by Congress which specifically placed the affairs of the province outside the jurisdiction of the future assembly. Then there is this petition presented by the American residents of Mindanao to the members of Congress who visited the Philippines in August last, in which they ask for the creation in Moroland of a government independent from Manila.”

Although some contradicted the report that it was during the governorship of General Bliss that Mindanao and Sulu experienced relative peace, written accounts substantially pointed to the fact that it was only he who manifested extraordinary and determined effort to put an end to the bloody confrontations between the Moros and the Americans giving his biographer the justification and reason to confer upon him the honorific title as “The Peacemaker.”

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elections in the phils

Elections in the Philippines: New Hope for Peace?

Posted on 28 April 2016 by cbcs_mike

[Editor's Note: This is a reprint from the article written by Harriet Lamb and posted at The Diplomat.Com. She is CEO of International Alert in November 2015. She previously served as CEO of Fairtrade International (FLO) and Executive Director of the Fairtrade Foundation. This comment was written with Kloe Carvajal.]

With campaigning well underway for the presidential election on May 9, a look at the implications for peace.

By Harriet Lamb
April 26, 2016

elections in the phils

Ask anyone about the symbol of peace and they will immediately talk about a dove, possibly carrying an olive branch in its beak. Probably sketched by Picasso in beautiful blue freehand. That could all be about to change if one loquacious businessman from the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao, in the southern Philippines, gets his way.

Vicente Lao fervently believes that economic development in Bangsamoro — a proposed autonomous region in the Philippines — should go ahead despite the derailment of the peace process between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). We met him recently in Davao, Mindanao as he returned from visiting a duck farm in the United Kingdom. He says that ducks could contribute to tackling poverty in Mindanao.

With its fertile lands, mild climate and abundant vegetation, Mindanao has been called the “land of promise” and has enormous potential for the development of agriculture and eco-tourism.

But the area is also host to decades of conflict, with both Muslim and Communist rebels fighting against the government in Manila. As with many conflicts, the root causes of the violence in Mindanao are land and resources: the Muslim population has struggled for access to land since colonization by Christian settlers. Today, it remains one of the most underdeveloped regions in the country, with almost half its people living in poverty.

This accentuates the vital role business can play in contributing – directly and indirectly – to the prevention and resolution of violent conflict as it can foster equitable wealth and well-being.

“Poverty is the root cause of conflict,” proclaims Lao. He is convinced that more investment is needed in Muslim Mindanao, specifically investment that is sensitive to different community needs. This will help build the economic underpinning of peace. It’s a positive cycle: a safer Mindanao will lead to investment, development, and new jobs for local people.

“These ducks are hardy,” he tells us. “They can survive with little care and within three months, when the ducks are fully grown, communities can already start making a living from them. In six months they can be on their way to crossing the poverty threshold.”

In a world rightly absorbed by Syria and the wider region, most people have forgotten some of the world’s longest-running wars are still limping on, looking for ways out of their impasses.

In Colombia, the government is systematically hammering out a comprehensive peace deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) Communist guerrillas after a shocking 51 years’ of war, and has most recently brought other rebels to the negotiating table.

Likewise in the Philippines, the government of current president Benigno S. Aquino III had been hoping to deliver a new legislative program of devolution, the so-called Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL). Fifteen years on from the signing of the Agreement on Peace with the MILF fighters, this key promise is yet to be met. With the singing of the Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro in 2014, the prospects were looking good, but were tragically undermined by the Mamasapano clash in January 2015, which left 66 dead including 44 policemen and civilians — one a 5-year-old girl. The nation reeled and opposition to the Muslim fighters stiffened.

A year on, the government made another attempt to pass the BBL. But by now, the president and the parliament were more concerned with the upcoming general election on May 9, and certainly didn’t want to throw away votes by passing a law that could be unpopular with mainstream voters outside Mindanao.

After months of work, the peace agreement stumbled at the final hurdle. Some worry that a new parliament could re-open all the old debates again, and the rebel commanders could struggle to restrain their restless troops. However, others are hoping a new president and congress would open a space for truly embedding “peace” in the draft legislation.

In February, we met Teresita Ging Deles, who has been negotiating the peace deal on behalf of the Office of the President. She remains solidly optimistic that a new level of trust has been built with the leadership of the MILF and gives them credit for staying calm despite the legislative set-back. The community of peacebuilders is certainly ready to come back fresh in May, with a new president and a new congress, to try again to get the law passed, and the peace truly embedded.

We at International Alert have been talking to all the presidential candidates in the Philippines, urging them to pass an inclusive law that would establish the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region. We have also been pushing for the new government to address itself to the Communist conflict, which has received less attention in recent years but still drags on.

But the economy always resurfaces as the vital ingredient for peace. On April 1, three peasants were killed and over a hundred wounded following an attack on protesting farmers demanding urgent relief from the government due to drought, hunger, and the destruction of their crops brought about by El Nino weather events.

International Alert’s Bangsamoro Conflict Monitoring System has indeed found that violence often spikes in the hungry season, before harvest, when farmers have no money.

Furthermore, the rise in violence due to shadow economies — illicit drugs, illegal weapons, and illegal mining, as well as common crimes such as robbery — is adding to instability. Minimizing the conflict risks of these informal economies must also be high on the to-do list of any new government elected in May.

The poorer people are, the fewer economic opportunities they face, the easier it will always be for criminal gangs to recruit members. That is why initiatives to stimulate the local economy are so important.

The people of the Philippines have shown huge resilience during decades of bloodshed. Their hopes for peace remain — and no one’s more so than Mr. Lao, as he gets his ducks in a row.

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The Philippines’ Own War on Terror

The Philippines’ Own War on Terror

Posted on 28 April 2016 by cbcs_mike

[Editor's Note: This is a reprint of an article written by Matthew Pennekamp who is a resident junior fellow at the Center for the National Interest.]

Jihad looms as Filipinos go to the polls.
Matthew Pennekamp
April 25, 2016

This year will mark a decade and a half of hearing the phrase “war on terror” as a normal part of the United States’ national parlance. In that same span of time, the term “undisputed victory” has become as rare as the preceding is ubiquitous—perhaps only the death of bin Laden afforded Americans the same outpouring of raw jubilation, reminiscent of V-E or V-J Day. But before and since, clear-cut successes have been practically indiscernible. Afghanistan is a morass, and northern Iraq resembles something out of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s most feverish dreams. ISIS has managed to franchise its brand with more adroitness than Starbucks, while the American ethos of “homeland security”—another platitude for the ages—remains as finely honed as ever.

The Philippines' Own War on Terror

This is why the Philippines is so important. For nearly the last fifty years, a Muslim insurgency has been fighting successive governments in Manila for the right to impose its own sharia-based system on historically Muslim Mindanao, the southernmost island of the archipelago. President Benigno Aquino’s 2012 decision to pursue what ultimately proved to be successful negotiations with the most powerful iteration, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), appeared to be one of the few victories notched against terrorism’s crude post. But now, the din of an upcoming May 9 presidential election threatens to upend this piecemeal slog toward progress.

In retrospect, the history of the conflict in Mindanao has been centuries in the making. Although Islam predates Christianity in the Philippines by about two hundred years, Catholicism spread at a rapid rate after the first Spanish settlement was established in 1565. Today, Catholics make up an estimated 80 percent of the overall Philippine population, with Muslims consigned to a demographic footnote, at 5 percent. However, like so many other nationalistic movements that become secessionist, the Moro people—a from the Spanish for Moor—had geographic compactness and a separate identity from the rest of the Philippines on their side. If they could feasibly see themselves as distinct from the rest of their fellow Filipinos, then the time was bound to come when they would test the proposition.

A succession of colonial powers—first the Spanish, then the Americans after 1898, with a brief Japanese interlude during the Second World War—put off any attempt to answer that question, as multiple ethnicities chafed under imperial rule. Moro sovereignty sat on the same distant horizon as Tagalog sovereignty. But after the United States granted the Philippines its independence in 1946, things fell apart. It became official government policy to shift the dense populations burdening the overpopulated northern islands to the more bucolic south. This meant, in effect, a sudden influx of Catholics into a region that had been decidedly homogeneous beforehand. That Catholics then proceeded to take higher-paying jobs and the best land at the expense of the indigenous Muslims was hardly a healing salve. By the early 1970s, open conflict was unavoidable.

Seldom has there been a train of administrations that have oscillated so mercurially between the application of the carrot and the stick as can be found in twentieth- and twenty-first-century Manila. Prolonged fighting led to a settlement in 1976 (using the good offices of Muammar el-Qaddafi, of all people) whereby an at-large Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) would be created within the country. This took ten years of intermittent fighting to implement, and in turn eventually broke down when Christian enclaves within the proposed ARMM balked at the proposal, leading to yet more war until a second Qaddafi-brokered convention was set in place in 1996 under President Fidel Ramos. However, Ramos’ successor, Joseph Estrada, opted to tear up the agreement and launch an all-out offensive, leading to years of repair under Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Finally, Aquino, declaring the ARMM outmoded, started anew with a deal that would grant even more autonomous leeway in exchange for disarmament and an end to warlordism. Although agreed to in 2014, this Bagsamoro Basic Law (BBL) became more of a liability after forty-four police officers were killed by MILF fighters the next year in an unintended exchange of gunfire. Now the BBL languishes in Congress, awaiting final judgment.

Politics in the Philippines is notoriously dynastic—both Aquino and his immediate predecessor are the children of prior presidents, and the presidential candidate from Aquino’s Liberal Party is the grandson of yet another. So if, in the usual clustered regatta of candidates tacking toward their nation’s highest office, the two dreadnoughts outmaneuvering the rest of the field were of humble origins, it would be more unusual there than it would in the United States. Less than a month before Election Day, Senator Grace Poe and Mayor Rodrigo Duterte are exactly those heavy guns, with the latest poll available showing them at 36 and 28 percent, respectively. Yet despite their shared affinity for the common touch, they could not diverge more wildly in their thoughts on the implementation of Aquino’s legacy-making BBL.

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