[This is a commentary to the event that transpired on the removal of the Information and Educational Campaign materials of the Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society (CBCS) in Barangays Tapodoc and Lower Campo Islam in Labangan, Zamboanga del Sur]
As a backgrounder, Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society (CBCS) is a network of Moro Civil Society Organizations operating in many parts of Mindanao who is long been accompanying the peace process between the government and Moro Fronts in Mindanao. In its effort in sharing its meager part in finding peaceful political settlement of the age-old Bangsamoro problem, among its program is massive information campaign through radio programs, Billboards, streamers and documents’ distribution to the general public on any developments in the peace process particularly on the GPH-MILF Peace Talks.
Related to this, the Streamers and Billboards located in Barangays Tapodoc and Lower Campo Islam was removed on April 11 and 12, 2017 respectively by respective Barangay Officials on order of the Municipal Local Government Officer of Labanagan, Zamboanga del Sur, Ms Maribel Estoquia with treat that without removing the Information and Educational Campaign (IEC) materials, subject Barangay Officials will be terminated from their positions.
First, we taught that we are living in a democratic country where everyone is afforded with their “right to expression” under the 1987 Philippine Constitution. Thus, our IEC materials are one of our politcal expression and a means of support to the National Peace Program of the Presidents of the Philippines and the Moro Fronts including past administrations. Therefore, these negotiations are political exercise as peaceful means of resolving the age-old Bangsamoro problem and it is our right to express our political belief that best and most suitable to the Moro People.
Granting, that local government units have resolutions supporting the campaign for federalism but it is also constitutional rights of other people to express their own political belief that may be supportive to or against those resolutions because we are living in democratic country. In like manner we never opposed or criticize those who support federalism as President Duterte’s “Roadmap for Peace and Development” contained two tracks: (1) “The Legislative Track 1” that perceived to establish the aspired Bangsamoro Government ahead of Federalization and (2) “The Federalism Track 2” that seek to establish Bangsamoro entity after federalization.
We have a million reasons why we chose “Track 1” and one of which is that already billions and billions of public funds were spent by the government in order to find right solutions to the armed conflict in Moro areas through the forty two (42) years of negotiation starting in 1975 and many more.
Second, these IEC materials had been established in strategic areas in Mindanao; from Central Mindanao in Cotabato City, SOCSKSARGEN, Davao Areas, Lanao Areas, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi and all of them are going well except in Labangan, Zamboanga del Sur. This prompted us to ask why only in Labangan? Is there martial rule in Labangan? We hate to think that it is an expression of how rights of people are suppressed in that area.
Third, we would like to remind MLGOO of these statements of the national Officials: “If there are no objectionable provisions, I think there will be no problem and the fact that the President wants this bill as a model for federal states later on when we … change (the) form of government from unitary to a federal system… it will become a model of all states — I think that would be easier to pass”, Alvarez said as quoted by Mindanews. [Italics and emphasis mine]. This statement, we believed is culled from no less than the campaign promises and the usual statements of President Duterte which emphasized to establish Bangsamoro Government first ahead of federalism.
And by the MLGOO saying that, that is a national policy and the LGU is different is contradictory to what we taught to that LGUs are alter-ego of the Executive Branch of the national government.
Fourth, the treats made by MLGOO to the Barangay Officials of the aforementioned Barangays to be terminated of their positions on failure to remove the IEC materials is a characteristic of martial rule. As we know, termination of elected officials from national down to the lowest (Barangay units) is the same process – that is through “petition for Recall” and not by simple words from an appointed officials.
These treats to the elected Barangay Officials can be a grave misconduct and uncharacteristic for either higher elected officials or from appointed positions unless we are living in an autocratic governance
Mike G. Kulat
Senior Program Officer