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Bangsamoro – The Stony Path to Peace

Posted on 19 May 2017 by cbcs_mike

Mediating in conflicts between cultural, religious and ethnic groups in the Bangsamoro region, which sometimes persist across generations, is one of the key tasks of civil society organisations. Source: Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society Inc.

Mediating in conflicts between cultural, religious and ethnic groups in the Bangsamoro region, which sometimes persist across generations, is one of the key tasks of civil society organisations. Source: Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society Inc.

[The Authors: Elmar Noé has been a desk officer in the Asia Department of MISEREOR – the German Catholic Bishops’ Organisation for Development Cooperation – since 2002. Since 2008 he has been responsible for MISEREOR’s cooperation with partner organisations in the Philippines.
Elisabeth Strohscheidt has been a MISEREOR desk officer for peace research and conflict transformation since 2012. Prior to that she spent almost 10 years as a desk officer for human rights in what was then MISEREOR’s department for development policy issues.]

In late 2015, the highly promising peace process in the Muslim-dominated regions of Mindanao suffered a severe setback. The Congress of the Philippines delayed its vote on the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) for so long that it was no longer possible to reach a decision during President Aquino’s time in office. The Muslim population in Mindanao in particular were profoundly disappointed by the failure to pass the BBL. The fact that this disappointment did not result in violence was thanks largely to the vigorous efforts of civil society actors. Throughout the years of negotiation they kept working to make the process transparent. This made a significant contribution towards the acceptance of the process among the population.

Mediating in conflicts between cultural, religious and ethnic groups in the Bangsamoro region, which sometimes persist across generations, is one of the key tasks of civil society organisations. Source: Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society Inc.

Mediating in conflicts between cultural, religious and ethnic groups in the Bangsamoro region, which sometimes persist across generations, is one of the key tasks of civil society organisations. Source: Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society Inc.

Another reason why violence did not ensue is that large sections of the parties to the conflict – both Muslim groups and elements within the army – have grown tired of war. Furthermore, during the years of negotiation a solid foundation of trust has arisen between fighters of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the army. As a result, ceasefires that were agreed did hold even in critical situations, and the two sides were able to establish working channels of communication. The fact that following the failure of the BBL in Congress the two sides’ negotiating delegations very quickly resumed the dialogue was an important step in at least consolidating the results of the negotiations achieved until that point.

The election of Rodrigo Duterte as President of the Philippines raised hopes in many quarters that he could bring fresh and positive momentum to the peace process. Eight months after Duterte took up office, however, the obstacles along the stony path to peace are now becoming evident.

On 7 November President Duterte signed Executive Order No. 8, which extended the mandate of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC). With new and more members, the BTC is now mandated to revise the BBL by July 2017, in time for Duterte’s next State of the Nation Address. The revision will not only take account of the interests of hitherto neglected groups; it will also respond to criticisms and queries raised by various Representatives and Senators concerning the existing draft of the BBL.

Obstacles and stumbling blocks in the process

It took over three months for the 21 members of the BTC to be appointed on 10 February 2017. Ten
members were nominated by the government and eleven by the MILF. The precise details of the selection process are poorly transparent, however, even for those on the inside. While the MILF clearly nominated members from amongst its own ranks, the government also introduced members of groups that had not previously been represented on the BTC or involved in the peace negotiations, such as the so-called Sema faction of the MNLF, as well as representatives of local government units, the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), Christian settlers and the non-islamised indigenous peoples. While this diversity in the makeup of the BTC is certainly a step towards greater inclusivity, it also harbours risks. It is not clear, for instance, to what extent the appointed members are accepted as representatives of their respective groups. The expanded and newly configured group is also likely to find it difficult to reach joint positions, particularly given the time pressure that exists.

While the MNLF’s Sema faction is willing to participate in the current further negotiations based on the BBL, other factions of the MNLF reject this. The government has therefore embarked on parallel negotiations with the MNLF faction centred around its founder Nur Misuari, which build on its negotiations to implement the Final Peace Agreement of 1996. It is now envisaged that the Nur Misuari faction of the MNLF will produce its own draft autonomy law by July 2017.

The most likely outcome of these two parallel negotiation processes is that both drafts will be submitted to the Congress in July, at which point the Congress will then need to merge them into a single draft. This is an extremely ambitious undertaking with manifold risks. Right now it is an entirely open question how the population of the Bangsamoro region and the parties to the conflict would react to a compromise that might represent the lowest common denominator, and omit key elements of the 2015 draft of the BBL.

One of President Duterte’s key aims is a constitutional reform designed to bolster federal structures. This might also jeopardise the acceptance of a revised BBL. Observers fear that those elements in the existing draft BBL which some members of the Congress categorised as unconstitutional will be removed from the revised draft, to be addressed later in the context of a constitutional reform. These include among other things territorial issues, issues of sovereignty over particular natural resources, as well as issues of domestic security and the possibility of taking out international loans. If such issues are excluded from the negotiations and deferred until they can be discussed in the context of federal structures, then in practice this could lead to the deferral of decision-making on important components of the BBL for an indefinite period. It is to be feared that such a delay would lead to disappointment, and create fertile ground for further radicalisation in the Bangsamoro region.

Even now the region is already experiencing an increase in the frequency of attacks by radical Islamist groups and terrorist organisations such as the Maute group, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and Abu Sayyaf. Further growth in the strength of these groups could pose a serious threat to the peace process. Partner organisations of MISEREOR in Mindanao identify as the driving force of radicalisation among young Muslims not foreign influence (wielded e.g. by IS or other extreme Sunni elements), but rather frustration with a protracted peace process marred by setbacks.
Moreover, violent conflicts between clans and family feuds (Rido) that persist across generations remain a serious threat to peace.

Mechanisms and institutions providing support

If the peace process is to succeed it is crucial that Congress Representatives in Manila and the population at large are brought on board with the process – even though this will be difficult, given the aforementioned time pressure. Among others, the peace tables currently being set up in various regions (North Cotabato, Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao have been mentioned) can and should support this. So far little is known about how these peace tables will actually be organised or how they will operate. As of mid-February, they had still not been officially set up. This much would seem clear: it is envisaged that they will serve as public sounding boards – also for those groups and sections of the population that are not represented on the BTC or in the peace negotiations.

Furthermore, the BTC will be supported by a kind of advisory body – the Bangsamoro Assembly. The assembly will advise the BTC on formulating the new draft law, and ensure the participation of more sections of the population and stakeholder groups in the Bangsamoro region. Like the peace tables, this assembly has also yet to be set up. Both processes, the assembly and the peace tables, could help support the inclusivity of the process. It remains unclear how this could be achieved in just five months, however.

Known and proven international mechanisms to support the peace process – such as the International Contact Group, the International Monitoring Team, the Independent Decommissioning Body and the Tripartite Monitoring Team – remain in place, at least on paper. At present they are inactive, however, and there is no clear indication as to their new role or current mandate. This is because, officially, the task is now no longer to hammer out the peace agreement, but to implement it. We must also assume that under Duterte, the Filipino government’s appreciation of international monitoring and advisory mechanisms will decline perceptibly. This does not make them any less important, however. On the contrary. Particularly during the current transitional phase the mechanisms for monitoring ceasefire agreements and for supporting ‘normalisation’ are of paramount importance for preventing any repeated flare-ups of violence – or documenting them when they do occur. This applies to both international and local mechanisms alike.

Civil society in the Philippines – A key factor for peace

In this fragile situation it is especially important that civil society organisations continue their work to shed light on the context and causes of the conflict, and provide information on the peace process. Social media are playing an increasingly important role in this setting. The peace talks are only likely to succeed if broad sections of the population are brought on board. The many civil society organisations large and small in the Philippines that have spent not just years but decades working for peace without becoming disheartened deserve recognition, respect and support. They have played a crucial role in ensuring that more people in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region are now able to live in peace, and that despite numerous setbacks there are now prospects for lasting peace.

Particularly regarding the attitudes of the Christian population in the Bangsamoro region, it is important to create an understanding of the fact that one key concern of the Muslim population of Mindanao is gaining acknowledgement of the injustice suffered – rather than retribution or restoration of the pre-colonial status quo. The Christian population are highly mistrustful of the peace process, and very anxious regarding possible outcomes of the negotiations that might marginalise them. The Catholic Church in particular must exercise a high degree of responsibility here. This is why the Oblate Missionary Foundation (OMF) has launched dialogue processes in many Catholic parishes in the Diocese of Cotabato, one of the regions of Mindanao hardest hit by the civil war. In this setting OMF has found that preconceptions can already be reduced by familiarising the Christian inhabitants of Mindanao with the true history of the region. So far this has not even been taught in schools. Nor are the Congress Representatives in faraway Manila, who will take the final decisions on draft legislation such as the BBL, aware of this history. Modifying curricula accordingly would therefore be a relatively simple and obvious measure to counter the formation of prejudices – which underpin and foment structural and physical violence.


During the election campaign Duterte had promised the Muslim population reparation. He comes from Mindanao himself. This was one important reason why so many people in Mindanao voted for him. ‘With his huge political and social capital, President Duterte can achieve a great deal. He can make the peace process succeed – or fail.’ So we were told recently by one of MISEREOR’s Muslim partners. There is now considerable reason to doubt, however, whether Duterte really understands the Moros’ desire for acknowledgement of the injustice they have suffered, and it remains to be seen how strong his commitment to a lasting peace in the Bangsamoro region and the whole of Mindanao really is. Consequently, Duterte’s recent decision to end the peace talks with the National Democratic Front (which had been resumed with such enthusiasm) as soon as the process hit difficulties, his lifting of the unilaterally declared ceasefire and his immediate declaration of ‘total war’ against the New People’s Army (NPA), give grounds for concern. By taking these steps he has also de facto accepted the more recent escalation in violence in parts of Mindanao. The fact that Duterte also tramples on human rights and that his so-called war on drugs has already cost thousands of people their lives risks brutalising society and making violence even more socially acceptable as a seemingly legitimate means of resolving conflicts. In this connection, the director of a Catholic partner organisation of MISEREOR in the Cotabato region has urgently requested MISEREOR to continue providing support and solidarity. ‘Please continue supporting us [...] in whatever way you can. Ultimately we are all human beings, and all members of the same family of humankind. [...] We must work together to make this world a peaceful and beautiful place in which each and every one of us can be happy.’ As well as greater mutual understanding, institutional reforms, structural change and greater social cohesion will be key to the success of the Bangsamoro peace process. We must continue working together to achieve these goals.

[This article was originally published in Germany through German language and translated into English by John D Cochrane in cooperation with MISEREOR]

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Atty Macapanton RY Abbas Jr


Posted on 29 June 2016 by cbcs_mike

[Posted on June 19, 2016 at The Bangsa Moro blog: All you wanted to know about the Bangsa Moro but were afraid to ask]

(NOTE: Just before he passed away, Macapanton Rashid Yahya Abbas, Jr, wrote a rambling essay on the Bangsa Moro Conflict and was published in the Ateneo Law Journal Vol. 48 Sept 2003. Officially, he was designated as Secretary-General of several Moro groups like the Bangsa Moro Liberation Organization (BMLO), the National Coordinating Council for Islamic Affairs (NACCIA), Islamic Directorate of the Philippines (IDP, which included Misuari and Salamat), etc. He was the President of the Moro Youth National Assembly (MYNA, which included Misuari and Salamat). He was the International Spokesman and Chair for International Affairs of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF-Reformist Group). Unofficially, he was the de facto leader of the MNLF-RG and later, was adviser to the MILF and MNLF (all factions). For many people, Abbas, Jr. was the “brain of the Bangsa Moro revolution.”)

Below are excerpts of his article “Is Bangsa Moro State Within a Federation the Solution?”:


Atty Macapanton RY Abbas Jr

(N.B.: He was Full Professor at the King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia in the mid to late 1970s. Thus, he can legitimately use the title of Professor.)


The topic of “Federalism and the Peace Process” which has been chosen as the topic of discussion by the Ateneo Law Journal for its second issue for Vol. 48 on September 2003 under the theme “Emerging Trends in Philippine Constitutional Law and Constitutional Reforms” is timely in view of the advocacy of the “Federalists” like Rey Teves, Senator Aquilino Pimentel, Jr., Dr. Jose Abueva and a host of leaders who believe that the “Federalization of the Philippine State” is the Constitutional solution that answers many problems of state and governance including the “Peace Process” in Mindanao between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

The issue of “Federalism” is not limited to the “Peace Process” because the two are completely separate issues. The Federal system can be adopted independent of the “Peace Process” in Mindanao. The MILF as well as the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) may enter into “comprehensive, just and lasting solution to the Mindanao conflict” under an International Agreement or Constitutional Arrangement even if the Federal system is not adopted. This will be discussed later in this paper.

However, the question may be – Can a Federal State for the Bangsa Moro People be the best option for a peaceful political solution and lead to a lasting peace in Mindanao? Hence, Federalism is the best way for the peace process to aim for the final status agreement with the Bangsa Moro People. In this context, it is imperative to understand Islam and the Muslim faithful. The concept of the Muslim Ummah (Community) in the universal sense as well as national and ethnic perspective which is the basis of the Muslim Law of Nations and relations of Muslim states and nations and peoples on the international level must be studied and appreciated. The terminologies of Islam, the Muslims, and the Bangsa Moro; the history of the Bangsa Moro People as states; as anti-imperialist and anti-colonial fighters, as movements for national liberation and as citizens of the Philippines which spans a millennium is important to study and evaluated. These will be discussed and this author shall present the different political options including a federal system for the Philippines.

In June 1980, a two-day conference, “The World of Islam from Morocco to Indonesia”, was held in Washington, D.C. to commemorate the 14th Centennial of Islam. Over 400 scholars from around the world were brought together to explore Islam and the Modern World. This author was one of the discussants in the said Conference and it was sponsored by the Asia Society, Department of State and John Hopkins University to celebrate the Fourteenth (14th) Century of ISLAM.

The Conference concluded that at present, the impact of industrial development, technology, urbanization and secular values has had far-reaching consequences. All over the world, rapid change has disrupted social patterns and cultural traditions which served as reference points for centuries. Muslims, no less than others, are reacting to the flood of Western individualism, materialism, sexuality, family and politics. To many, these ideas threaten basic Islamic values. Furthermore, the outlook of most Muslims is strongly colored by a very recent emergence from a long period of foreign domination. There is also an awareness of the clearly visible economic disposition between industrialized and developing nations, and within societies, between classes.

Also, concerned Muslims across Asia and Africa are actively exploring many routes to find the balance between modernization and tradition. This reflects a sense among Muslims that Islamic principles may provide them more appropriate solutions to their national problems than those offered by either capitalism or communism. Therefore, they call for a re-injection of basic Islamic values into the lives of the individual and society.

The clamor for the revival of these Islamic values is gaining credence even in the Philippines with the adoption of the Madrasah Education Program and the adoption of Muslim personal laws under P.D. 1083. The very concept of secularism is being modified in Europe and North America to promote the correct understanding of Islam and Muslims especially with world events such as the events in Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine, Chechenya, Bosnia, Kosovo, Khasmir and Mindanao, Philippines…

… The beliefs and values of Muslim in Islam are important to understand, if one is to gain a deeper insight in the nature and essence of the Bangsa Moro struggle. It is imperative to understand the terminology of Islam and Moro languages within the peculiar context of their history…


Let us define the terms that we are using particularly Moro or Bangsa Moro and Filipino because the “Hermeneutic Interpretation” of the Bangsa Moro issue is as important as the substantial issues regarding the conflict and how to solve it. The author’s younger brother Engr. Jamal Ashley Y. Abbas, the first citizen of this country to become a Petroleum Engineer and who is now completing his master’s degree in Communications at University of the Philippines wrote in an award winning article:(18)

“But according to philosophical hermeneutics, History is not separated from the present. We are always simultaneously part of the past, in the present, and anticipating the future. In other words, the past operates on us now in the present, and affects our conception of what is yet to come. At the same time, our present notions of reality affect how we view the past.“Moro leaders and intellectuals maintain that if the Philippine government truly wants to solve the so-called Moro Problem, it must exert an honest-to-goodness effort to understand the feelings, sentiments, biases, ideals, prejudices, customs, traditions and historical experience of the Bangsa Moro as enunciated or articulated by the Moros themselves.
* * *
“Hermeneutics must necessarily come into play if one were serious in solving the “communication gap” between the Muslim and Christian Filipino communities. There must be a real effort in cultural interpretation.
“The Moro problem is even exacerbated by the textual interpretation of both groups to important documents like the Philippine Constitution and the Tripoli Agreement.

“Many people in the government and the academe try to view the Moro Problem within the framework of social constructionist communication theories or Marxist critical theories. Some Moro intellectuals believe that postcolonial discourse theories cannot be used because the Moros are still under colonial rule; i.e., Filipino colonial rule. It is absolutely useless to blame the Americans or multinationals or globalization for the plight of the Moros, as what the leftists are won’t to do. If there’s anyone to blame, it is the colonial power, i.e. the Filipino government.

“The MNLF, MILF, BMLO and other Moro groups have petitioned the United Nations to resolve that the Bangsa Moro nation be de-colonized. Today’s Filipino historians, writers, or intellectual do not mention the fact that the great Filipino nationalist himself, Claro M. Recto, authored the bill called “Colonization of Mindanao Act.”

“Hermeneutics phenomenology or philosophical hermeneutics could be the framework needed to help solve this socio-political problem. Using critical theories, which focus on ideology and power, might simply aggravate the problem. As Paul Ricoeur wrote:

“what is at stake can be expressed in terms of an alternative: either a hermeneutical or a critical consciousness… In contrast with the positive assessment of hermeneutics, the theory of ideology adopts a suspicious approach, seeing tradition as merely the systematically distorted expression of communication under unacknowledged conditions of violence.”

It is important that we should have the proper understanding of the recognition given by Philippine Law and Jurisprudence, as well as, by the Philippine government in its agreements with the MNLF and the MILF and the Resolutions of the Organization of the Islamic Conference that the Indigenous Muslim Communities of Mindanao, Basilan, Tawi-tawi and Palawan are to be known as the “Bangsa Moro People” and that their culture, religion, history and civilization are distinct from the Filipinos who were colonized and christianized by Spain and later by America. Such distinct ethnic nationality does not make them separate or enemies of the Filipinos or the Philippine state but “equal historic communities” that must co-exist and work together to strengthen a common state or even separate states within a federal or confederal system of government. In the United Kingdom, the Scots, the Welsh or the Irish of North Ireland are not called British or English but they remain a strong state as a United Kingdom and was once an empire. The Corsicans of France as well as the Britons are not called French or the Basques of Spain are not called Spaniards or the Wallons and Flemings of Belgium are two separate peoples in one state or the Montenegrens and the Serbs in the Federation of the former Yugoslavia or the Chechens or the Cossacks or Dagastanis and many nationalities in the Russian Federation or the Tibetans or Uighurs of China are not called Chinese or Han for they are separate nations or the Ainos of Japan and so many other cases in the world were you have many nationalities in a single Federal or Con-Federal state like the United States of America.

When the Bangsa Moro asserts its historic right as a national ethnic community, it is not being separatist or secessionist but rather asserting a historical truth that must be acknowledged otherwise there will be no solution to the conflict in Mindanao. In this connection Father Eliseo Mercado, PhD and former President of Notre Dame University of Cotabato City, in an interview in the United States last May 2, 2003 with the EIR, were he is presently undergoing scholarship at the Georgetown University stated categorically that:

“I believe the Philippine government and for that matter, the Filipino nation, must open up to the reality that we are not a mono-nation-state and that we are poly-ethnic groups and we are a poly-nation-state. It is possible to have many ethnic groups, and many nations, and still form one country, one republic that is the first thing. The second thing is to see the root causes of insurgency and rebellions over the problem of separatism.” (19)

The Bangsa Moro Question can have a genuine, just and comprehensive political solution if its distinct historical claim as states before U.S. illegally annexed them into the Philippines by virtue of the Treaty of Paris of 1898, as the basis of the solution.


In order to reconstruct the Islamic theory of international relations, we should bear in mind that Islam offers a social system based on divine revelations and immutable and inalienable rights as part of a political community endowed with a system of laws designed to protect the collective interest of Muslims as well as to regulate their relations with the outside world. The basic principle of Islamic governance in external relations with other nations is that only the Muslim Nation is the subject of the Islamic legal system, while all other systems are the object of these systems, although the non-Muslim nations are not denied certain advantages of the Muslim Law of nations. The ultimate goal of Muslim Law of Nations was to establish peace within the territory brought under the pale of its public order and, theoretically, to include the whole world in obedience to Allah’s commandment to govern in accordance with Islam.

“Before Islam could achieve that ultimate objective, it had to enter into relations with communities that had not yet submitted to its control in accordance with a set of rules and practices. Conformity to Islam’s legal and ethical standards was required not only of the believers whose territory had not yet expanded beyond the frontiers of the state but also of believers who owed their legal – though not necessarily their political – allegiance to Islam. An illustration of this principle can be found in Muslim minorities in China, Russia, Yugoslavia, Thailand, Philippines, etc.

“However, the non-Muslims who resided within the Islamic community, although they were regarded as the subjects or citizens of the state (though not members of the religious community), were not bound by all the Islamic, ethical; and legal rules. Islamic authority however, had to deal with the problems arising from their inter-relationships with Muslims.“In the ancient near East, Greece and Rome, Islamdom and Western Christendom, a distinct civilization flourished in each of these “worlds”. Within each civilization a body of rules and practices developed for the purposes of regulating the conduct of each entity with the others in peace and war.

“Former systems of the law of nations, in contrast to the modern International Law of nations, were not universal in character since each system was primarily concerned with regulating the relations of entities and nations within a limited area and within one (though often more than one) civilization. Furthermore, each past system of the law of nations, in contrast to the modern law, was entirely exclusive, since it did not recognize the principle of legal equality of nations which is the basis of the modern law of nations. (20)

Prof. Masjid Khadduri clearly expressed this legal theory that, the Muslim Law of Nations was based on the theory of a universal state. The binding force of the said law was not based on consent of reciprocity, but on their own interpretation of their political, moral and religious interests, as they regarded their principles of morality and religion derived mainly from the commandments of ALLAH. With the entry of the Muslim states in the United Nations (UN), it is a safe assumption that this principle has been relaxed and the legal equality of all nations is gaining acceptance in the Islamic world.
“The Muslim law was ordinarily binding upon individuals rather than territorial groups. It was only in modern times, especially under the material and cultural pressure of modern civilizations that the observance of law has been attached to people in relation to the territory they live in, rather than in relations to the group they belong to.“The Muslim law of nations is not a separate body of Muslim laws; it is merely an extension of the laws designed to govern the relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims, whether inside or outside the world of Islam. Strictly speaking, there is no Muslim Municipal (National) Law and International Law based on different sources and maintained by different sanctions because the Shari’ah makes no distinction.” (21)


The early Muslim jurist either dealt with the conduct of foreign relations in the general law corpora under such headings as “Jihad”, “Spoils of War” and the “Aman” or “Al-Kharaj”. Later on, all of these were discussed under a technical term “Al-Sijar”.

“In practice the Muslim Law of Nations (Al-Sijar) is taken to mean the sum total of the rules and practices of Islam’s intercourse with other peoples. The sources are the treaties, utterances and instructions of the Caliph to the commanders in the field, opinions and interpretations of publicist and jurists. Analyzed in terms of the modern law of nations, the sources are of the same categories defined by modern jurists and the statutes of the International Court of Justice, namely, agreement, custom, reason and authority.” (22)

In Islamic legal theory, the world was therefore divided in two divisions: Dar Assalam (The Abode of Peace) comprising of Islamic and non-Islamic territories held under Islamic sovereignty, and the rest of the world, called Dar Al-Harb or the Territory of War. The first included the community of believers as well as those who entered into an alliance with Islam. The inhabitants of those territories were either Muslims, who formed the community of believers, or non-Muslims, those who belonged to tolerated religions who paid the Protection Tax (Jiizah) to Muslim authority.

The world surrounding the Islamic political community was known as Dar Al-Harb, because it remained beyond the pale of Dar Al-Islam. It lacked the legal competence to enter into intercourse with Islam on the basis of equality and reciprocity. Such territory may be regarded as “state of nature”, because it ruled to conform to Islamic legal and ethical standards. Some Muslim publicists, especially Shaffi Jurists, devised a third temporary division of the world, called Dar Al-Sulh (Territory of Peaceful Arrangement) or Dar Al-Ahd (Territory of Covenant), giving qualified recognition to non-Islamic communities if they entered into treaty relations with Islam, on conditions agreed upon between the two parties. The Hanafi Jurists, however, never recognized the existence of a third division of the world, arguing that the inhabitants of a territory concluded a peace treaty and paid a tribute, it became part of Dar Al-Islam and its people were entitled to the protection of Islam, because otherwise it would be part of the Dar al-Harb and object of Islam. (23)


The word JIHAD is derived from JAHD or JUDH meaning “ability and exertion”. Jihad means the exertions of one’s power in repelling evil. Jihad also means the using or exertion of one’s utmost power, efforts, endeavors or ability in contending with an object of disapprobation and this is of three kinds: the visible enemy, evil and one’s self. Jihad is therefore far from synonymous from war. However, Jihad is also mistakenly used to mean holy war or defensive war by western or even westernized Muslims as the only bellum justum in Islam. This was shown as a misconception by Abdullah Yusuf Ali:
Those who believe, and suffer exile and strive (Jihad) with might and main, in God’s cause with their goods and their persons, have the highest rank, in the sight of God.

They are the people who will achieve salvation.” (9:20) (24)

Sir Abdullah Yusuf Ali in his commentary observed:

“Here is a good description of Jihad. It may require fighting in God’s cause, as a form of self sacrifice. But its essence consists in (1) true and sincere faith, which so fixes its gaze on God, that all selfish or worldly motives seem paltry and fade away, and (2) an earnest and ceaseless activity, involving the sacrifice (if need be) of life, person or property, in the service of God. Mere brutal fighting is opposed to the whole spirit of Jihad, while the sincere scholar’s pen or preacher’s voice or wealthy man’s contributions may be the most valuable forms of Jihad.” (25)
Fight (Jihad) in the cause of God
Those who Fight (Jihad) you
But do not transgress limits
For God loveth not transgressors
And slay them wherever ye catch them
From where they have turned you out;
For tumult and oppression
Are worse than slaughter
And fight them on
Until there is no more tumult or oppression
And there prevail Justice and Faith in God;
But if they cease, Let there be no hostility
Except to those who practice oppression. (11:190-193) (26)

Sir Yusuf Ali again commented on this verse that:
“War is only permissible in self-defense, under well-defined limits. When undertaken, it must be pushed with vigor, but not relentlessly, but only to restore peace and freedom for the worship of God. In any case strict limits must not be transgressed; women, children, old and infirm men should not be molested, no trees and crops cut down, nor place withheld when the enemy comes to terms”. (27)

He explained the universal practice of Muslims and their governments on the matter of war and peace.

“In general, it may be said that Islam is the religion of peace, goodwill, mutual understanding and good faith. But it will not acquiesce in wrong doing of its men will hold their lives cheap in defense of honor, justice and religion which they hold sacred. Their ideal is that of heroic virtue combined with unselfish gentleness and tenderness, such as is exemplified by the life of the Prophet. They believe in courage, obedience, discipline, duty and a consonant striving by all means in their power, physical, moral, intellectual, spiritual, for the establishment of truth and righteousness.“They know that war is an evil, but they will not flourish from it if their honor demands it and a righteous Imam command it, for then they know they are not serving carnal end. In other cases, war has nothing to do with their faith, except that it will always be regulated by its humane precepts.” (28)

The verses of the Holy Quran on Jihad aside from the two cited above which numbers more than thirty (30) verses never used the word “Harb” or war but only “fighting.”

In my paper, I observed, that the whole breadth of Islamic history will prove that Jihad was never used as an instrument of conversion for truly, mankind has never witnessed religious tolerance as displayed by Islamic rulers.
The Holy Quran enjoins religious tolerance when, it commanded “There is no compulsion in religion, truth stands manifest from error.”

Historians and writers like J.M. Haydman, Joseph Schart, Nathaniel Shcmidt, Lamartine, Lipson, Dozy, Renan, Sir Allan Burns to name a few, credits Islam and its reign with the flourishing of intellectual and religious freedom for all. No less than Arnold Tynbee, the greatest historian of our times said:
“Today the modern world stands in need of Islamic tolerance and universal brotherhood and the Muslim world has to play its role in the shaping of a harmonious and peaceful and happy destiny for the war-weary, tension tossed and ideology-torn world.” (29)


The first and most revolutionary change was the adoption of peaceful relationships among nations of different religions, modifying the classical principle of Jihad or a permanent state of war between Islamic and non-Islamic nations. Muslims rulers started making treaties establishing peace with non-Muslim states extending beyond the ten year period provided under the sacred law.

The most notable instrument that formalized the peaceful relationship between Islam and non-Muslim states was the Treaty of 1535. It not only laid down the principle of peace and mutual respect between Sultan Sulayman the Magnificent and the King of France but also offered it to other Christian princes who were willing to adhere to the treaty (Articles 1 and 15). (30)

The second fundamental change was the acceptance of the principle of the separation of religious doctrine from the conduct of external relations. In Islam there was a separation of doctrinal differences from the conduct of external relations and to regulate external relations on a secular basis. This was later adopted in Christendom thereby giving rise to the principle of cuious regio, eius religo, first adopted at the Peace of Augsburg in 1555, which became the basis of the Peace of Westphalia of 1648 and which governed the relationship of the Christian states in Europe and later among the different faiths of the world. (31)

The third principle was the adoption by Islam of the principles of territorial sovereignty and territorial law necessitated by territorial segregation. When the universal monocracy of Islam suffered a split in its body politic under changing conditions of modern life, the constituent entities emerged as fully sovereign and each sovereign tended to divert the mode of loyalty of men from universal to territorial concepts. As a result, territorial segregation constituted an underlying factor for the gradual transformation of the nature of sovereignty from universal to territorial as well of the law from personal to territorial. (32)


In my thesis for the Bachelor of Laws Degree at the College of Law of the University of the Philippines in 1967 I stated that:

“Neither the League of Nations charter nor the Kellog-Briand Pact which renounced war as instrument of national policy or a defensive war substantially altered the classic doctrine of war that the states had an inherent right to go to war.“The charter of the United Nations has introduced a new doctrine on the use of force. The preamble proclaim “that armed force shall not be used, save in the common interest.” And one of its purposes is “To maintain international peace and security, and to that end, take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of peace” – Article I (1). These statements imply the abolition of war in a legal sense. The only entity possessed of a legitimate power to use force is the Security Council which is authorized under the charter to “take such action by air, sea or land forces as may be necessary to maintain or restore peace and security. Art. 42.

“The inherent right of individual or collective self-defense in case of an armed attack is preserved in the charter. However, the exercise of the right of self-defense is merely in preliminary measure pending the exercise by the security council of its authority and responsibility to maintain or restore international peace and security. Article 51.” (33)

“The Muslim States having entered membership in the UN are bound legally by the charter. From the point of view of Islam, there is no substantial conflict with the Islamic doctrine of Jihad because the purpose of Jihad is the establishment of peace and if peace is established by the UN then the purpose of Jihad is served. Secondly, if aggression is committed on the Muslim state or states then the UN must enforce collective action or the Muslim states may declare Jihad on the aggressor. Thirdly, the requisites for justum bellum under Islamic doctrines are satisfied by its Charter.

“Another modern illustration of Jihad was in 1947 when the UN created the state of Israel and partitioned Palestine. The Mufti of Palestine declared Jihad and the Arab states supported Palestine in the Palestine War. The intervention of the UN resulted in a truce and the rights of the Palestinians are still to be settled in the UN. There is shooting war as of the moment and there is a state of war between the Arab states and Israel and tensions results in a continuing cycle of violence. As of the moment no Muslim state has extended recognition to Israel except Egypt.

“Again, the India-Pakistan war resulted to the declaration of Jihad by Pakistan against India. During the war between these two states, the Muslim states either financially, morally or actively supported Pakistan in her war efforts against India.

“The secularization of Muslim states have led to the secularization of Jihad and the acceptance of the UN concept of war as justum bellum under “modern” Islamic legal and ethical standards. Muslim States submit disputes with other states to the UN for arbitration and mediation in accordance with its Charter for peace being the ultimate objective, Muslim states are bound to honor the covenant. The invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq by US aided by the UK without Security Council approval is changing international law which effectively prohibits war under the UN charter except as a collective measure with the approval of the Security Council. The US military occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan will change international law on war.

However, the modern concept of total war which disregards distinctions between civilians and combatants and rendered the Hague Convention of 1907 irrelevant, is still not acceptable to Islamic legal theory. This modern theory of war saw its application in Nagasaki and Hiroshima.

Under Islamic legal theory, the conduct of war is based on that noble principle forbidding the extension of warfare to harming non-combatants. The rules decree against the killing of the aged, the young women, the handicapped, those who have withdrawn from life to worship and meditate, and those who have refrained from participating in battle. The mass of workers, farmers, and tradesman-in other words, the civilians. It is not lawful to kill civilians. There should be cessation of hostilities should those whose death is not permitted be exposed to death between the ranks of the fighting forces. However, this limitation on war action has been violated repeatedly by US and UK and justified under the pretext of collateral damage. The use of massive bombings beyond enemy lines using guided missiles and bombs as the basic US strategy to maximize damage to enemy forces, utilities, transport facilities, radar and satellite systems, with the minimum loss of lives has changed the rules o warfare and caused more injuries and death civilian populations than the soldiers as seen in the Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq.” (34)


The establishment of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) in 1971 operationalized the unification of the Muslim World initially constituting the Muslim States but with declared intention to support the Muslim Communities or Minorities who constitute over 400 million of the 1.2 billion Muslim World populations. Some of these Muslim Minority Communities are ancient nations and Kingdoms like those in the U.S.S.R., China, Eritrea, Thailand, Cyprus and the Philippines and their respective populations and territory are much bigger than many Muslim states.

In 1972, this author attended the 2nd OIC Foreign Ministers Conference in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, submitted the petition of the Bangsa Moro against the genocide by the Marcos regime. He also had long discussions with H.E. Tenghu Abdulrahman Putra, First Secretary General of the OIC and the late Libyan Foreign Minister Saleh Bouyaser, one of the drafters of the OIC charter.

In these talks, the said leaders revealed that the late King Faisal Bin Abdulazziz of Saudi Arabia worked for the establishment of the OIC to promote the unity of the Muslims to act as a world force and the Islamization of the Muslim States in order to safeguard the purity of Islam and its institutions and to encourage Muslim societies to modernize within the framework of Islam. The struggle of Islam against Zionism, Fascism, Colonialism and Anti-Islamic ideologies can only be won through the unity of the Ummah based on Islam. Further, the Muslim States collectively can protect and support the rights of Muslim Minorities. This has been consistently confirmed by the Islamic Summit of Heads of States. However, it has been short on implementation because of disunity among Muslim States caused by superpowers domination of some Muslim States.

It established the Islamic Solidarity Fund, the Islamic Development Bank, Red Crescent, the Islamic New Agency, and the Institute for Technical Cooperation, the Federation of Muslim Chambers of Commerce and Industries, etc. It has also formulated a common stand in world issues before the United Nations, the non-aligned movement, the Organization of African Unity, ASEAN and the Arab League. The Muslim States have emerged as one of the most powerful bloc in the UN and the world as shown by their unity on the oil embargo of 1973; the support for PLO and Palestine; the support for the Afghan Mujahiddin; the boycott on South Africa; North South Dialogue, the New World Economic Order and other major issues.

The OIC has also declared strong support for the Muslims in Eritrea, Cyprus, Bulgaria, and particularly the Bangsa Moro in the Philippines. They have given humanitarian assistance to all Muslim Communities and made representation to USSR, Europe, U.S.A., Canada, China on the rights of Muslim minorities. Its position is that, “violation of the rights of Muslims anywhere in the world is a legitimate concern of the Muslim States”, representing the collective will of the Muslim World through the OIC.

In the Iran-Iraq war, the OIC heads of states and governments created a committee of head of states to mediate between the parties and they continued these efforts in all forms up to the UN Security Council until finally, the cessation of hostilities was achieved.

In the present crisis in the Gulf States when Iraq invaded Kuwait and annexed it, the OIC condemned Iraq’s action and conforms to UN Security Council resolutions. However, it did not support US actions in sending forces to Saudi Arabia. It supported an Arab multi-national force and mediation by Muslim States between Iraq and Kuwait – Saudi-Arabia. The OIC also did not support the war against Afghanistan and Iraq. The acts of US are beyond the Security Council’s resolutions.

The OIC became marginalized in the US led invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq as well as the war in Palestine. The Acts of US are beyond the RP-US Security Council Resolutions. This situation led to militancy and birth of the Muslim Jihadist movements in the Muslim world as a reaction to the failure of OIC and Muslim states to be defenders of the Ummah and the Muslims.

Dr. Julkipli Wadi in a paper on the Islamic Ummah in the 21st Century commented on the new emergence of US as the sole Superpower on the Muslim Concept of the Law of Nations as well as the Doctrine of Jihad.

“The politicization and subsequent trans-nationalization of Islam is a product of long-standing rivalry between Arab nationalism and pan-Islamic source of political system and framework of development in the Arab world provided opportunity for pan-Islamic groups to claim support and legitimacy from marginal sectors of Muslim society. It is reinforced by the failure of Arab nationalism to get rid neocolonial vestiges in the Middle East and other parts of the Islamic world. The sway of Islamic movements is brought about with the eclipse of reform movements in Muslim dominated areas and secessionist groups in non-Muslim dominated areas. Since the Afghan war in the 80’s these two strands of struggles had forged strong linkages with each other. It thus appears that the neo-Islamic struggle is global making their target not only their immediate enemies, e.g., Arab/Muslim and Christian dominated governments, but the very source of global hegemony (e.g. America) and all the symbolism it represents (e.g. capitalism, power). Taking cue from the fact that it is useless to engage in petty acts of violence in their respective locales, they thus catapulted their struggle by making a big signature in the heartland of American power as shown on September 11. What they simply needed was their will. Their capability came second. And, ironically, it was the knowledge and technology of the United States that they used to destroy the symbol of economic and political power of the United States. If there was a lesson learned by Islamic movements is that, if you want to be heard, you’ve got to elbow a major power. Yet, one has to be ready of being branded as a terrorist, fundamentalist, and all those sort of labels even by their fellow Muslim brothers unfortunately. And finally one has to contend the wrath of the Superpower and the international coalition against terror.


The rule of the game of international politics has indeed changed. The event last September 11 shows the fragility of the world today. If a big power like the United States can become a subject of intimidation by what it considers as an “enemy that hides in the shadow” what more Third world countries including the Muslim world? Surely, the Muslim world, its dynamics and politics will be the subject of international controversy in the years ahead. The sense of historicity by a wide array of many Muslim struggles is now supplanted by over rhetoric on terrorism. The line thus between legitimate political struggle and terrorism has turned blurred. (35)
18 Abbas, Datu Jamal Ashely Hermeneutic Interpretation for the Bangsa Moro Issue
Bangsa Moro Review Internet Magazine, December 2002
19 Mercado, Eliseo, Interview by Economic Intelligence Review, MindaNews Website, May 4, 2003
20 Abbas, Macapanton, Jr. International Relations in Islam, Institute of Islamic Studies, UP, Diliman, Roundtable Discussions on Islamic Studies, UP, August 19, 1990
21 Khadduri, Masjid, War and Peace in Law of Islam, 1962
22 Ibid. Khadduri
23 Ibid. Khaduri
24 The Holy Qur’an, Chap.9 verse 20
25 Ali, Abdulah Yusuf Translation and Commentary of the Holy Qu’ran, Parachi Press,
Pakistan, 1949
26 Op-cit. Chapter 11, Verse 190-193
27 Op-cit. Comments of Yusuf Ali English Translation and Commentary of the Holy Quran,
28 Op-cit. Yusuf Ali
29 Op cit Abbas, Macapanton Jr.
30 Proctor, Harris, Islam and International Relations, London: Pall Mall Press, 1965
31 Ibid. Proctor
32 Ibud.. Proctor
33 Abad Santos, Cases in International Law, 1966
34 Abbas, Macapanton, Jr., “Jihad and International Law”; Thesis, College of Law, University of
the Philippines, 1967
35 Wad, Julkipli A paper presented during the Muslim Youth congress sponsored by the
National Youth Commission at the Executive Plaza Hotel, Malate, Manila, 27 October 2001

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Making peace with the Bangsamoro Basic Law

Posted on 29 June 2016 by cbcs_mike

Author: Teresa Jopson, ANU

[Posted By Teresa Jopson On 11 May 2016 @ 10:00 am In Development,Philippines,Politics. Teresa Jopson is a PhD candidate at the Department of Political and Social Change, Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs, The Australian National University]

Securing a lasting peace in the southern Philippines has been an ongoing problem for the Philippine government. Marginalised Moros in the southern Philippines have legitimate grievances against the Philippine government. This much the Philippine government has recognised in signing peace agreements [1], most recently with the insurgent group Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Muslim indigenous peoples or Moros have organised themselves and fought in a war [2] that has killed 120,000 and displaced 3.25 million people over the last four decades. The Philippine government needs the resources of Moro lands. The MILF has conceded this in agreeing to pursue autonomy under the framework of the Philippine Constitution. In the last two years, the peace talks have reached a point where government troops and the MILF are conducting joint operations [3] against other armed groups in Mindanao.

But the MILF is after something else, a law that enables them to determine their own future. The Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL [4]) implements the signed peace agreements by building a Bangsamoro ministerial government to replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). The theory is that a self-governing Bangsamoro given more economic and political powers can uplift the Philippines’ poorest region. Endorsed by the President in September 2014, the BBL was expected to pass the bicameral legislature under the current Aquino administration.

But Aquino himself authorised [5] Oplan Exodus in January 2015, an operation to pursue an alleged terrorist with a US$5 million bounty on his head in Mamasapano [5], without coordinating with the MILF. The result was the killing of 44 elite police, 17 MILF members, five civilians and the death of the BBL in Congress.

The Mamasapano clash demonstrated how the government talks peace with the MILF, but does not fully trust them as partners in Mindanao. Partly due to unethical media coverage [5], the dominant public discourses after Mamasapano betray a lack of concern among politicians and the general public about finding a lasting resolution to the conflict in Mindanao, and mirror the Islamophobia [6] often present in global anti-terror campaigns. Perhaps one silver lining of the crossfire in Mamasapano might be renewed public interest in the BBL and its contents.

When Congress resumed BBL deliberations, it was in the form of the Basic Law on the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region (BLBAR [7]). A House of Representatives ad-hoc committee voted 50–17 [8] in favour of the BLBAR in May 2015. The Senate, on the other hand, was in no hurry. The Senate Committee on Constitutional Amendments and Revision of Codes reported [9] that the BBL requires substantial revision to withstand Supreme Court scrutiny, delaying proceedings until it was too late. Senators who suspect that the BBL is unconstitutional include Miriam Defensor-Santiago and Grace Poe, who both ran for president in this week’s election, as well as Allan Peter Cayetano, Chiz Escudero and Bongbong Marcos, who are contenders for vice president.

Still, the binding peace agreements signed by the government and the MILF compel the next Congress to take up BBL and determine its form. Not just any law will do. Peace advocates and the MILF have criticised [10] the current BLBAR as not being compliant with existing peace agreements. In the current version, the powers of the Bangsamoro entity are weakened by the presence of national government institutions. BLBAR grants the Bangsamoro government limited autonomy, only slightly besting the ARMM in sharing powers with the national government.

The most significant points of the BBL are provisions for economic policies [11] based on social justice and sustainable development (Article XIII), which were pared down in the last version. So far, land reform and creation of new industries are still in the BLBAR. But if Philippine laws and contracts such as the Mining Act of 1995 and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade prevail in the Bangsamoro, these provisions will either cause contradictions in Philippine law or will be relegated to mere rhetoric.

If provisions for social justice and sustainable development are only rhetorically endorsed, this will be a disservice to the struggle of the Moro peoples. A rhetorical BBL will not solve the conflict in Mindanao, and will frustrate the Moro people’s hopes for peace and development in their remaining ancestral domains.

At most, a symbolic BBL will reconfigure the power holders in the Bangsamoro while reinforcing Moro elite rule. At worse, it will fuel the recruitment drives of armed groups such as the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and the Abu Sayyaf Group. The MNLF’s renewed vigour [12] and Abu Sayyaf’s escalated extremism suggest that the BBL alone will not stop violence in Mindanao.

The push to end the conflict in Mindanao must go beyond the BBL in the next Congress. The Transitional Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) recommends ‘dealing with the past’ as a joint endeavour of the national government and the Bangsamoro authorities and institutions. Established by the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro, the TJRC was mandated to study and recommend steps towards reconciliation in Mindanao. Their thorough 2016 report [13] demonstrates that with or without the BBL, historical injustices in the Bangsamoro, including land dispossession, serious human rights violations and impunity, must be addressed to provide the necessary conditions for peace in the southern Philippines [14].
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PEACETALK: Which should come first? Pass BBL or shift to federalism?

Posted on 28 June 2016 by cbcs_mike

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

[This is a reprint from MindaViews which is the opinion section of MindaNews. The author 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.

Read more

CBCS Secretariat

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Duterte @ the TAF

What’s Next for Mindanao Peace Process Under Duterte Leadership?

Posted on 28 June 2016 by cbcs_mike

June 1, 2016
By Anna Tasnim Basman and Steven Rood

[This article i a reprint from In Asia-Weekly Insights and Analysis of The Asia Foundation. The authors, Anna Tasnim Basman is an assistant program officer for The Asia Foundation in the Philippines, and Steven Rood is country representative there. Basman can be reached at and Rood at and @StevenRoodPH on Twitter. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the authors and not those of The Asia Foundation or its funders.]

In the lead-up to May 9 Philippine elections, anxiety mounted over how the decades-long Bangsamoro peace process to resolve the protracted conflict in Mindanao would continue – if at all – under new leadership. Now, as President-elect Rodrigo Duterte, who will be sworn into office on June 30, sets about naming his new cabinet, peace advocates are watching his next moves carefully.

During the campaign season, President-elect Rodrigo Duterte said that he would “put the Mindanao conflict on top of his agenda.” Photo/Rody Duterte Facebook page

During the campaign season, President-elect Rodrigo Duterte said that he would “put the Mindanao conflict on top of his agenda.” Photo/Rody Duterte Facebook page

In its February 2016 public report about the implementation of The 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), the Third Party Monitoring Team (TPMT) recognized that the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) had stalled and called for a Plan B “to build a path forward so that the next administration can hit the ground running, and the unavoidable hiatus while the new administration takes stock can be minimized.” However, in a widely-circulated paper, Judge Soliman Santos argued that it is more important that “the new administration takes stock of the overall situation of the Mindanao peace process than to hit the ground running on the BBL.”

During the campaign season, Duterte said that he would “put the Mindanao conflict on top of his agenda.” This was warmly welcomed by the two largest Moro Fronts – with Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) Chairman Nur Misuari explicitly endorsing his presidency and MILF Vice-Chair Ghadzali Jaafar calling him the “next president” when Duterte visited Camp Darapanan in February.

Amid this warm reception of Duterte’s presidency are the varying views of his Cabinet members regarding the Bangsamoro peace process – some are skeptical about it for political, constitutional, or security reasons while others see it as an opportunity to establish a Bangsamoro Federal State. In the face of these divisions in the Duterte camp, and the wider body politic, returning Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, Jesus Dureza, has called for wide-ranging consultations on crafting a new Bangsamoro peace roadmap to include groups outside the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in order to make such a process successful.

So what’s next for the peace process?

Plan A would be to start where the process stopped: in the May 30 Declaration of Continuity, the government under President Aquino’s administration and MILF peace panels spoke of continued pursuit of a Bangsamoro Basic Law. That might have been more promising had Mar Roxas, the administration’s bet, been elected. In the current situation, when the administration candidate did not win, success with this tactic is uncertain, to say the least.

There’s a perception within the incoming administration that the Bangsamoro bill was not inclusive enough because the MNLF had not been consulted. A Plan B then is to move forward in a way that assures the “participation of the MNLF in any transitional authority that will be set up by the new autonomy law,” as stipulated in the Joint Communique signed by the government and the MNLF in the recently concluded Tripartite Review Process that the Organization of the Islamic Conference hosted in Jeddah. And, an embryonic mechanism exists for MILF-MNLF cooperation, in the Bangsamoro

Coordination Forum, though that has yet to really take off. A definite step in the direction of involving the MNLF is the anticipated visit by president-elect Duterte to Sulu to meet his long-time acquaintance, MNLF Founding Chair Nur Misuari (which would be reminiscent of what President Corazon C. Aquino did in 1986).

But even that leaves out other stakeholders, such as local officials who just won the elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and its provinces, cities, and municipalities. Re-elected Governor Mujiv Hataman has always been supportive of peace process efforts, so he can be an advocate for this. Other officials expressed skepticism during debates on the Bangsamoro Basic Law, thereby fueling the perception that the process of devising the BBL was not inclusive. Utilizing the ARMM and other local governments for consultations toward a roadmap would help demonstrate that the process is not meant for the MILF alone.

Going beyond a focus on peace in Mindanao is the vow of President-elect Duterte to pursue the shift from a unitary to a federal state structure. Presumptive Speaker of the House Alvarez said that the BBL is “moot already” because of the thrust toward federalism (the Congressman later clarified that the government can pursue the BBL alongside the move toward federalism). This elicited some outrage and perplexity on the part of the MILF because candidate Duterte had promised to pass the BBL.

While some argue that the BBL must continue to be fast-tracked, even during a thrust for federalism, this seems largely to be because of worries about the longer time-frame for constitutional change than for passing a law (since an optimistic time-frame for constitutional change has a plebiscite to ratify amendments coinciding with the May 2019 midterm elections). Both the MILF and the MNLF seem to agree that a Bangsamoro self-governing unit within a federal system is an acceptable solution to the Bangsamoro problem. However, they emphasize the need for asymmetry, including recognizing the Bangsamoro as a nation as well as respecting the 1996 Final Peace Agreement (FPA) and 2014 CAB, so that the special requirements of solving the Bangsamoro Problem can be met.

The Aquino administration’s goal was always to accomplish the implementation of peace agreements quickly so as to be completed during his term. However, that was not to be. Now, the Philippines will have a new administration which must tackle this issue, and the shortest route –refiling the original bill and persuading the Congress to pass it substantially unchanged – seems very unlikely. All other scenarios – convergence with the MNLF and other sectors, involving the ARMM in consultations, or constitutional change – involve longer time periods.

Crucial during this “hiatus” would be three things. First, maintaining sufficient confidence in the political process, be it related to the MILF or the MNLF, so that armed insurgents do not engage in violent acts, and to demonstrate to those who might be tempted by the siren song of ISIS that a Bangsamoro-specific solution is possible. Second, whatever process ensues, it must be seen to be inclusive in order to demonstrate to the Filipino nation that the outcome is broadly acceptable.

Third, arrangements to address the long-standing poverty and deprivation that has been exacerbated amid the conflict in the region must be made. The MILF has consistently resisted socio-economic development that could be construed as counterinsurgency but has no objection to the expansion of regular government programs serving their communities. MNLF communities have been the subject of PAMANA and the current and incoming administrations must assess the efficacy of this program.

In this manner, what happens during the hiatus while final legislative or constitutional changes are made is important for the current fragile peace process to be maintained.

CBCS Secretariat

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Peacetalk: Grieving, Doing Justice, Working for peace,

Posted on 09 March 2015 by Zehlhez

A Letterto to All Christians
By Orlando Cardinal B. Quevedoon March 8 2015 8:25 pm

COTABATO CITY (MindaNews /08 March) — Fellow Disciples of Christ: Greetings of peace in the Lord! Continue Reading

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Muslim Filipinos hurting after Mamasapano clash too

Posted on 05 March 2015 by Zehlhez

February 25, 2015 7:00pmContinue Reading

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The war for hearts and minds

Posted on 05 March 2015 by Zehlhez

Grassroots and Governance, BY TERESA S. ABESAMIS


THE HARDEST PART about winning the peace in Mindanao is not a matter of armaments, or of military tactics and strategy. Continue Reading

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Reflections on the Mamasapano Incidents and its Effect to the Peace Process

Reflections on the Mamasapano Incidents and its Effect to the Peace Process

Posted on 02 March 2015 by Zehlhez

Guiamel M. AlimOn January 25, 2015, a contingent of the Police Special Action Force (SAF) conducted a discreet operation to arrest 2 suspected terrorists Continue Reading

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A Letter from Majeed Usman

A Letter from Majeed Usman

Posted on 16 February 2015 by Musa

Dear Bangsamoro People

I am Maajeed Usman, an ordinary Bangsamoro. I just would like to lay down my personal statement about the just concluded senate hearing about Mamasapano Bloody Incident

I am deeply saddened by statement loosened out by Senator Allan Peter Cayetano recently during the Senate hearing on the Mamasapao Bloody Incident held on February 12, 2015. In his manifestation, he had been mentioning repeatedly that MILF is a TERRORIST ORGANIZATION as he cited many documents he gathered as basis of his interpretation, stating those bombings happened in Mindanao. In this junction, it was not clearly defined whether or not the MILF as the one who instigate the series of bombings, there was no – nothing in the middle of the discourses has been said categorically, that MILF admitted the case as Senator Cayetano clearly taking and dictating the momentum, continuously tagging MILF as Terrorist Group which to me, a baseless one, an statement that adds to the already lingering gap between Muslim and other faith particularly the Christian majority.

The “ratatatatatatatatat” Senator AP Cayetano known for being insensitive with his words was then temporarily halted as BTC Mohager Iqbal opened up those important narratives and milestones as to how the Bangsamoro Struggle in Mindanao started and progresses. He was informed then that indeed Bangsamoro people by history were deprived to many rights; thousands of moro people were massacred and brutally executed in several instances, in different forms and extent under military rule. Iqbal further disclosed that “armed struggle is only the measure and option that we think very necessary to combat the unending oppression against Bangsamoro”. After Sen AP Cayetano listens to the input from Mohager Iqbal, noticeably, his line of questions suddenly shifts and he begins to rekindle his thoughts and later, appreciates the value of struggle of Bangsamoro people in Mindanao.

I was deeply hurt; it was painful and unacceptable “term” especially now when the peace process is already making a wave, why now? When resources and best efforts between and among parties involved are already poured in. why such statement? When GPH already recognizes the legitimacy of MILF in seeking political settlement for the Bangsamoro, Why such? When Bangsamoro Basic Law is about to be deliberated in congress, why? When everyone in Mindanao is already in high spirit, why? When the trust and confidence are already far-reaching. What is clear to me, those demonstrations made by Senator AP Cayetano and its cohorts are nothing but an expression of insensitivity, a bit of display of arrogance and ignorance of history, nothing but an intention to confuse the public and above all, his objective to become the ‘STAR” a “HERO” for those people who already against with the BBL. What a world!!!!

 I am saddened and a bit teary-eye seeing Mohaqer Iqbal at the center, being castigated like an offender”. I don’t like the manner, tenor and lines of questioning that are being thrown – and the way it was done.

I am also saddened that Mamasapano incident is now being equate to the peace process but on the other hand, I feel sorry for people who make a lot of criticisms in social media because its either, they don’t understand the history of conflict in Mindanao or simply they are being fueled up by hatred because of those accounts being associated to Muslims as violent or terrorists.

I am saddened that many people refuse to look at the bright side of the peace process and its purpose.

The attitude the way Sen “ratatatatatatatatat” have shown is the version of a person who truly do  not know the context of Mindanao, who do not know what OPAPP and MILF have been talking and engaging with. I am sad because, this condition fuels up the gap that we already have in the ground and or even complicate the understanding of the majority on the status of the peace process.

Despite of all, I am personally extending my grand appreciation to BTC Chair Mohager Iqbal for being able to respond all the issues thrown against MILF, I admire his steadfastness and composure while receiving mounting criticisms from different resource speakers at that time particularly the “ratatatatatatat” senator. I admire his ability to compose himself in the midst of arguments. I pay respect for his brilliance and capability to argue on conditions affecting the peace process and MILF as an organization.

I therefore appreciate deeply the undying commitment of MILF as a gesture of a truly committed organization to achieve a lasting peace in Mindanao.

I would like also to give countless likes and thumbs up for Governor Mujiv Hataman as he was able to rebut Senator Cayetano in the middle of his manifestation and immediately make his own discussion and analysis with regards to “terrorism”. He was able defend it with semblance of self-control over his emotion.   In this trying time, I found few people who have heart for peace, committed and willing to risk their lives. .

I urge everyone to let us all exercise utmost tolerance at this point in time as the peace process approaches to a critical stage. Let us also confront peace spoilers by providing the right avenue where they can articulate their issues and concerns and make them understand eventually the intent and extent of peace the process.

On the other hand, I appeal to every citizen not to judge the MILF, its intention and commitment to the peace process and do not make the Mamasapano incident as condition or ground for inadmissibility of the Bangsamoro Basic Law in the congress. I strongly believe that if ceasefire mechanisms were strictly observed, incident should have been avoided.

I hope and pray that before everyone will make a comment or issue statements, they should consider using appropriate words particularly at this point in time where tension in the ground is looming and where the peace process is on the verge of turmoil.

May those spoilers be enlightened with peace.

Let us give peace a chance…..


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