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The same old view

Posted on 12 January 2018 by cbcs_mike

[This article is an editorial desk of luwaran published on August 16, 2017 which believably reflects the ideas of MILF Leadership on the filing of “BABAR Bill” by former president and now Congresswoman Gloria Macapagal – Arroyo which is seen by many as revival of the Bangsamoro hated version of BBL called BLBAR sponsored by the son of “butcher” of Bangsamoro better known as senator Bongbong Marcos]

During colonial times, colonizers arrogated to themselves the alleged bounden duty to care for non-white colonized peoples, who were treated as inferior race. This was the so-called white man’s burden, which originated and made popular after a poem of the same title by Rudyard Kipling in 1899. In this poem, he urged the U.S. to take up the “burden” of empire, as had Britain and other European nations.
Until today, there are lot of so-called leaders in “Imperial Manila” who would like to predetermine what is good for the Moros and the indigenous peoples in Mindanao. Such is not only reminiscent of this old colonial policy but it is still very much a part of policies of changing administrations in this country.

This view is not only a violation of the right of self-determination (RSD) of people but more seriously, any policy of such nature is sure to fail. Like an illness, the doctor prescribes the wrong medicine. This is the primordial reason why the so-called Moro Question of Problem remains unsolved to this day, which contributed in no small way to the radicalization of youths in Mindanao.

The current example of this old colonial policy is the bill authored by former President and now Congresswoman of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo called Basic Act for Bangsamoro Autonomous Region (BABAR). The acronym itself already means “foolish” or “crazy” in Maguindanao language, which is spoken by over a million people. The last letter “r” is sometimes changed to “l” if it is uttered by people farther from the Iranon areas between Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur.

The filing of this kind of law is disgusting in all aspects. It clearly runs counter to the letter and spirit of the FAB and CAB. As former president, who was supposed to be the “mother” of all peoples, she should not have filed such a bill that clearly favours special groups of people, and more seriously, rescinds a moral obligation contained in agreement that it entered into with, including those with MILF and MNLF.

But if we recall the ghost of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) in 2008, then we can understand who is this Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. It was during her presidency that the MOA-AD was initialled on July 27, 2008 but when it came to its formal signing, she backtracked and reneged on her obligation. This led to bloody fighting in North Cotabato, Lanao del Norte, and many other areas in Mindanao.

Be this as it may, we still want to assure Congresswoman GMA that we still have the highest respect for her as former president and as daughter of one of the most beloved presidents of this country, the late Diosdado Macapagal, especially among Moros. He was the first president to have appointed a Moro, the late Datu Duma Sinsuat, to his cabinet in the sixties.

By the way, the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is not only an exercise of RSD (right to self-determination) by the Bangsamoro people, but it is also based on the letter and spirit of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB). By signing these agreements, it is an obligation of government to enact the BBL as a way to comply with its obligation contained in these agreements.

The problem is that the BBL is not yet submitted to Congress, as of this writing. We do not know why GMA is faster than the administration. We sought explanation from the government but we got an unclear answer. Frankly, we do not know what is happening.

CBCS Secretariat

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The same old view

Posted on 12 October 2017 by cbcs_mike

[This article is an editorial desk of luwaran published on August 16, 2017 which believably reflects the ideas of MILF Leadership on the filing of “BABAR Bill” by former president and now Congresswoman Gloria Macapagal – Arroyo which is seen by many as revival of the Bangsamoro hated version of BBL called BLBAR sponsored by senator Bongbong Marcos]

During colonial times, colonizers arrogated to themselves the alleged bounden duty to care for non-white colonized peoples, who were treated as inferior race. This was the so-called white man’s burden, which originated and made popular after a poem of the same title by Rudyard Kipling in 1899. In this poem, he urged the U.S. to take up the “burden” of empire, as had Britain and other European nations.

Until today, there are lot of so-called leaders in “Imperial Manila” who would like to predetermine what is good for the Moros and the indigenous peoples in Mindanao. Such is not only reminiscent of this old colonial policy but it is still very much a part of policies of changing administrations in this country.

This view is not only a violation of the right of self-determination (RSD) of people but more seriously, any policy of such nature is sure to fail. Like an illness, the doctor prescribes the wrong medicine. This is the primordial reason why the so-called Moro Question of Problem remains unsolved to this day, which contributed in no small way to the radicalization of youths in Mindanao.

The current example of this old colonial policy is the bill authored by former President and now Congresswoman of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo called Basic Act for Bangsamoro Autonomous Region (BABAR). The acronym itself already means “foolish” or “crazy” in Maguindanao language, which is spoken by over a million people. The last letter “r” is sometimes changed to “l” if it is uttered by people farther from the Iranon areas between Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur.

The filing of this kind of law is disgusting in all aspects. It clearly runs counter to the letter and spirit of the FAB and CAB. As former president, who was supposed to be the “mother” of all peoples, she should not have filed such a bill that clearly favours special groups of people, and more seriously, rescinds a moral obligation contained in agreement that it entered into with, including those with MILF and MNLF.

But if we recall the ghost of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) in 2008, then we can understand who is this Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. It was during her presidency that the MOA-AD was initialled on July 27, 2008 but when it came to its formal signing, she backtracked and reneged on her obligation. This led to bloody fighting in North Cotabato, Lanao del Norte, and many other areas in Mindanao.
Be this as it may, we still want to assure Congresswoman GMA that we still have the highest respect for her as former president and as daughter of one of the most beloved presidents of this country, the late Diosdado Macapagal, especially among Moros. He was the first president to have appointed a Moro, the late Datu Duma Sinsuat, to his cabinet in the sixties.

By the way, the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is not only an exercise of RSD by the Bangsamoro people, but it is also based on the letter and spirit of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB). By signing these agreements, it is an obligation of government to enact the BBL as a way to comply with its obligation contained in these agreements.

The problem is that the BBL is not yet submitted to Congress, as of this writing. We do not know why GMA is faster than the administration. We sought explanation from the government but we got an unclear answer. Frankly, we do not know what is happening.

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BM-PUSH holds PressCon in support to BBL Passage

Posted on 05 October 2017 by cbcs_mike

[The article is a reprint of an article written by Arnold Monsod of the July 20, 2017 issue of luwaran]

In a presscon held last July 18, Mindanao Civil Society Organizations (CSO’s) expressed support the passage of Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) submitted to President Rodrigo Duterte in Malacañng on Monday, July 17. “Support Lasting Peace, Pass BBL Now!” The slogan of the Coalition of CSO’s Bangsamoro Platform for unity, solidarity and harmony (BM-PUSH) during its Press Conference conducted at Em Manor Convention Center in Cotabato City attended by members of tri-media media both local and national media outlets.


In a Manifesto released by the BM-PUSH, they expressed their gladness and appreciation that the expanded Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) whose membership are composed of representatives from the MILF, MNLF, Christians and Indigenous People accomplished it mandated tasks of drafting an inclusive Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

BM-PUSH is organized by different organizations whose main goal is to support the GPH-MILF peace process. These organizations are the People’s Coalition for ARMM Reform and Transformation represented by Duma M. Mascud ,who is also the Chairperson of the BM-PUSH). Samad P. Macmod, represented Mindanao Alliance for Peace, Mendis A. Hussain – Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society, Nas Pulindao of Federation of Bangsamoro Civil Society Organizations (FBCSO), Evhoy B. Villaruel – Community Organizers Multiversity, Naima G. Pendi – Women’s Organizations Movement of the Bangsamoro and Dr. Ombra Imam of the League of Bangsamoro Organizations (LBO).

In the introductory messages, heads of organizations gave insights on the current situation particularly to the submission of the new draft BBL to the Office of President led by BTC Chairman Ghazali Jaafar.

In the first part of the PressCon Dr. Imam read their Manifesto.

Mr. Mascud in his response to the question raised by the media about the stands of CSO on the Martial Law declared by Duterte said that Martial Law declaration is the president’s discretion.

On the other hand, Dr. Imam supplemented the answers of Mr. Mascud and emphasized the importance of the passage of BBL.
Samad P. Macmod for his part delved on the peace roadmap and the approaches that civil society organizations will take to support the smooth passage of the Bangsamoro Law.

Mr. Pulindao took note of the commitment of President Duterte for the passage of BBL and is optimistic of the possibility of the passage of the BBL under the present administration as he attributed the failure of BBL in the 16th Congress due to the Mamasapano fiasco.
The BM-PUSH also called on the respected members of both Houses of Congress of the Philippines to hasten the enactment of the proposed BBL in compliance with the Government of the Philippines (GPH)-Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) signed on March 27, 2014.

They also see and feel the brunt and effect of war now taking place in the Islamic City of Marawi, their conviction that the GPH-MILF shall pass through the path of real and everlasting peace envisioned under the new Bangsamoro Basic Law.
They said that though the new BBL may not be a perfect law but it is the best alternative path to peace, progress and development in Mindanao.

Since the proposed law is already in the hands of President Duterte they appealed to the president to certify it as an URGENT BILL so congress can fast tract its enactment.

The said PressCon was attended by different tri-media outlets.


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Checkpoints and Chokepoints: The Rocky Road to Peace in the Bangsamoro

Posted on 04 October 2017 by cbcs_mike

[The author Professor Rufa Cagoco-Guiam is a:Professor III, Department of Sociology, College of Social Sciences and Humanities, and Graduate Program in Public Administration; Director, Campus – Institute for Peace and Development in Mindanao, Mindanao State University – General Santos City 9500, Philippines The article was reprinted as published at Asia Peacebuilding Initiatives webpage.]


For the past three years, the acronyms FAB, CAB and lately, the BBL encapsulated key points in the rough road characterizing the peace talks between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Government of the Philippines (GPH). FAB, CAB and BBL stand for Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro, Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, and the Bangsamoro Basic Law respectively.

Considering the Filipinos’ proclivity to use acronyms—from the meaningful to the outrageous—this is nothing new and remarkable. But in the case of the MILF-GPH peace process, these acronyms have taken on significant meanings, not only in the literal sense, but also in identifying important landmarks—checkpoints and chokepoints—in the rugged road to peace in Mindanao, especially in the Bangsamoro.

On October 15, 2012, the panels of the two parties signed the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB), and this elicited wide euphoria on the looming positive outcome of the long drawn-out process. The MILF talks with the Philippine government commenced more than 17 years ago, spanning the administrations of at least three Philippine presidents: Joseph Estrada, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, and starting June 2010, Benigno S. Aquino III. Public enthusiasm and excitement over the imminent closure of such a tedious and circuitous peace process was palpable, not only in the core territories of the envisioned Bangsamoro, but also in the contiguous and even in other regions in Mindanao and in many parts of the country. For some civil society leaders, just the mention of the word “Bangsamoro” by the President in a statement read on national television was enough to move them to tears. After all, it was the very first time a sitting president of the Philippines, a predominantly Catholic country, would recognize on national television the existence of a separate and distinctive identity of the Bangsamoro.

The FAB led to the creation of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC), through Executive Order (EO) 120 that President Aquino signed as early as December 2012. It was tasked to draft the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), the organic act that would create and provide guidelines for the workings of the envisioned Bangsamoro government that will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) by 2016. As EO 120 provided, the BTC was composed of 15 members, 8 of whom were nominated by the MILF; the rest were nominated by the Philippine government. It was also President Aquino who signed the appointment of all BTC members.

ARMM as failed experiment or more than 20 years since its creation, the ARMM has been the poorest region in the country, with its provinces occupying the bottom rungs of the Philippine’s human development ladder. The original four provinces that constitute the ARMM—Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, the island provinces of Sulu and Tawi-Tawi—have always been tagged as members of the country’s “Club 20” (the “club” of poorest provinces in the country). After a plebiscite in 2001, the ARMM expanded to include the island province of Basilan and the city of Marawi, a city in Lanao del Sur province, courtesy of Republic Act 9054 (An Act expanding the coverage of the ARMM, and other purposes). Like the original members, the two additional areas also exhibited the same low levels of human development indices compared to other provinces in the country.

From 2006 to 2012, encompassing three periods of the national government’s triennial household census, the region exhibited only one instance when its poverty incidence dipped, although just by a fraction of 1 percent (from 40.5 percent in 2006 to 39.9 percent in 2009). But such a minuscule drop was wiped out with a whopping 8.7 percent increase in the next census in 2012, when its poverty incidence was reported at a very high 48.7 percent (roughly half the number of people in the region) classified as living below the poverty threshold. In actual numbers of families, this percentage translates to 271,355 families, and if this is calculated using the average number of individuals per household of 6 (2 parents and 4 children) – this is roughly 1,628,130 individuals. As of 2012, the total population of the region was a little over 3 million. 1 See Table 1 below for details.
Table 1. Poverty Incidence and Magnitude of Poor Families in the ARMM, 2006, 2009 and 2012

Region/Province Poverty Incidence among families (%) Magnitude of poor families
2006 2009 2012 2006 2009 2012
ARMM 41 40 49 205,834 212,494 271,355
Basilan 28 29 49 14,137 14,787 16,832
Lanao Sur 39 49 67 51,408 68,770 100,946
Maguindanao 46 43 55 70,665 67,899 87,800
Sulu 35 36 40 39,478 42,530 51,278
Tawi-tawi 50 29 22 30,146 18,518 14,999

*Culled from the Regional Development Plan in the ARMM Updates, 2013. p. 22.
In terms of annual per capita poverty threshold, the amount (in US dollars) is quite measly, ranging from US$266 to$400 (see Figure 1 below). The increases in the per capita poverty threshold are dictated by inflationary factors extraneous to the region. In other words, these are not the results of decreasing poverty incidence.

A significant decrease in poverty incidence was recorded in the island province of Tawi-Tawi from 2009 to 2012, at almost 20 percent from its original level of 50 percent in 2006. But this lone outstanding performance dimmed in comparison with the increasing number of poor families in the four other provinces in the region. Two provinces—Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur—figured prominently in the significant spikes in their poverty incidences, with an average increase of 15 percent from their 2009 records (43 percent to 55 percent and 49 percent to 67 percent respectively, in 2012). The two provinces are also the location of several pocket wars and skirmishes classified as horizontal conflicts. Such conflicts are popularly referred to in the literature as “rido” or vengeance fighting among rival political families or among families that have been engaged in grudge relationships for several years now. 2
Figure 1. Annual Per Capita Poverty Threshold in US dollars, 2006, 2009 to 2012

Poverty THRESHOLD in Muslim Areas 2006-2012

As the only autonomous region in the Philippines, the ARMM was envisioned then to have turned the tide for its impoverished communities after the protracted armed conflict. But year after year of its existence, with a representative of the three dominant ethno-linguistic groups in the region at its helm, the ARMM has instead created a popular image that it was a “failed experiment” in autonomous rule in the Philippines. Governance is also perceived to be weak, or even absent in many LGUs (local government units) in the ARMM, starting from the lowest unit, the barangay, to the provincial levels. Local chief executives in impoverished towns in the ARMM provinces are known to be in their opulent residences outside their LGUs, in progressive cities like Davao, Cagayan de Oro and General Santos or in middle income cities like Koronadal and Tacurong in south-central Mindanao.

A recent assessment on the state of local democracy (SoLD) in the ARMM describes people participation in governance as minimal, only as voters in elections held every three years. 3 But such minimum participation is further weakened, as voting can be manipulated: powerful political clans and other influential leaders can impose a “command vote” among ordinary citizens. Poor voters in areas hard to access in the countryside are “commanded” to vote for certain candidates in exchange for cash or some form of “protection,” as wards of a political patron.
Throughout its electoral history, the ARMM provinces have been considered “hotspots” and have always been on the watch list of the national Commission on Elections (Comelec). The autonomous region has recorded the most number of election-related deaths in the 2010 elections, thus confirming its negative image as a violence-prone area, with 58 people killed in one instance out of a total of 117 election-related killings in the entire Mindanao region. 4 The 58 were victims of the Maguindanao massacre (aka Ampatuan massacre) that happened in a remote area near a highway in Barangay Salman, Ampatuan municipality, on November 23, 2009. Among those killed were journalists and civil society leaders who accompanied the family of then candidate Ismael Mangudadatu (now governor of Maguindanao province) to Cotabato City to file Mangudadatu’s certificate of candidacy. The massacre has now gone down as the goriest and most brutal election-related incident in Philippine contemporary history. As of this writing, the alleged suspects in the massacre still remain in detention, without having yet been convicted, after five long years.

Promised road map to peace?

On March 27, 2014, the long anticipated historic event finally took place. The panels of both the MILF and the government signed the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) on that memorable day. Everyone, from government sector groups and civil society was in a celebratory mood. Ecstatic crowds displayed their “unwavering” support to attain genuine peace in Mindanao in various rallies organized in many parts of Mindanao, even in areas where Bangsamoro peoples only comprised the minority population, like in General Santos City.

“It is too good to be true,” remarked many of the Maguindanaon Muslim attendees in the rally at the General Santos City Plaza, with crowds estimated to have reached between 6,000 to 10,000 people. The city plaza was literally filled up to the rafters that day. I learned later that the crowds were composed of Maguindanaon Muslims from several towns in the nearby province of South Cotabato and even as far as Tacurong in Sultan Kudarat. “I never thought I would live to the day of the signing of this important agreement, Alhamdullilah” said an older Muslim Moro attendee, who withstood rheumatic pain in his knees just to attend the rally.
Such festive mood dominated both civil society and local government units within and outside the region, with local politicians making pronouncements on their “full support” to the Bangsamoro government. Huge tarpaulins and streamers, expressing whole-hearted support to the CAB and the envisioned Bangsamoro, dotted the highway from General Santos City to the city of Cotabato, the seat of the ARMM, which soon will be the center of the Bangsamoro government by 2016. Greetings came from prominent local government officials, military leaders, as well as private sector figures.

But the celebratory mood did not last long; collective disappointment replaced it in the next few months. In April, the work of the BTC was finished and its members were ready to present the draft BBL to the Philippine government. As provided in the CAB, once submitted to the government, the BBL would be certified by the President as an urgent bill for Congress to deliberate on, and passed as a law. Time was of the essence here, as the next Congress was soon to reconvene in late July, after President Aquino’s 5th State of the Nation Address (SONA). But no certification of the BBL as an urgent bill happened.

High expectations were soon doused with a barrage of unfavorable comments and feedback from the Presidential Legal Team, which subjected the draft BBL to meticulous scrutiny. The team’s review of the draft BBL, according to a source privy to the peace talks, resulted in a “menstruatingly (sic) or bleeding red” draft, referring to the comments written in red all over the draft.
The public clamor for a glimpse of the draft BBL was also ignored by both panels. But they also rationalized that no one among them was authorized to release even an outline of the BBL’s basic provisions or contents. In the meantime, public anxiety intensified, even among peace advocates. The common question among them was: why is the draft BBL not released for us to read or review? One leading peace advocate and prominent civil society leader, Fr. Eliseo R. “Jun” Mercado, Jr., OMI commented that since the draft BBL was not released to the public, there was no way the public could participate in making suggestions or recommendations to improve the draft. 5


The Office of the Bangsamoro People, the seat of the ARMM regional government in Cotabato City
“ARMM Regional Building” by George Parrilla – Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

The let down

On July 28, 2014, President Aquino delivered his 5th State of the Nation Address before top officials of the country, including members of the two houses of Congress, and influential civil society leaders. For many advocates, sympathizers and followers of the peace process with the MILF, the President’s address was a huge disappointment in many ways, both in substance and even in the observance of what one prominent journalist refers to as “good manners and right conduct (GMRC),” something that any Filipino is expected to have learned in elementary school.

The date of the 5th SONA coincided with the celebration of one of the two most important holidays among Muslims, 6 the Eid-l’Fitre, or the end of the holy month of Ramadhan. As president of a country with a significant Muslim minority, Aquino was expected to have prefaced his 5th report to the nation with greetings of “Eid Mubarak” to the Muslims, especially the MILF panel members, who were among the audience that day. The president also did not acknowledge their presence before delivering the essence of his speech. How can the highest and most important leader of the country not display “good manners and right conduct” before the delivery of his address?

In terms of content, the 5th SONA only made a short, two-paragraph reference to the draft BBL. Almost everyone who closely followed the progress of the GPH-MILF peace talks expected more, since the silence that enveloped the whole BBL prior to the SONA was attributed to not pre-empting presidential opinion on it. And because no significant pronouncement on the BBL was made during the SONA, observers concluded, and rightfully so, that the President was not really quite serious about forging peace in the Bangsamoro, as earlier hyped by his subalterns. Hyping on the BBL and the whole peace process may just be part of a political rigmarole of the president and his men and women to convince the people of their concern for the Bangsamoro, however superficial it is.

In July, public disappointment further intensified, as invariably expressed in many outlets, including social media like Facebook and Twitter. As a result the two panels (MILF and the Philippine government) agreed to have a 10-day “workshop” in early August (first few days until the 10th) at the Waterfront Insular Hotel in Davao City. An “independent” panel of lawyers also joined the workshop to facilitate the discussions aimed at “ironing out” differences between the two panels on the BBL. The phrase “ironing out” implies that something has got to give – or be “flattened out” as a result. Would this mean the MILF will bend over backwards once again, to succumb to what the central government wants?

No final common draft came out of the 10-day workshop, as there were still some issues left unresolved, foremost among them, the proposed structure of the new Bangsamoro government. As provided for in the CAB, the Bangsamoro government is asymmetrical to the national government – it will have a ministerial government in contrast to the Philippine national government’s unitary structure. The disagreements in the workshop led to extending the deadline for the draft for another 8 days, until August 18, 2014. As of this writing, the public eagerly awaits for the final, commonly agreed BBL.

Several press releases were issued, and many newspaper headlines screamed alleged “accusations” from the MILF about having been betrayed by the national government leadership. To this, the chair of the MILF panel and the head of the BTC quickly issued a firm denial of the accusation, saying among others that the MILF still hopes for a peaceful resolution to the impasse. Such denial was confirmed with the signing of the MILF of a joint statement with the Philippine government, through the Executive Secretary, on the two panels’ agreement on a common BBL draft as of August 14, 2014 (four days before the extended deadline).

The rugged road continues

The protracted MILF-GPH peace process that spanned more than 17 years is that of a rugged road with checkpoints in forms of several peace agreements and accords as well as joint initiatives to forge peace in the conflict-affected areas in Mindanao. But the chokepoints—the disagreements and heated discussions, including allegations of violations of ceasefire agreements on both sides—are quite numerous and daunting. President Aquino’s widely hyped “matuwid na daan“ (straight path) toward good governance and sustainable peace in Mindanao maybe straight indeed, but it is pockmarked with huge rocks and potholes that can derail smooth passage.

Many of those who have seen this long and checkered peace process have become frustrated. They think that after all is said and done, all the hype about a “presidential” peace process is still what it is – just a farce. For them, the Bangsamoro are just given a ride – a ride for them to pin their hopes for a peaceful future on a draft basic law that will never see its approval, as it was originally formulated. It might pass through a predominantly Christian Congress, after some arm-twisting from the Office of the President, through the PAPP (presidential adviser to the peace process). But it might be a version that is quite emasculated and drained of the long-delayed “affirmative action” or transitional justice that is due the Bangsamoro.

But, there are those who still believe in the proverbial silver lining after the storm. And I am one of them. It is true there are pockmarks along the road that goes toward lasting peace. But it also behooves on all of us – constituents who believe in the virtue of peace over war – to contribute to this arduous and challenging task through collective action. Peace cannot be forged only at the top – those in the middle and at the bottom of the social structure also have their own significant roles to play in the collective efforts toward durable peace. Such collective action can be in the form of helping remove the road blocks and pockmarks along the way, through our joint efforts of problem solving, conflict resolution at the community level, and helping nurture the seeds of peace among our children and youth.

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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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