Archive | November, 2015



Posted on 27 November 2015 by consortium

The continued struggle of the Moro people for their Right to Self Determination gained an incremental victories i.e. OMA, R.A. 6734, R.A. 9054, and now the proposed Bangsamoro Government.

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Posted on 27 November 2015 by consortium

After years of fierce fighting between government troops and Moro fighters, MNLF got in to peace negotiation with the Government of the Philippines under the administration of Ferdinand Marcos – also known as GRP-MNLF Peace Talks.

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Posted on 24 November 2015 by cbcs_mike

After applauding the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) as a demonstration of peace and hope, the world is now witness to how this peace agreement fails to be carried out to its fruition. As civil society organizations with programs for, offices in, and people from the Bangsamoro, we are saddened to see how 17 years of negotiations are being put aside, and how the hope for lasting peace is slowly dimming under the Aquino Administration.

Underlying a peace accord are trust, commitment and hard work to get to the consensus points and to move it towards implementation. In the end, a peace process is judged not only by the provisions in the peace agreement, but how it is actually able to change people’s lives for the better. The CAB has raised expectations for lasting peace, and rightly so. After all, the war has seen a lot of our people suffering not only from exacerbated poverty and its consequences, but also from adverse social and psychological effects of protracted armed conflict.The possibility of peace and development is just too appealing, especially for those who have suffered much from the decades of war in this region.

As Congress is nearing the end of its last session for 2015 and as the election fever vitiates the debates (or the lack thereof) in the legislature, these expectations can easily turn into frustration and hopelessness.In the larger scenario, significant deviations from the provisions of the CAB and reduction of the existing autonomy that is already provided in the Organic Acts of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) will lead to public erosion of trust in the peaceful resolution of conflicts and possibly to other scenarios that can be deleterious for the people in the Bangsamoro and the rest of the country.

As direct beneficiaries and stakeholders of peace, we are deeply concerned over the initiatives of some groups and entities to lay down “minimum issues or pillars” that should be restored in the substitute bills (now called the Basic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region or BLBAR), implying that other amendments introduced in said bills, even if contrary to the CAB, are already acceptable. These entities have questioned the constitutionality of the agreement and the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), the propriety of giving certain powers to the Bangsamoro, and even the capacity of the people in the Bangsamoro to exercise such powers. In taking such a position, they now throw out whatever incremental gains that past and present agreements are supposed to have generated towards resolving the Bangsamoro Question, which essentially is about the Bangsamoro right to self-determination. The very essence of this right to self-determination—seems to have been lost, as the voices of those who have suffered the most and have experienced injustice most, are now drowned out in the discourse.

The CAB is a product of years of consensus-building between two Parties that had very divergent if not opposite perspectives and positions, but managed to continue talking amidst adversities, until they arrived at something that satisfied their minimum demands and the common interest of the people that they represent. It balances the Bangsamoro’s demand for their right to self-determination and the Philippine Government’s assertion of its sovereignty and the territorial integrity of the country. In the course of the peace talks, the Government Panel made sure that there were constant consultations and due diligence work with legal experts and the different agencies and stakeholders in the national and local governments, even when these prolonged the negotiations. The Panels believe that the agreement can be delivered within the flexibilities of the Philippine Constitution. The BBL itself, filed as HB 4994 and SB 2408, was the product of more engagements between the Panels, the Office of the President and the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC), which had conducted numerous consultations during the drafting of the BBL.

With the establishment of the Bangsamoro political entity that will build on the powers of the existing ARMM for a more meaningful autonomy, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has agreed to decommission its combatants and weapons, and to participate in democratic processes in the Bangsamoro and the rest of the country. Surely, it is a feat to have the biggest armed group in Mindanao to agree to put aside its main strategy of armed struggle and to venture into the unknown terrain of electoral struggle, governance, and leading productive civilian lives.

We are at a critical stage in the history of war and peace in Mindanao. Enacting the BBL will certainly not end all the violence in the Bangsamoro, but it will bring about meaningful structural reforms that can lead to better governance, and eventually, peace and development to the people. It is a chance we are asked to take towards national unity and reconciliation. In the end, the dividends of peace do not just go to the combatants, but to each citizen who will be able to go to school, seek and get employment or livelihood, have access to health facilities and services, feel secure against violence and criminality — as guns are silenced, communities are rehabilitated and relationships are rebuilt. And when there is peace in the Bangsamoro, it will also mean peace in the whole country.

We therefore ask Congress to take on its pivotal role in implementing the CAB and to take heed of our cry for peace.

We say NO to BLBAR! Pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law!


CBCS Secretariat

Telefax: (064) 421 -5420

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CBCS joined the 5-day Trainer’s Certification Course

Posted on 06 November 2015 by consortium

October 2015 – As part of its effort to develop competent staff, the Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society (CBCS) tossed its advocacy officer to participate in the 5-day intensive Trainer’s Certification Course (Training of Trainers) conducted and facilitated by the Humanitarian Leadership Academy (HLA). The primary aim of the training is to enhance effectiveness of development workers in designing and delivering trainings. The training was conducted on October 26-31 at AADC Mindanao P.O. Complex, Davao City Philippines.

One of the two (2) facilitators, Sarah Dominguez said “TPMA really is a learner’s learning oriented approach ensuring maximum retention of information that is being transferred or taught to participant. A trainer’s focused should be the maximum grasp, learning, and understanding of a leaner to the topic that are being tackled. In order for a trainer to be more effective he/she must understand the principle of adult learning and learning styles to participative engage the learner or participants in the duration of the course”.

The Certified Trainer Course is based on the TPMA (Trainer Performance Monitoring and Assessment) framework, a global trainer development and monitoring programme designed and maintained by The Learning and Performance Institute (LPI). It is a practical and participative approach in designing and delivering training.

“If TPMA structure would be adopted by the national education system of the Philippines, there should be much better education quality in the country” Malot Balisalisa said; Balisalisa is a former teacher at Ateneo de Davao and one of the Fifteen (15) participants of the TPMA Trainer’s Certification Course.

Training Process

The facilitators demonstrated interactive learning approach from the venue preparation to the introduction of participants. The setting arrangements provide open space that enabled participants to actively engage in the session activities and exchange of ideas. The opening activity instantaneously established rapport between and among the participants when Miss Domingues asked participants to creatively design their own name-tags and joyfully introduced their selves to the group.

Ingrid Kamikazi catches the attention of the participants straight away when she competently revealed the first topic using TPMA structure. She introduced new engaging activities that provide opportunities for the participants to actively participate in the whole duration of the session. Among the important topics tackled were principles of adult learning, learning cycle and learning styles. Use of visual aid and question techniques was introduced by Miss Domingues in the preceding sessions. While handling challenging behaviors and TPMA structure were discussed on the second to the fourth day of the training.

Towards the end of the training, participants spent long night preparing presentations for the final demonstration and written examination as requirements for the issuance of HLA Trainer’s certification and license. Everybody was busy. It was a flashback of the college days. Laptops, meta cards, markers, pencils and notes were everywhere. It was fascinating to see development workers in a college mode.
Nervous among participants were ascending on the fifth and final day of the training. Session hall was filled with silence in the whole morning. Each of the participants focuses on their test papers while the two main facilitators randomly looked behind the shoulders of the busy participants. The whole afternoon towards evening was allotted for training delivery demonstration of the participants. Finally, around 9 O’clock participants made it, everybody successfully passed the written exam and the demonstration test.

The training course was formally wrapped up with a highly interactive and participative solidarity night program organized by Agri Aqua Development Center (AADC). Variety of playful activities was introduced during the solidarity night with an intentional integration of the TPMA structure.

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CBCS Attends Regional Workshop on Economic, Social (ESC) Rights

CBCS Attends Regional Workshop on Economic, Social (ESC) Rights

Posted on 03 November 2015 by consortium

Participants during the regional Workshop on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights

Participants during the regional Workshop on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights

October 23, 2015 – The Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society Inc (CBCS) represented by Sammy Maulana, Noraisa Sally and Lolita Uka attended the Regional Workshop on Continue Reading

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MIND DA NEWS: Heed Those Statements

Posted on 02 November 2015 by cbcs_mike

By Patricio P. Diaz on August 20 2015 6:39 pm

[Author’s Note: Mind da News, the alternate of COMMENT in MindaNews, is a comment on current news. The author may be contacted at]

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 20 Aug) – The leaders of the Congress, the Palace and the President, especially, must heed the latest statements from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front concerning the Bangsamoro Basic Law. Those statements are an earnest appeal to review the government policies and commitments on meaningful autonomy to solve the Moro Problem and to reexamine the legislative actions now being taken by the Congress on the BBL, the agreed measure to implement these policies and commitments.

House leaders – and more so will Senate leaders do – have flatly denied the petition of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission for the restoration of the provisions deleted from the original Draft BBL, at least 28 in HB 4994 now HB 5811. The BTC members led by its chairman Mohagher Iqbal were told “over and over again” that restoring the deletions will risk the BBL’s nullification by the Supreme Court on ground of constitutionality.
The Senate and the House leaders should not take the BTC – by extension the MILF and Government peace panels – as simpletons. They know whereof they stand and what they are talking about.

In its August 17, 2015 editorial, “From BBL to BAR”, Luwaran, the MILF Central Committee website, stated: “Another important point to stress is that both government and MILF have seen to it that the BBL does not contain any provision repugnant to the Constitution. The BBL has passed through various discussions including long sessions with constitutional experts like Fr. Joaquin Bernas, former Supreme Court Justice Hilario Davide Jr., and many others to ensure that it is compliant to the Constitution.”

We will discuss this in our forthcoming comments. Suffice it now to say that a close comparison of Draft BBL and the two substitute bills, HB 5811 and SB 2498 (SB2894), would show that most of the provisions deleted or revised are not unconstitutional but, due to the political self-interest, pro-status quo biases and anti-Moro biases and prejudices of House representatives and senators, are unacceptable. We will discuss these later.

The honesty and sincerity of the authors of Draft BBL – the peace panels and the drafters – to have a Bangsamoro Basic Law compliant to the 1987 Constitution, as well as to relevant existing laws, and their eagerness and resoluteness to have the deleted provisions of Draft BBL restored must not be dismissed. In the same vein, that MILF top leaders are wary of regrettable consequences should be properly appreciated.

The latest MILF statements in the Luwaran editorial and news report follow:
Besides defending the constitutionality of Draft BBL, the Luwaran August 17 editorial, “From BBL to BAR”, is a commentary on the change by “both the House and the Senate” of the original “Bangsamoro Basic Law” to “Basic Law of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region” with emphasis on the connotation of “BAR” in the acronym “BLBAR”.

On the reason for the change: “Their arguments hinged on stressing the autonomous character of the entity, as indetachable part and parcel of the Philippine state. They want to erase any hint of so-called substate status for the Bangsamoro new entity and, finally, any justification for secession. Fear has now become the prime enemy of peace through the BBL.”

The fallacy: “Well and good! But … never in signed agreements, much more the BBL itself, [is there] any hint that the BBL does not seek to establish an autonomous entity, real and functional one. But alas! Both the House and Senate versions will only establish an entity lower than the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).”

On the acronym “BAR”: After explaining the history of BAR (Browning Automatic Rifle), the editorial stated how the “imposed wars from the Spanish period to the advent of the Americans in the 19th century and onto the declaration of Martial Law in 1972 have compelled the Moros to defend and arm themselves or perish”. Then, the revelation: “It is only now under the Aquino dispensation that they see the peace process as genuine.”
Symbolism and reminder: “Perchance, the legislators failed to realize how strong the effects of symbolism in determining the mindsets and attitudes of people. By using BAR, it continuously reminds the Moros of their martial history as an unconquered people and the BAR as a very reliable weapon in their wars with government forces in early 70s.”

What many lawmakers refused to heed: “… In fact, they seemed to have ignored it at all. The BBL is designed to solve the Bangsamoro Problem or Question, which is the only agenda of the GPH-MILF peace negotiations way back in 1997. They overstressed the so-called constitutional infirmities of the BBL, which are disputed by other people including lawyers.”

MILF will reject: “What then is the use of a law passed by Congress only to prolong the miseries and sufferings in Mindanao, because it violated the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) – and the MILF is forced to reject it? Come to think of this, dear anti-original BBL solons?” (Bold italics ours.)
The editorial states points for the Congress as well as the President to urgently consider:

First: The alleged reason for the change of “BBL” to “BLBAR” is “to erase any hint of so-called substate status for the Bangsamoro” – a manifestation of unfounded fear if BBL is read closely.
Second: But “BAR” will perpetuate rather than erase the memories of the bitter wars and injustices in the minds of the Moros. This is not the road to peace.

Third: In ignoring the real purpose of the BBL and overstressing BBL’s “so-called constitutional infirmities”, the Congress will pass a BBL the MILF will reject. That will prolong the miseries and suffering in Mindanao. is the official website of the MILF Central Committee on Information. Luwaran editorials reflect the thinking and position of MILF. The present editorial reiterates the thinking and position in the several editorials posted lately.

The news report, “Government answerable to international community if congress fails to pass good BBL”: MILF Chief Negotiator Iqbal, by Arland Abubakkar and posted August 17, 2015, features the statements of Iqbal when he spoke at the forum “Peace at last” organized by the Moro Christian People’s Alliance and the Pilgrims of Peace held at the National Council of Churches facility in Quezon City.

Of the national media, only The Manila Times reported the event on August 15. Like the Luwaran report, that of the Times mentioned no date of the event – only referring to it as “in a recent forum”. All the social media comments in the Times scorned Iqbal.
Iqbal’s salient points:

Item: “Ninety-nine percent of the international community is supporting the passage of a good BBL. If the MILF does not accept the BBL, the government will have to answer to the international community.”

Iqbal: Stating the international community’s “a deep involvement” in the peace negotiations, he said: “The international community would take the government to task if war breaks out,” – a reminder, not necessarily a warning, of the possible resurgence of war from hot-head rebels.
Item: When he said, “We will have the moral ascendancy if the exit agreement is not signed…We will blame and shame the GPH for not complying with agreements signed by both parties”, did he mean the obligation of MILF to join the international community in blaming the government?

Item: He told his audience of “the exit agreement, the final document to be signed by the two parties, and to be validated by the third party monitoring team, headed by former European Commission envoy to the Philippines Alistair McDonald”. The signing of the exit agreement signifies the end of the Peace Negotiation. Iqbal implied that MILF can reject the BBL passed by the Congress by not signing the exit agreement.

Item: He reiterated that the MILF will not accept a BBL based on HB 5811 and SB 2498. The first is “50 percent bad” and “lower than the ARMM” or the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao; the second, worse than the first, has most of the original provisions of Draft BBL either deleted or amended.
The Luwaran editorial and news report reiterated the MILF resolve not to accept a BBL based on HB 5811 and SB 2498 unless the 28 provisions deleted from HB 4994 are restored into HB 5811. The Congress and the Palace must study this seriously and act.

But there is a stalemate here. The House has flatly rejected the petition of the MILF and the BTC; it means no room for compromise. Even if the House would, MILF top leaders, from Chairman Murad, have repeatedly stated MILF has nothing more to compromise.

The government appears amenable to a BBL based on HB 5811 – meaning, SB 2498 must adopt HB 5811. This can be gleaned from the statement of government chief peace negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer that “passing the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) before President Aquino’s term ends will benefit the next administration” (The Philippine Star, August 19, 2015: Ferrer: BBL passage to benefit next administration) and other recent statements from the Palace.

However, asking the Senate to adopt the House version is an impossible proposition. Will the government accept a compromise version of the House and Senate bills?

House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. expressed optimism the House of Representatives will be able to pass the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law next month (The Philippine Star, August 20, 2015: SB confident House can pass Bangsamoro law next month). He met with leaders of the parties belonging to the majority coalition last Tuesday to ensure the quorum during the plenary. The lack of quorum has been hampering the legislation.
He said that HB 5811 “is somewhat close” to SB 2498. It would be easier for the House and the Senate “to reconcile their respective versions once they are approved and brought to the bicameral conference committee”. If the Senate can pass its bill in September and Belmonte makes good his assurance, there is the possibility of BLBAR to be signed by the President before the Congress goes on recess on October 10.

That BLBAR will be acceptable to the Supreme Court. Chances are that President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III will sign it. But unless they soften their position, the MILF will reject that BLBAR.

Then come the paradox and the “lose-lose” proposition. Of what good is that BLBAR that is acceptable to the Supreme Court; that the President will accept; but that the MILF will reject? What will the international community say?

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PEACETALK: Bangsamoro is about social justice

Posted on 02 November 2015 by cbcs_mike

By Christian S. Monsod on September 25 2015 7:43 pm

(A reprint from the message delivered at the Mindanao Forum on Peace in Mindanao, organized by the Interreligious Council of the Philippines on Sept. 21, 2015 at the Ramon Magsaysay Foundation Auditorium by Atty. Christian S. Monsod, a member of the 1971 Constitutional Convention, former chair of the Commission on Elections and a member of the National Peace Council and Friends of Peace and published at MindaNews)

MANILA (MindaNews/24 Sept) — Because of the complexity of multiple issues and the presence of two other more knowledgeable resource persons here today, I hope you will understand that to a great extent my presentation is selective through the lens of one of the 18 surviving members of the Framers (we were originally 48).

The question of the day is – what are the chances of a law being passed timely by the Congress that fulfills the vision of the Constitution of an Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao?

May I say that there is some good news. The two substitute bills represent some hope that a meaningful bill may be passed. The constitutionality of such concepts as exclusive, concurrent or shared, and reserved powers, of a homeland, distinct identity, asymmetrical relationship and a parliamentary system appear to be accepted, albeit with many reservations. The principle of solidarity as complementary to subsidiarity is also included in the SB as recommended by the Peace Council. It is an important addition because it is really a safety net for government intervention, if the common good so requires.

However, the constitutionality of words like “territory” and “Bangsamoro” still pre-occupy legislators.. And there are many powers already given to ARMM that are denied or watered down in both bills. Moreover, social and economic rights with a long history of being violated and account for much of the social injustice inflicted on the Moros are not fully upheld, even as there appears to be no disagreement on the constitutionality of devolving them.

Repetitious references to the Constitution also betray a lack of appreciation of the fundamental rule of interpretation of Constitutional Law – that the Constitution is deemed written in every contract or statute in the country.

There is also the matter of decommissioning. Our legislators do not seem to realize that if the MILF is to succeed it must be given the capability and legal firepower to deal with spoilers to the peace process. And to dismantle the informal or shadow economy and the power structure that supports it. This takes a delicate but strong hand to accomplish. Experience in other countries shows that the decommissioning process takes years to complete and putting conditions that would unduly hasten it would be foolhardy. If we want the peace process to succeed, we must learn to trust the people we are negotiating with.

Thus, the more important part of the lead question is not about passing a law, which the leadership of the Senate and the House assure us will be done despite the delays. It is whether the law they will pass provides the autonomy, powers and resources that are necessary to make a success of this unprecedented and untried political experiment. Consequently, we also need to know the challenges in this regard.

Why a special political entity in Muslim Mindanao? What is the context of the constitutional provisions?

When we, as a people and not just the Framers who were only their instruments, wrote a new Constitution in 1987, it was the first time in over a hundred years that we spoke to the world as a truly independent and democratic Filipino nation. It is a document that had not been imposed on us by any colonial power or by a dictatorship.

That Constitution reflects the views of the people in the consultations before any writing was done and in the hearings, studies and suggestions during the deliberations. More important, it reflects the values and aspirations of the people as expressed at important junctures in our history and particularly in the events that led to what is now referred to as the People Power EDSA Revolt, which happened not just on a highway in Manila but in the whole of the country.

We restored democracy and proved ourselves capable of radical political change, in a peaceful manner. In the glow of that moment, we also believed that we could do more than that – that we are also capable of radical social change, through democratic means.

One of the Commissioners described our Constitution as “the imprisonment of the past and the unfolding of the future.”

The people were clear on what to “imprison” and should never happen again in our country – firstly, the oppression and neglect of the poor by a feudalistic society that has been impervious to change for generations; secondly, another dictatorship, and thirdly, allowing foreign interests to violate our sovereignty and territorial integrity.

The first innovation of the Constitution – Social Justice as a central theme

To address the first, we had to cut the umbilical cord that patterned our constitutions after that of the United States which is based on the primacy of civil and political rights because it was a country of immigrants who all started from the same position and only wanted to be free from autocracy. Hence, the emphasis on protection of individual rights and the free play of a market system based on equal opportunity to compete.
But we are a country of inequalities.[1] There is no equal opportunity when the starting positions are not equal – because of differences in the quality of education and of health care, and of nutrition that have a cumulative effect on the development of human capital. The same with the trauma of stressful childhoods from the struggle for subsistence or in the case of Muslim Mindanao from being in the middle of wars which affect brain development that stays with children to adulthood. And then there is the inequality in assets, mainly land and access to natural resources that provide safety nets, source of livelihood and human dignity.[2]

Hence, our Constitution gave social and economic rights equal primacy with civil and political rights based on the primacy of human dignity that precedes and supersedes even constitutions. The starting positions had to be adjusted first before a market system like the United States can operate. Adjusting starting positions is what social justice is about, which is the central theme of the 1987 Constitution, and which has no comparable provisions in the U.S. Constitution and, for that matter, even our 1973 and 1935 Constitutions. Bangsamoro is about social justice.

To address the return of another dictatorship, the Constitution prescribes very limited scope for the declaration of martial law. A dictatorship set back our development 20 years with a debt crisis in 1983, the only one in Asia, from which our per capita income did not recover until 2001/2002. The crisis was rooted in world class corruption, wrong policies, political instability marked by extra-judicial and legalized killings in the name of national security and an all-out war against the Moros of Mindanao that resulted in the deaths of over 120,000 people, mostly civilians, many of them children, and the displacement of over 3 million of them over the years.

To prevent the compromises to our sovereignty and territorial integrity, the Constitution enacted economic and political provisions that protect certain activities and our territory from foreign control. Never again an amendment similar to the 1935 Constitution that gave Americans equal rights to our patrimony, foreign policies that were not those of an independent nation but one aligned with those of the United States, foreign military bases which violated our territorial integrity, and by deferential economic policies where even our exchange rate could not be changed without the approval of the U.S. President.

These assaults on our freedoms, our patrimony, foreign relations, territorial integrity and economic development that wrought havoc on our national psyche, and stunted our development that has made us the basket case in our part of the world on human development were the work of the ruling elite of the Christian majority of this country. The peasants, urban poor, non-moro indigenous peoples, municipal fishermen and our Moro brothers and sisters, who constitute the poorest of the poor in our country had no hand in these betrayals of national interest but suffer the most from them.

Yet the opposition to the BBL comes mainly from the ranks of the Christian majority which has been responsible for all these wrongs to the country and the failure of human development of our peoples. They would deny powers and rights to Filipino Muslims that they granted and continue to be willing to grant to foreign interests, powers that would also empower the poor and thus endanger their control of economic and social policies.

A second innovation – the autonomous regions

In the 1987 Constitution, there was another innovation in addition to the central theme of social justice which is directly related to it – we acknowledged for the first time in our constitutional history what our colonizers did not – that there is an indigenous population in Mindanao that resisted subjugation but after our independence became a part of the Philippines based on the promise of equality and development.

The Constitutional Commission realized that this resistance was something to be proud of and not disparaged as history books written under foreign influence did. For this and other reasons our brothers and sisters of Muslim Mindanao deserved the freedom to govern themselves differently from the rest of the country.

Oppression, neglect, deprivation is the story of Filipino Muslims in their struggle for self-determination and it is to them that the Constitution made the promise of real autonomy – to correct the injustices of the past and to enable them to fulfill the human development of their peoples that we have failed to do to this day. We have heard this time and again but it seems that many legislators just don’t get it.

Today, many peace negotiations around the world are going through the process of determining how to amend their constitutions to accommodate the creation of self-governing territories. When the MNLF and later the MILF gave up their call for secession, our Constitution was ready with a process for establishing a territory of self-government. This is why our Constitution is ahead of its time, even if perhaps our government and certain legislators are not.

Furthermore, our Constitution written in the 1980s describes an autonomy sought by peoples in many countries around the world today – seeking ways to provide greater representation and greater indigenous control over natural resources and funding sources.. This increasing grant of powers is born from lessons learned over the post Cold-War era about how to maintain peace through stronger forms of self-determination for the indigenous peoples of their lands.

As a new way of governance, Markkus Suksi,[3] who wrote about autonomy, and who is cited as an expert in the Report of the Senate Committee on Constitutional Reforms, talks about how new governments created from the ground-up, with flexible modes of self-determination unique to each society, is a topic difficult for traditional constitutionalists to understand.

Suksi explains: “Territorial autonomy is an important constitutional phenomenon, but because the sub-state entities that can be identified as territorial autonomies are relatively small, the phenomenon is often overlooked in systematic presentations of constitutional law. …… (these are) by and large constructed along common elements, those of the distribution of powers, participation, the executive power, and foreign relations. ….. these elements seem to hold the answer to what it means to be autonomous, that is, what it means not to be an independent state and not a symmetrical part of the governmental structure of the state, but autonomous. ” (Ibid, Foreword, page vii.)

Moreover, Suksi says: “Territorial autonomy is a legal construction that appears in a unitary state in a fashion which often is akin to the position of states in federations.” (page 125). And while the sample may be limited, they “appear to confirm the conclusion that autonomy does not promote secession, but may instead work towards preventing secession, although in several sub-state entities, secession and independence is to some extent a part of the political debate.” (Ibid, page 659)

The Senate Committee on Constitutional Reform appears to have missed these findings on peace-making and constitutional law.

It is also strange to hear how some legislators and legal scholars consider territorial autonomy as unconstitutional because it looks too much like secession. It’s like saying that the Constitution that grants full autonomy is unconstitutional.

The issue of sovereignty and devolution
In the Philippines, unlike in the United Kingdom or the United States where sovereignty resides respectively in the Parliament and in the Federated States, sovereignty is defined under Article II, Section 1: “The Philippines is a democratic and republican State. Sovereignty resides in the people and all government authority emanates from them.”

Thus, all the sovereign powers being exercised by the central government institutions are powers delegated to them by the people through the Constitution that they overwhelmingly approved in a national plebiscite. And there is no basis in law or in reason to say that the powers and attributes of sovereignty can only reside in, and be exercised by, the central government institutions. Nor that any devolution or sharing of these powers constitute a diminution of national sovereignty.

Sovereignty may be indivisible, a concept increasingly being questioned in international law. But, even if it were, there is no disagreement among the discussants that the powers of sovereignty may be apportioned, as it is apportioned, in the Constitution among the various institutions of the National Government, such as the three great departments, the constitutional commissions , the local government units and the two special LGUs called autonomous regions.

Thus, the mandate of the Constitution to devolve powers to, or share those powers with, the local government units through a local government code and, to a greater extent, the two autonomous regions through organic laws, is a call by the people to devolve those powers as close to them as possible.

If, despite the foregoing, objections to the devolution and special autonomy are being raised on other grounds than “constitutionality”, such as “why are we negotiating with the MILF?, the following might help to clarify issues in that regard:

At no time have either the MILF or the MNLF been categorized as a terrorist organization. They were never on the United States list of terrorist organizations, despite what Senator Cayetano implied by the transcripts of the investigation of Mamasapano. Not even after 9/11. The list can be accessed at: More importantly, neither have the MILF nor the MNLF been categorized as terrorists under Philippine Law, where there are specific due process protections, passed during the term of many incumbent law makers. To deprive the MILF or MNLF their place as peace negotiators on the assumption that they are terrorists is to deprive them and the Bangsamoro people of a chance at peace based on misinformation and prejudice, coupled with the trivialization of our laws by the lawmakers themselves.
The conflict between the Philippine government and the MILF is a non-international war, and a peace agreement always involves compromise. This is why a ceasefire is important – because neither party wants to agree to anything under threat of force. In a ceasefire, both parties lay down arms to properly negotiate. This is also why the use of arms, especially for law enforcement purposes, is highly regulated in ceasefire agreements.
Mamasapano is not one incident – it is part of a 40-year war that has been interrupted by attempts at peace. It is not a simple rebellion that would render combatants liable under the Revised Penal Code. The use of arms in wartime are governed by the laws of war, violations of which are deemed war crimes, found in R.A. 9851. Our Revised Penal Code of 1932 notwithstanding, the Philippines has also signed the Geneva Convention Protocol II in 1986 – after the Marcos regime and as part of the peace initiatives of the Government, which recognizes a specific kind of internal conflict that is more than a rebellion, but less than an international war. But the internal conflict is still governed by the rules and regulations of international warfare.

The framework for the creation of the autonomous region and the powers provided by the Constitution. Aren’t we giving them too much power?

The framework of the Constitution for the creation of an autonomous region for Muslim Mindanao is Article X, Section 15:

“There shall be created an autonomous regions in Muslim Mindanao and in the Cordilleras consisting of provinces, cities, municipalities, and geographical areas sharing common and distinctive historical and cultural heritage, economic and social structures, and other relevant characteristics within the framework of this Constitution and the national sovereignty as well as territorial integrity of the Republic of the Philippines.”

In other words, the autonomous regions shall include geographical areas, is based on common and distinctive historical, and cultural heritage, economic and social structures, and, of course, it cannot violate the national sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic.
That is why the Bangsamoro is unique and special in our constitutional history

However, this framework raises valid questions about the rights of non-moro indigenous peoples, christian settlers and other religious denominations who do not have similar common and distinctive characteristics with the Muslim population.

The Constitution even makes sure we get it right by enumerating the legislative powers that can be devolved to the autonomous regions, subject to the provisions of the Constitution and national laws. (Article X, Section 20)

administrative organization;
creation of sources of revenue;
ancestral domain and natural resources;
personal, family and property relations;
regional urban and rural planning development;
economic, social and tourism development;
educational policies;
preservation and development of cultural heritage;
such other matters as may be authorized by law for the promotion of the general welfare of the people.

These are very broad powers and the list is even longer when these are “unbundled” in the organic law. Enacting that organic law for Bangsamoro is not an option but a duty of the Congress. And any dimunition or watering down of the powers under Section 20 whether by the Congress or by the Supreme Court that would stand in the way of a full implementation of the letter and intent of these provisions would be the violation of the Constitution.

How do we address the condition that the exercise of the powers are subject to not just the provisions of the Constitution but of national laws.?

If we interpret an Organic Act as subject to national laws in the sense that it is inferior to all laws, it would result in the ability of any national law present and future, that conflicts with any part of the Organic Act, to amend the Organic Act. This interpretation would render the concept of autonomy unstable and ineffective. Indeed, what is the point of granting autonomy and requiring a plebiscite for the Organic Act if in the next year, a national law could be passed amending any of the Organic Law’s provisions?

A more effective and correct interpretation of Art. X, Sec. 20 is to say that the legislative acts of the regional government as provided in the Organic Act are subject to territorial jurisdiction, the Constitution, and national laws, such that:

Legislation of the regional government (as opposed to the Organic Act itself) will always be inferior to national laws and the Constitution, and like other local governments, limited to its territorial boundaries.
Legislation of regional governments enacted according to the Organic Law would not create a conflict between a regional law and national law but would instead create a conflict between two national laws (the organic law and the other national law). That can only be resolved ultimately by the Supreme Court. That is why the organic law must “unbundle” the broad powers under Section 20 and specify the powers of the autonomous region legislature as the BBL does. But if the Congress waters down the unbundled powers as the Senate and House substitute bills appear to do, the autonomy would be vulnerable to any national law without need of any plebiscite. The position of the MILF is understandable in this regard. A watered down organic act substantially different from the Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro is no act at all.

What is the check and balance system if the autonomous region abuses of the broad powers granted by the Constitution?

All the checks and balances of government that currently apply to all political subdivisions would apply to the Bangsamoro.

First is the primacy of the Constitution. All freedoms and guarantees of individuals and indigenous peoples are intact, as is the territory and sovereignty of the Philippines State. However, specifically providing in the organic law that certain laws like the IPRA and Labor Law must be incorporated in it might open the doors to every special interest wanting the same privilege which would ultimately result in nullifying or watering down the powers under Section 20 to nothingness. That would also pre-empt the solutions available in conflict or laws situations.

Second, is the power of Judicial Review to interpret the law and determine whether there has been grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction on the part of any government branch, agency, or instrumentality;

Third, the President’s general supervision over the autonomous regions (as with all local governments) to ensure that the Constitution and all laws are faithfully executed;

Fourth is the power of Congress to amend the Organic Law (as it has done twice now);

Fifth, is the direct power of the Bangsamoro people through initiative and referendum;

Sixth, are the powers of the independent constitutional bodies (i.e., the Constitutional Commissions, the Ombudsman and the Commission on Human Rights, as well as those independent bodies that are created by the Organic Act itself), and

Finally, (Seventh), underlying all of these is the fundamental principle of Solidarity, that affirms the “duty of the State to promote distributive justice and to intervene when the common good so requires.”

If Regional Governments are allowed to enact laws that are different from the rest of the country, does this not create unnecessary legal controversies?

Not necessarily. Deciding a conflict between a regional law enacted according to the broad powers of an Organic Law, and another national law addressed to all other local governments would call for jurisprudence closer to a conflict of laws situation where the laws, rules, and regulations of one area are widely different from another, but both valid and effective. Controversies of this type although difficult at first are necessary if we are to truly carve out an autonomy within one state.

This kind of conflict of laws is not new. Today, the customary laws of indigenous peoples are still in force. As it is further operationalized, national laws must also learn to accommodate them as far as possible. We are familiar with the study of conflict of laws in the context of inter-country domestic laws. Applying these principles to cases within Philippine territories might be a problem only because it is something new , where national policies are tested under circumstances where justice must envelop the diversity of our customs, our environment and our economic and social classes.

In any case, the Philippines would only be joining any number of other countries around the world with the same challenges.

Aren’t we giving them too much funding?

There is also the issue of fiscal autonomy and development funding. SB 2894 removes the Special Development Fund. Below are excerpts of an article on: “Funds to the Bangsamoro: what is the real score?” [4]that should settle the argument on whether the Bangsamoro will be an unnecessary burden for the rest of the country.

“The size of the funds to be imminently transferred to the Bangsamoro has thrown kerosene into the flames of the controversy over the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law. Estimates have ranged from ₱37B to ₱70B in the first year alone.

“These have been described as an “additional cost” to be borne not by the Bangsamoro but by the rest of the country, whose taxes will support these allocations….

…“The money has been compared to ‘pork barrel’ funds and the track record of the ARMM, which was formed in 1989 and further enhanced in 2001 (through RA 9054), has been invoked to demonstrate how inefficiently these funds are likely to be used.

“…….“The debate really revolves around a handful of enhancements to the taxing powers and revenue sources of the Bangsamoro that the draft BBL proposes relative to what is granted to the ARMM by current laws (i.e., the original and the expanded Organic Act for ARMM (RA 6357 and RA 9054)). …….

“……The bottom line: the NG will “forego” about ₱ 129 million annually in favor of the Bangsamoro – maybe a bit more if any metallic mining revenues kick in – but this will only be for 4 years. By comparison, the Napoles scam freely gave away ₱1 billion of public money annually for 10 years to embezzlers and their lawmaker-accomplices. The special fund of ₱17 billion over six years is meant for rehabilitation and reconstruction. But even this is only 12% of what the Bangsamoro really needs”.

Historical Biases and Prejudicies

Another factor that will affect the final outcome of an organic act are historic biases and prejudices. We provide a Letter to Christians of Orlando Cardinal Quevedo, O.M.I. copy of which was distributed to you earlier.

The Need for Legislative Restraint on Constitutional Issues

In a news article in the Manila Daily Bulletin entitled “No to original BBL”, Sen. Marcos is reported as saying that “if Congress passes the draft BBL without changes, the Supreme Court will eventually shoot it down as unconstitutional and put to waste all the wok the legislature exerted to pass the bill.”

This is a dangerous pre-emption of the power of judicial review by the Supreme Court.

A Statement by the Friends of Peace on the issue states:

“If, after the Congress has exercised its legislative powers to improve the BBL, there are still provisions on which sufficient consensus cannot be reached, it is suggested that those provisions be left to the Supreme Court in the exercise of its power of judicial review. In the delicate system of checks and balances and separation of powers, it is the Supreme Court that is the final arbiter on the interpretation of the Constitution. But, while the Supreme Court can delete provisions it deems unconstitutional, it cannot add what the Congress has deleted from the proposed organic act, which is substantially based on the agreement signed by the Executive after years of negotiations and legal reviews that, we believe, may be accorded the presumption of regularity.”


As the Framers said: “Bangsamoro is about the development of people, not about the constitutionality of words.”

“The core principle of the 1987 Constitution in mandating a special autonomous regions is the human development of the people of Muslim Mindanao and the Cordilleras. Hence, the public conversation should not be about semantics but about people – their needs, their aspirations, their choices – and about empowering them with the environment and institutional framework for social justice.”

“….An interpretation of any relevant provision of the Constitution that results in war and abject poverty would be contrary to its intention.”[5]

Bangsamoro is also about the exercise of political imagination and judicial statesmanship.

Bangsamoro is not about a legacy of this administration or of any person. It is about a legacy of justice by a people to their Moro brothers and sisters in their aspiration for self-determination, political autonomy and cultural identity. It is about an end to 40 years of armed conflict – of Filipino killing Filipino — and of countless attempts at peace agreements that have failed to achieve lasting peace and human development because the framework for achieving it was flawed and mired in historical, legal, social and cultural mind-sets that brought about the armed conflict in the first place.

As Albert Einstein warned, “the problems that we face cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them.”

Hence, the need and validity of implementing the constitutional provisions that we have never tried before.

Peace Must Be Waged and Won

But there is always a high price to pay for peace. Mahatma Gandhi, Anwar Sadat Yitzhak Rabin, Martin Luther King, Abraham Lincoln who all paid with their lives by assassination. Others experienced sufferings like Muhammad Ali Jinnah in his dream of a united Pakistan. Nelson Mandela endured 27 years of imprisonment.

What peace processes teach us is that peace agreements require a marathon mentality and are not the end of one journey but the beginning of another. To move on, mistrust must be overcome and prejudices borne of past wrongs set aside . This is admittedly very difficult to ask, especially from those whose personal loss is irreplaceable, as in the case not only of those who died in Mamasapano but of other killings and brutalities committed by both sides as cited by the CHR in 2000, the military in the aftermath of Mamasapano and the MILF.

Our Muslim brothers and sisters are giving up their dream of an independent state. The MILF is staking its political future on the creation and success of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region. We, the Christian majority, have to share powers we have monopolized for centuries. We have to shed prejudices that have stood in the way of our humanity. But there are still people among us who are convinced that the price of peace is more war, at the heart of which is a total distrust of the MILF.

And so we hope that if the BBL is allowed to reach the plebiscite stage and wins a convincing majority of the sovereign vote, those with the deepest reservations will give it a chance, as “all life is an experiment”, and those, if any, with a jihadist mentality within the MILF ranks also experience a change of heart because of the way we respect the fullness of their being, and also give it a chance to succeed.

Hopefully, Pope Francis points the way. In his recent visit, in response to the question of a 12-year old girl from the streets of Manila: “Why did God let this happen to us?” Pope Francis reminded us that we see best with “new eyes cleansed by tears”.

We have been blessed as a people in countless ways. This is our moment of grace – Kairos – as we give thanks for all those blessings with eyes filled with tears and pray to our God of history to please grant us peace.

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Posted on 02 November 2015 by cbcs_mike

An assembly of multi-secotral leaders of the Bangsamoro attended by sixty-seven (67) participants coming from different parts of the surrounding provinces of Sarangani and South Cotabato was held in General Santos City on October 27, 2015.

BTC Chair Mohagher Iqbal during the the Multi-Sectoral Leaders' Forum on BBL in General Santos City

BTC Chair Mohagher Iqbal during the the Multi-Sectoral Leaders’ Forum on BBL in General Santos City

The assembly is in response to the critical and uncertainty of the status of the enactment of Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) now pending under the hands of two Houses of Congress. Mohgher Iqbal, Chairman of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) and also MILF’s Negotiating Panel head was invited as main resources speakers to give first hand information on the real status of the GPH-MILF Peace Talks.

In his input, Iqbal pointed out that: “There is still hope that BBL will be pass into law by Congress, but we are not sure”, and cited many reasons among others the lack of quorum in Congress’ sessions and the fast running out of time ending the year 2015.

He further explained that: “our optimism was based from the growing amounts of support from the International Communities’ initiatives who recently signed petition for the enactment of BBL, the Civil Society Organizations, the multi-sectoral groups and we members of the GPH-MILF Peace Panels”. Also he pointed out that: “One good thing is that the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) signed recently the MNLF-MILF Unified Declaration that eventually supports the passage of the BBL into law.”

On the other hand he also emphasized their doubts for many reasons among others that: “Despite of the growing support, there are also growing obstacles in passing the BBL this year and there are those who do not want it to be passed; including the timing, now is already election period,” where everyone is already per-occupied on election campaigns which are posting doubts and apprehensions of the passage of the BBL into law this year. However he stressed that: “this is the real situation but we need to find ways in search for genuine peace for all of us.”

During the open forum, various questions and clarification were tackled that gave clearer views on many issues surrounding BB status in Congress. And one hard question raised by the participants says: “If the BBL will not be passed as MILF wanted it to be, is the MILF still have the capacity to wage war against the government?” Chairman Iqbal clarified on matter that even if there is no BBL at the present administration: “there will be continuance of the peace process.” As he elaborated that: “we already had extensive experience of war in our long struggle. Even at time when we started the struggle and we were not certain that our weapons were competent enough to fight but we fought because we need to.”

Iqbal retorted that the real issues here are the deceptions, oppression and injustices done to the Bangsamoro despite of the sufficient domestic and international instruments that guarantees right to self-determination of the groups of peoples of the world. So the question must not rest on whether we have the capacity but must be laid on the bases of whether you want to advance your rights trampled or not. And said: “The Bangsamoro are doing their struggle to restore what they lost in waves’ of deceptions and invasions. One proof of this is your area was originally Dadiangas and now replaced with General Santos City. ” he ended.

By Ebrahim Sandigan

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