Archive | March, 2016



Posted on 24 March 2016 by cbcs_mike

Forty four (44) Moro civil Society Organization (CSO) leaders coming from different parts of Mindanao in particular from Island provinces of Tawi-Tawi, Sulu, Basilan, Zamboanga City and Zamboanga peninsula. And the rest coming from mainland Mindanao were from SOCSKSARGEN, Central Mindanao, Davao and Lanao areas converged in a two-day reflection session for a deeper understanding of the peace processes between the government and the Moro Fronts.

Souvenir photo of the CSO Leaders

Souvenir photo of the CSO Leaders

The Moro CSO reflection Session was held at KCRTC, KFI Compound, Dona Pilar St., Poblacion 4, Cotabato City on March 23 – 24, 2016 is with a theme “Understanding the Peace Processes Towards Unified Advocacy” that aims to improve appropriate advocacy in accompaniment of the peace processes related to the Bangsamoro quest for self-determination.

The activity was prompted by the sad fate of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) which was forsaken by the Philippine Congress despite of the high hopes and support of different groups and CSOs within the proposed coverage of the Bangsamoro entity.

In his opening remarks, Guiamel Alim Chairperson of the Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society (CBCS) made to remark on the non-passage into law of the BBL as: “What did the CSO did? Where did it go wrong? Can BBL be still passed in the next administration? And What are the best ways forward?” These are hard questions which the reflection session wanted to address. He was also able to present the Concept of Unity and Solidarity interventions to be undertaken by CBCS in different parts of Mindanao.

In order to shed light on the two peace processes two important personalities were involved as resource persons. On the MNLF-GPH-OIC Tripartite Review was presented by Datu Romeo Sema, Head Secretariat of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF). In his presentation he stressed on the reasons why MNLF did not accept the result of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement (FPA) among others the dilution of the original demands and the unilateral implementation by the government. This is the reason for having the 9-year MNLF-GPH-OIC Tripartite Review to thresh the loopholes that ended to the following: “establishment of the Bangsamoro Development Assistance Fund to be used for socio-economic development projects in MNLF communities; referral of the agreement on the co-management of strategic minerals to the Oversight Committee created by Republic Act 9054; for the MNLF to participate in the Bangsamoro Transition Commission of the envisioned Bangsamoro Parliament, and for the creation of a tripartite implementation monitoring committee.”

On the GPH-MILF Peace Process, the participants are allowed to have dialogue with MILF Panel and Bangsamoro Transition Commission members headed by its Chair Mohagher Iqbal right at the BTC Office in Cotabato City.

In the dialogue proper, Chairman Iqbal stressed that “there will be no more serious negotiation” to take place between the GPH and MILF. What remains to be done is the implementation of the signed agreements referring to the Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro (FAB) signed on October 15, 2012 and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro forged on March 27, 2014 that ended with crafting and enactment into law of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) which the 16th Congress of the Philippines failed to deliver.

Reacting to the CSO leaders query on the stand of the MILF amidst non-passage into law of the BBL, he explicitly said that the MILF had laid options but not necessarily in order as follows : the armed struggle, continue the negotiation as pursuance of peaceful means or political settlement of the Bangsamoro problem or Doing nothing. However, he added that the other option is “bringing the Bangsamoro issue into higher level of engagement” but did not elaborate. Nevertheless, he stressed that in case of pursuing the negotiation with the government, they agreed to the “as is where is” principle.

Chairman Iqbal also emphasized that among those identified factors that influenced the non-passage into law of BBL among others as: (1) some vested interest groups and individuals (2) some IP (indigenous people) groups influenced by outside forces (3) there are some extremist Christians. However, the peace process also built support groups like in the case of the remaining living Framers of the 1987 Constitution, the Friends of Peace, the National Peoples Peace Council, the Catholic Bishop Conference of the Philippines and the likes who are very supportive of the GPH-MILF Peace Talks.

The issues above became the bases of CSO Leaders workshop and plenary sessions in identifying their common advocacy which they will implement in their respective areas of coverage of operations for the coming days.

By: Mike Kulat

CBCS Senior Program Officer


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Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL): Elections, Prejudice, Ignorance, Constitutionality, MNLF, Lumad and Women

Posted on 11 March 2016 by cbcs_mike

March 2 2016: The Philippines government is considering establishing a new political entity known as the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region. Peace Direct’s Local Correspondent of the Philippines, Rey Ty, looks at the issue and highlights some key problems that need to be addressed.


Image credit: Mr TinDC

While the BBL is critical to peacebuilding in Mindanao, many loopholes in the bill threaten to restrict its effectiveness.
The Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is a bill currently under deliberation by the Congress of the Philippines. If passed it would establish a new political entity known as the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region. But there are some key problems with it – and they need to be addressed. First, the law is seen as a partisan issue. Passing the BBL is considered a victory of current President Benigno Aquino III. In a year of presidential elections, different political parties do not want to give political mileage to President Aquino’s party, as it would be a feather in his cap.

Second, due to perceived Christian discrimination against Muslims in the Philippines, many Filipinos, most of whom are Christians, are automatically opposed to the BBL. Progressive church leaders such as Archbishop Cardinal Orlando Beltran Quevedo of Cotabato have corrected blanket stereotyping and bias, talking about correcting social injustice against Muslims in the Philippines and engaging in interfaith dialogue. Quevedo has stressed that “the root cause of insurgency in the South is injustice.” Framing the bill in religious terms will not help as the issues are deeply historical, economic and political and have marginalized Muslims and non-Christian indigenous peoples.

Third, many residents who are directly affected by the BBL do not know enough about it. An intensive education and public information drive is necessary so that they are informed and aware of how it will affect them.

Fourth, the BBL framework violates a 2008 decision of the Supreme Court. This prohibited the attempt of the Office of the President to set up a separate Bangsamoro political entity in Muslim Mindanao. If the bill goes ahead, it will violate this previous Supreme Court ruling and exacerbate tensions.

Fifth, senior leaders of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) oppose the proposed Bangsamoro basic law. The MNLF is one of the two major Muslim-led rebel groups in Mindanao; however, only the MILF is involved in the BBL talks with the MNLF sidelined. MNLF Islamic Command Council (ICC) Chair Habib Mujahab Hashim said that “the BBL is a product of a conspiracy” between the government of the Philippines and the MILF” (Moro Islamic Liberation Front). He said it violates the 1996 Final Peace Agreement and the 1996 Tripoli Agreement which achieved autonomy for a Muslim Mindanao. Both the MILF and the MNLF are occupying the same territory. So there is now a conflict of governance and a conflict of territory.

Habib Mujahab Hashim says that for now there is no way for the MNLF and the MILF to resolve their differences with respect to the BBL: “If two previous agreements are abolished automatically with the passing of the BBL, then the MNLF will have no choice but to exercise our final option of independence for the Bangsamoro Republic,” he said.

This lack of commitment from key parties does not bode well for implementation of the law.
This lack of commitment from key parties does not bode well for implementation of the law.

Sixth, Lumads, or the indigenous peoples of Mindanao, feel left behind. Vicky Tauli-Corpuz, United Nations special rapporteur on indigenous peoples’ rights and a former activist of the Igorot minority group in the Philippines, has said that the amended draft BBL falls short. According to Tauli-Corpuz, it does not meet “The minimum international standards contained in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples for the survival, dignity, and wellbeing of the non-Moro indigenous peoples.”

Pro-Lumad organisations say the government betrays indigenous peoples in Mindanao. They say the law defines them as Bangsamoro people, which “diminishes the distinct identity of the non-Moro indigenous peoples.”

Indigenous peoples stress they have been in existence prior to the coming of Islam and Christianity. So they should not be subsumed under a Bangsamoro or religious identity. This tension means the future of 33 ethnic groups of indigenous peoples in Mindanao – around eight million Lumads – is uncertain under the BBL.

Seventh, there is a lack of gender focus. The Philippine Center for Islam and Democracy reported that a small group of women, organised by the Women and Gender Institute and the Mindanao Commission for Women has said that had gathered and discussed recommendations for the BBL. Amina Rasul shared the following women’s recommendations:

  • Ensure women’s full political participation in all decision-making bodies ofBangsamoro;
  • Indigenous women should be able to enjoy indigenous rights recognized by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and IPRA;
  • All laws and policies must conform to international human rights and humanitarian law;
  • Guaranteed women’s access to funding;
  • Sectoral representation for women and indigenous peoples;
  • “Equitable and inclusive and distributive justice for all regardless of class, creed, disability, gender and ethnicity”; among other recommendations.

It is crucial that women’s voices and perspectives are included in such an important bill.

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