Archive | October, 2017

Marawi Carnage 4

Understanding The Roots of a Continuing War

Posted on 24 October 2017 by cbcs_mike

(An analysis of the roots of the violent conflicts in Bangsamoro using Marawi city as the specimen. The writer is a free thinking Bangsamoro who is a student of violent realities in Mindanao. He is a combatant for PEACE, an advocate of non-violence, justice and for unity and solidarity of all peoples.)

Marawi City liberated, Military winning the battle:
Is the War Over? Unveiling The Important Message

Marawi Carnage 4

People feel relieved that the battle in Marawi City, considered the fiercest battle the AFP had ever fought in post WW2 and the Philippine longest urban war ever, is over. It is said that the Marawi battle is even longer that the Manila war fought between the American forces against the Japanese Imperial army.This humanitarian pause will somehow reduce the sufferings and the insecurities of the Meranaws and an opportunity for many of them, especially those heavily affected, to rebuild their shattered lives. Many stories can be told but after 5 long-months the result of the violence reveals a human disaster. More than 800 (920) alleged ISIS members were reported killed, more than 150 (165) security forces of the government died and about 50 civilians killed and hundreds of hostages traumatized. And a total of 1,780 hostages have been rescued, and 850 firearms were recovered. The number of displaced, in-dignified, mentally disturbed and traumatized civilians is in the hundreds of thousands. Some children died in the evacuation centers.The report says there are still 60 persons missing.

The cost to properties destroyed is in the billions including commercial, government infrastructures and residential buildings, Masajid, Madarish and a catholic chapel.These data from reports can even be conservative. It is hard to account for diaspora at this point in time but hundreds of families have crossed oceans and seas to far destinations battling new culture and way of life. This catastrophe of the highest order is the by-product of terrorism on one hand and the counter-terrorism act on the other hand. These are the two culprits in the destruction of Marawi City.

Marawi City will be re-built. This is an assurance from the government. New buildings will be erected. Infrastructures destroyed will be reconstructed. Who will design how Marawi City will look like? How will the lives of those adversely affected be rebuilt?
It is worth to know that the reconstruction in other areas of the country affected by natural calamities is still not over after more than 5 years. The Zamboanga crisis that displaced thousands and destroyed buildings and the Tacloban natural calamities that destroyed hundreds of houses are among those areas still undergoing reconstruction. Will Marawi City be treated with priority? Indeed it will be a long journey of rebuilding what has been destroyed in 5 months by terrorism and counter-terrorism.

Some people are asking who destroyed Marawi City? That question will never get a monolithic answer. It is similar to the question of which comes first the egg or the chicken that triggers endless debate. What will get a common answer is a question of which is heavier, a kilo of metal or a kilo of cotton. To the uncritical mind, the metal is heavier. To some, the ISIS is the culprit. To others, it is the military. Still to others, what happened to Marawi City is the anecdotal “Umpisahan Mo, TatapusinKo” or “Kapag Puno Na Ang Salop” which ended up in humanitarian crisis. Counter-terrorism is as destructive as terrorism or vice versa.Some studies show that counter-terrorism sometimes creates terrorists.

Violent conflicts and all the damages they caused is a result of two parties in conflict. It takes two to dance a tango as the saying goes. It is incorrect to attribute the damages to the AFP alone or to the non-state party alone. It is safe to say that the damages are the product of the two parties in conflict.

Marawi City is liberated after a 5-month of no let-up battle. But the curious mind is asking, liberation from whom? The military is winning or had won the battle. But winning against whom?

Winning the battle by the stateis not surprising but no doubt has been very costly as the Marawi case shows. There is no single non-state armed group in the world that is winning any battle against states with established strong armed forces. The Al-Qaida, the Taliban, the ISIS are all losing their battles in the Middle East. At home the MNLF, MILF, Abu Sayaf, BIFF and others are not winning any battle. They can hold certain territories for a short period of time but eventually will be driven out by military force. This is a reality.

But winning a battle is not necessarily winning a war

Winning the battle is not the goal of non-state armed groups. They know this from the start. Why are these small and scattered groups fighting power giants like the combined armed forces of the, Arabs, UN and EU? In the homeland, why is the MNLF, MILF, ASG, ISIS groups fighting a 150,000-strong armed forces of the Philippines supported by para-military groups?

They must have good reasons to engage in battles where their chance of winning is remote. The message is clear. It is the expression of resistance against oppression and injustices that is the most important reason for the battle. They demand for the redress of their legitimate grievances, correcting the historical injustices committed against them and their having been victims of violence and being marginalized.

The MNLF has been fighting for national liberation against national oppression (Land, People, and Agama). The MILF goes further by putting Islamic component in their war against national oppression (Territory, People and Identity). The ISIS-inspired (or affiliates?) armed groups are fighting for the establishment of Dawla-Islamia (Sharia’h).

Is the war against national oppression and the establishment of Shariah for the Muslims not legitimate? Is terrorism the answer? Did the Muslims in Mindanao start the war? Or the war was brought to Mindanao?

The Euphemism of Terrorism

Terrorism was not a language when the Spanish and and US imperialists launched their colonial aggression in the Bangsamoro homeland one after the other. When the Spanish invaders attacked Mindanao bringing with them the cross, they did not commit terrorism, they simply introduced new culture, plunder our resources and control our people. When the Americans massacred the Tausog in the Bud Daho, they did not commit terrorism, they just introduced democracy. When the armed forces of the Philippines massacred young trainees in Corregidor and Palimbang and other places in Mindanao, they did not commit terrorism, they simply wanted to defend the country. When the para-military groups massacred the people of Manili, Wao and other communities, they did not commit terrorism; they even became heroes as freedom fighters.

The man who killed 37 people in a big hotel with casino in Manila, was not a terrorist, he was simply an addict. Mr. Stephen Paddock who massacred 58 people in Las Vegas was not a terrorist, he was simply crazy. Those who are killing suspected drug users, are not terrorists they are simply vigilantes.
Police who are killing allegedly resisting drug users are not terrorists; they are law enforcers or heroes. But if they were Muslims, the stories could be different.

Today, when the Bangsamoro demand for their legitimate rights to self-determination they can easily be branded all together as terrorists.

“Terrorism” in the Philippines

The MNLF had agreed to drop their demand from establishing an independent state and acceded to autonomy after the government asked foreign country to intervene. Negotiations took place from 1975 to 1996 (24 years) that ended up in the infamous Final Peace Agreement of 1996. Yet the talks failed to bring peace due to problems of non-implementation of agreements. Between these years, some members of the MNLF dropped out from the organization. The MILF split in 1983, the MNLF Reformist group followed and later on a group now known as Abu Sayaff (ASG) split from the monolithic MNLF.

The GPH-MILF peace talks dragged for 20 years ending up signing series of major agreements; the MOA-AD in 2008, FAB in 2012, the CAB in 2014. The political agreement was to be translated into law that will govern the autonomy for the Bangsamoro but the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) was not passed in 2016. The failure to sign the MOA-AD that would have created a Bangsamoro political entity led to a section of the MILF, known today as the BIFF to split from the MILF. The non-passage of the draft BBL in 2016 created additional frustration from a segment of the Bangsamoro non-state actors – the so-called ISIS inspired groups.
In his keynote address in the PVE consultation in Manila, former president Ramos said, “We need to fight poverty and the problems of exclusion and marginalization that are pushing some of our citizens into the arms of violent extremists. As Pope Francis said: “Human rights are not only violated by terrorism, repression or assassination, but also by unfair economic structures that creates huge inequalities”.
With respect to use of military in resolving violence, Ramos continued, “ … it is important for us to understand that a military response might result to further alienation and radicalization of our people. Let us make sure that military operations do not become recruitment slogans for extremists”.

Ramos continued, ”Let us empower our communities so they can promote tolerance, inclusivity, equality, and peaceful resolution of conflict. In relation to this, let us empower our women, our youth and other sectors, the participation of whom can ensure the success of our efforts to prevent violent extremism”.

Another study shows that “If we rely exclusively on hard power to find solutions, we will not tackle the many underlying conditions that breed violent extremism and drive youth to join violent extremist groups. We need soft power as well, and this means education. Not just any education: relevant, inclusive and equitable quality education
Existing policies on the prevention of violent extremism (PVE) acknowledge the need to address economic factors, but limited attention is directed at the underlying structural economic policies that have contributed to creating many of the conditions conducive to rising extremism.

The study further reveals that while a minority of people becomes violent, economic conditions pertaining to social exclusion and thwarted aspirations are recognized as contributing factors to their radicalization.
Guarantee of No Recurrence

People think that when a big battle is over, the problem is over.There can be no easy and quick fix to the Bangsamoro question, but there can be a good start. The process will be long and notlinear, there would always be obstacles and bottlenecks but if we start right, we may end right.

The Marawi crisis is not isolated from the complex problem of peace and security in the Bangsamoro. It is an extension of the long armed struggle by the Bangsamoro taking a new form and structure. Those who fought the government forces in Marawi consider themselves as jihadists, not terrorists. Their goal may have taken a level higher than autonomy and their means more violent.

To fight the “terrorists” militarily may result to the victory of the government but the conditions that could have led to be “terrorists” may not have been won. Ideologies are hard to defeat but better alternative and better ideas may defeat it. The need to address the circumstances that can lead to extremism shall have to be addressed.

Conditions conducive to terrorism, recognized at the level of the UN and the OSCE, include “prolonged unresolved conflicts, dehumanization of victims of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, lack of rule of law, violations of human rights, ethnic, national and religious discrimination, political exclusion, socio-economic marginalization and lack of good governance”.

Structural injustices breed violence.

The Marawi crisis shall not be repeated. This was also the cry of the victims of the Zamboanga siege. But what assurance will guarantee no recurrence?
While some critics argue that extremism is the product of religious intolerance and the attempt to establish an exclusive monolithic global religion, the Bangsamoro narratives resemble those conditions found by the UN and OSCE. The message of former president Ramos critically pointed out some of the important incubators of extremism in the country.

Better Alternative To Violent Extremism (BATVE)

A political structure that will address the legitimate grievances, correct the historical injustices committed against the Bangsamoro will help prevent recurrence of extreme violence. An autonomous government with adequate power and resources that can address marginalization will contribute to these efforts .

An example is the case of Timor Leste and Aceh. The democratic space created by the grant of independence and autonomy in East Timor and Aceh respectively has given tremendous motivation for them to move on, not easily but constantly. Violence in these areas had been significantly reduced and people have the opportunity to engage in productive activities that supports their socio-economic needs. This can also happen in the Bangsamoro. The BTC-draft BBL is the best alternative to violent extremism. It will provide the Bangsamoro their long-held aspiration to exercise their self-determination, a state of affair they used to have before the Philippine was born.

The draft BBL shall be seriously considered as an opportunity rather a problem. In the long term, it will pave the way for national unity and reconciliation as both the national government and the Bangsamoro government can join efforts at addressing socio-economic and political problems.

The first dividend of peace the people in the Bangsamoro will experience is a democratic space that will deter violent conflict and secure their lives and properties. The absence of violence will provide space for the people to engage in productive activities that will address their socio-economic needs. Development does not come drastically but gradually and constantly. Institutional reforms will take place and structural justice will eventually be achieved. It will be a long process of reconstruction, rehabilitation and transformation but the BBL can be a good start.

For Marawi City to be truly liberated, we must know the truth with the end in view that truth and justice will prevent the recurrence of the same crisis. How the Marawi crisis happened, who are the perpetrators and the victims? Were there human rights violations? Will there be reparations and justice for the victims? Who are the perpetrators and will they be meted out justice? And very importantly, what are the measures to ensure that the same crisis will not happen again in Marawi and or elsewhere.

In the long term, real liberation will be enjoyed and violent extremism will only become the thing of the past.

The all-out war, the Zamboanga siege and the Marawi crisis will only be part of history. A new future will dawn. The battles will be gone, and only then that the real war is won.

By Abu Mumar

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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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Posted on 06 October 2017 by cbcs_mike

July 18, 2017

We, the leaders of the Bangsamoro Platform for Unity, Solidarity and Harmony (BM-PUSH) composed of Bangsamoro multi-sectoral leaders organized in different parts of Mindanao organized primarily to help build constituency in support to the ongoing peace processes between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Fronts conducted series of meetings amidst the current Marawi Crisis and the declaration of Martial Law in Mindanao.

We make it known that we denounce any kind of terrorism much more if it caused the displacement, misery and devastation to now more or less 300,000 individuals scattered in different municipalities in the peripheries of Marawi City.

On the other hand, we laud the joint efforts of the GPH and the MILF in utilizing the peace and security mechanisms of the peace process by establishing the “Peace Corridors” purposely ‘as safe and secure corridor for women, men and children fleeing the crisis in Marawi as well as a reliable space for humanitarian assistance to pass through’. We therefore urge the government and the MILF that such Peace Corridors be strengthened and expanded in vulnerable conflict-affected areas in Mindanao.

We recognize that the declaration of Martial Law is within the ambit of the president’s mandate under extraordinary condition. However, we are equally apprehensive of its consequences especially on human rights violation under this state and therefore we appeal to the security forces; the police, military, its force multipliers and to DND Secretary Delfin Lorenzana as the administrator of the martial rule to be mindful of both domestic and international frameworks on human rights in its implementation.

We sympathized with the grieving families of the police and soldiers that perished in compliance with their sworn duties but all the more we grieved with the growing numbers of innocent civilians that died either by trapping or caught in crossfire which is until now continues to be retrieved in various places of the battle zones of which many already in state of decomposition.

We finally call on the stakeholders of the Marawi tragedy to end the crisis for the interest of hundreds of thousand innocent civilians who are carrying the burden of war they never wished.

And therefore, we appeal for the government and MILF to fast-track establishment of the Bangsamoro Government through the Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro compliant new Bangsamoro Enabling Law as the best option in ending these decades of armed-conflict in Mindanao.

BM-PUSH Conveners:
2. MAP
5. COM
7. LBO

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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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PRIVILEGE SPEECH: Let us not miss this opportunity, probably the last, to win back our people

Posted on 04 October 2017 by cbcs_mike

By Sitti Djalia A. Turabin-Hataman
(Privilege speech of Anak Mindanao party-list Rep. Sitti Djalia A. Turabin-Hataman delivered at the House of Representatives on Monday, 02 October 2017. The speech was reprinted from MindaNews October 3, 2017 issue)

Madam Speaker, esteemed colleagues, ladies and gentlemen, Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullahi taala wabarakatuhu. Isang mapagpalayang hapon po sa ating lahat.

My sincerest gratitude for this opportunity to once again, and for the last time address this august chamber, and for all the opportunities this revered halls echoed this small voice from the islands and the seas of our homeland.

This was no easy decision, and perhaps the craziest I’ve done so far. But those who know me, and know my soul, have long suspected I was longing to be back home. I have always been a community worker, before I became part of government as Executive Director of the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos. In 2013 I was given the trust by Anak Mindanao to be its first nominee, and eventually the honor of being AMIN’s representative in the 16th Congress and in the 17th Congress before today. I pray that in the four years I served Anak Mindanao as its voice in the House of Representatives, I have returned this honor. Apart from our second nominee and now Rep. Makmod Mending Jr., it is also with strong conviction in her capacity and commitment that I entrust Anak Mindanao to our 3rd nominee, Ms. Amihilda Sangcopan, a friend, a comrade, Anak Mindanao sa Kongreso’s Chief of Staff from the 12th to the 14th Congress. I leave them at the helm of our priority bills which include the Bill against Discrimination on account of ethnicity and religious belief; the Islamic Banking Bill, the Bill for the Establishment of the Institute of Sulu and Mindanao Traditional Arts and the National Hijab Day which was just passed by the Committee on Muslim Affairs.

Being a member of the House of Representatives is indeed a great honor, to be the people’s voice, to be their representative, to decide and cast a vote for and in their behalf, on policies and laws that affect their lives, from conception to death. To run this government and determine this country’s future, to build the foundations upon which this nation’s tomorrow shall stand, and create a path unto which the children of this nation, our own children, shall take their journey. The very thought of this great responsibility overwhelms me, it scares me. As a struggling Muslim, I fear being made accountable in the next life of the trust given to me by the people, when I cannot even begin to imagine how I shall account for my own weaknesses. But with the guidance and hard work of all Anak Mindanao members and partners, from our AMIN sa Kongreso staff, to our AMIN volunteers in the communities, to those who continue to believe in us, who kept reminding us of the more than 700 thousand who voted and therefore trusted us, this representation held on.

Being a member of the House of Representatives is no comfortable task. Not when you have your own persuasions too, which do not always align with the people you claim to represent. Not when you know the complexities of government bureaucracy that are impossible to reform overnight, and you also know how greatly they contribute to the worse realities of our people on the ground. Not when you pour your soul out to champion a cause you believe in but you are judged by what they perceive to be your political agenda.

But despite all these, I do not regret a single moment I was Anak Mindanao’s Representative. I shall hold it one of my greatest blessings, perhaps a destiny I was meant to fulfill. The knowledge, wisdom and competencies I gained as a member of this House; the brilliance and commitment of fellow legislators unfortunately seldom seen by the public, as the most productive hard work happens in Committee meetings which, unless controversial, do not make it to the headlines; the doors of opportunities it opened not just for myself but for every deserving individual and cause; the people I met and whose friendships I shall value my whole life, all these I will carry with me beyond the walls of Congress.

All these I shall bring with me when I go back to my people, not as their Representative, but as one of them. Some of those who knew my decision said I can always go back, we are only required to be here on specific days. But going back does not only mean being with them physically. It also means, for me, being heard when I speak, not as a person of influence or power, but as me. It also means, being spoken to without the barrier of a title or a position, just me. Our sad reality today is that many can no longer see beyond titles and positions. May we realize that these are not the goals, but are mere platforms and opportunities, ways on how to fulfill a greater calling in life, and for me as a Muslim, as a path to gain a better life in the hereafter in shaa Allah. Whatever title or position or status we have, when it no longer serves that purpose, becomes meaningless. There is no higher office or lower rank, what matters is where and how you can serve best. This is a reminder foremost to myself.

This realization became strongly evident when Marawi happened. I am not from the city, but the impact of what happened brought me to so many questions and self-reflections, thoughts of where I am and where I am most needed, most effective. Although there are many factors coming together that led to the incident, it is a known fact that our people’s, particularly our youth’s frustrations over the seeming loss of our struggles, the imminent failure to realize our aspirations, became a vulnerable sentiment used by these groups to their advantage. As member of this House in the 16th Congress, I, along with some fellow Moro legislators did not fail in saying this. When Marawi happened, especially when I heard how young some of the members of this group were, 10, 12, 15, I can only ask myself, where did we fail? When and how did we lose them? Had I remained in the communities, as one of them, and spoke to them of peace, perhaps I could have convinced a child or two that it is possible. We often speak of winning hearts and minds. The fight is no longer anywhere but in our very communities and homes, the hearts and minds we so desperately need to win over are not anyone else’s but the hearts and minds of our own children.

But as I go back, I make this last plea, to all of you, honorable members of this most august chamber. There is another opportunity for you. I am grateful to Deputy Speaker Bai Sandra Sema for allowing me to co-author the Bangsamoro Basic Law drafted by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, my last act as member of the House of Representatives. I leave appealing to your compassion and discernment, with hope in our leaders, and faith in the President to make true his vow to pass the BBL. I appeal to you, we may be a little too late, as we all know now, but please let us not miss this opportunity, probably the last, to win back our people. As I go back, may this be a gift I can offer them from you, not a gift as a token of benevolence, but a gift we truly deserve, not just from the House of Representatives, not just from this administration, but from the Filipino people.

And to all those who believed and journeyed with me, who lent me their voices so I may speak in their behalf, know that I have given my all to be a worthy echo of your beautiful voices. I leave not to be silent, but just as I spoke all these years to magnify your own, I pray that you welcome me back and allow my voice to be one with yours, where it has always belonged.

Lastly, in these most challenging times we face as a nation, and as a former member of this honored House, I pray for our strength and guidance, for lights in our hearts, as individual members and as an institution, an institution that is a pillar of our democracy, a sail that sets the course of our country’s voyage. May we find the courage to overcome that which rifts us apart, and the compassion to rise above whatever barrier has been built among us, including those we ourselves built. For while it is the very nature of this institution in the performance of her mandate to always divide the House, it is our greater accountability to keep this nation and the people, whole.
Maraming salamat po. Wassalam.

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Posted on 03 October 2017 by cbcs_mike

We, the members of the coalition of broad networks of Bangsamoro/Filipino Civil Society and Grassroots Organizations serving Mindanao and its Islands had long been supporting and accompanying the GPH-MILF Peace Process towards its successful conclusion.

The peace process had been lingering with uncertainties for the last twenty years while majority of the Bangsamoro were and are holding their high hope of attaining just and lasting peace in their homeland through negotiations as they believed in the principle that the most civilized way of achieving peace is through the negotiating table.

As we feel we are nearing the peak of our efforts as well as majority of the Bangsamoro seems gradually exhaust their patience in unending dream of peace, we are launching today (September 29, 2017) our campaign under one banner of broad civil society organizations (CSOs) and networks with the grassroots called “Sustainable Initiatives of Grassroots and Networks for Bangsamoro Basic Law” to be popularly known in its acronym as “#SIGNnew BBL”. These initiatives was conceived as our means of maximizing multi-prong approaches in appeasing those becoming impatience as well as to employ every available means in advancing the passage into law of the new Bangangsamoro Basic Law in Congress.

Anent the above, we make these calls and statements to wit:

  1. We laud President Rodrigo Roa Duterte and the leadership of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) for their continuing efforts as manifested in their series of meetings undertaken on: (1) September 4, 2017 meeting of the President and MILF leadership (2) September 14, 2017 meeting of the President with the Bangsamoro Tranistion Commisioners (BTC) and Congress leaderships and finally (3) September 20, 2017 meeting of the President with the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC), Congress leadership and majority of the Cabinets and finally endorsed BBL as “Urgent Bill”.
  2. We likewise commend Congresswomen Bai Sandra Sema and Ruby Sahali for spearheading the submission of the draft new BBL in Lower House as well as their commitments to peace manifested through authoring House Bill 6475.
  3. Our calls to both members of House of Senate and House of Representives to give credence to the new BTC draft BBL. This is neither an incursion nor intrusion to your independence as Legislative Branch of the government but an appeal to uphold the gains of the now forty two year’s peace processes between the Government and the Moro Fronts (MNLF and MILF).
  4. For those whose felt exhausted of decades of waiting for peace to withhold their frustrations and instead to be calm and sober and give chance to the peace processes and benefits of the doubt to first Mindanaoan Pressident who has a very strong political will to end the Mindanao Question.

Finally, we are one in belief that the enactment into law of the BBL and eventual establishment of the envisioned Bangsamoro entity is the only effective way in suppressing rising violent extremism and narrow-down adventurism of the younger generation of the Bangsamoro.

#SIGNnewBBL Convenors:
1. League of Bangsamoro Organizations (LBO)
2. United Youth for Peace and Development (UNYPAD)
3. Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society (CBCS)
4. Mindanao Alliance for Peace (MAP)
5. People’s CART (P-CART)
6. Federation of Bangsamoro Civil Society Organizations (FB-CSO)
7. Federation of United Mindanawan Bangsamoro Women – MPC (FUMBW-MPC)
8. SEED Foundation Inc. (SEED)
9. Community Organizers Multiversity (COM)
10. Women’s Organization Movement of the Bangsamoro (WOMB)
11. Coalition of Moro Youth Movement (CMYM)
12. Confederated Descendants of Rajah Mamalu (C-DORM)

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