ILIGAN CITY (MindaNews/12 October)–Consent of the governed is at the core of today’s democratic world. In the Bangsamoro fronts’ presentation of their case, the Bangsamoro people, self-respecting sovereign states in their own right, as embodied in the two sultanates of Sulu and Maguindanao, became part of the Philippines without their consent through a series of political events starting from the Treaty of Paris in December 1898 to the American victory in the Filipino-American and Moro-American wars, to the formulation of the Commonwealth constitution which affirmed the legitimacy of the Treaty of Paris, and to the creation of the Republic of the Philippines. The Bangsamoro struggle for self-determination is aimed precisely at asserting this fundamental right. The Framework Agreement, a product of mutual consent, may be viewed as the embodiment of this assertion. The YES vote in the 2001 plebiscite represents this democratic consent? But what about the Islamic faith, another fundamental item in the definition of the Bangsamoro identity, the self in self-determination? Let us examine some relevant data in the six municipalities.
Aleosan has a total of 19 barangays, six of these are majority Muslim. The Muslims are 25.54 percent of the total municipal population. The YES won in only three of the Muslim-dominated barangays.
Carmen has 28 barangays, twelve of these are majority Muslim. The Muslim population is 34.17 percent of the total population. The YES vote won in only two barangays.
Kabacan has 24 barangays, eleven of these are majority Muslim. The Muslim population is 41.38 percent of the population. Only three barangays voted YES in 2001.
Midsayap has 57 barangays, sixteen of which are Muslim-dominated. The Muslims constitute 29.62 percent of the total population. Twelve barangays voted YES in 2001.
Pigkawayan has forty barangays, thirteen of which are Muslim-dominated. The Muslims make up 26.91 percent of the total population. Eight said YES in 2001.
Pikit has 40 barangays, thirty-two of these are majority Muslim. The total Muslim population is 75.28 percent. Only eleven voted YES in 2001.
In sum, these six municipalities has a total of 208 barangays. Ninety of these are Muslim-dominated. Only 39 barangays, or slightly more than one-third, voted YES in 2001.
Do we consider as settled the issue of territory in these six towns? Yes, it seems settled, for the moment. Not, if we go on to the last item where it says local political units may initiate a move to be included in the Bangsamoro. But we can postpone discussion of this for a later time.
Does this satisfy the constitutional meaning of “geographical areas” in the 1987 Constitution? Article X, Sec. 15 on the 1987 Constitution says: “There shall be created 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” (underscoring supplied).The answer is yes.
This decision to zero in on the barangays that said YES in the 2001 plebiscite is obviously a political compromise – because there are 90 other Muslim-majority barangays and 13 more with Muslim population ranging from 40 to 50 percent, “sharing common and distinctive historical and cultural heritage.”
What is to be done with those other barangays? Perhaps this is where the host communities, the administrators and the people of the six towns can demonstrate their magnanimity by nurturing the seeds of peace. The people of seven barangays of Pikit, more popularly known as GINAPALADTAKA, have shown the way in harmony and fraternal relations among the tri-people by creating peace sanctuaries during the height of the fighting in the government-MILF war in 2003; these are still vibrant up to this time.
(A peace specialist, Rudy Buhay Rodil is an active Mindanao historian and peace advocate. In 1988 he was a commissioner of the Regional Consultative Commission in Muslim Mindanao which helped Congress draft the Organic Act for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. As an acknowledged expert on the history of the Moro conflict, he was twice member of the GRP peace negotiating panel: in the talks with the Moro National Liberation Front, 1993-96, and also vice chair of the GRP Panel in the talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Dec 2004 to 3 Sep 08. He was Visiting Professor at Hiroshima University in Oct-Dec 2011. Having started his studies on Mindanao, especially on the Moro and Lumad affairs, in the summer of 1973, he has so far written four books, several monographs and 123 articles. As educator, he has taught in Sulu, Cotabato, Davao, Manila and Iligan. Now retired, he was professor of history in the last twenty-four years in Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology, Jun 1983 to Oct 2007. As peace advocate, he has so far participated as resource person in more than 685 forums, seminars and conferences related to the creation of a culture of peace in Mindanao.)