DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/15 July) – “Transitional Justice? What’s that?“
The Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) signed between the Philippine government (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) provides for a transitional justice mechanism that would “address the legitimate grievances of the Bangsamoro people, correct historical injustices, and address human rights violations” but what that means for the Bangsamoro and the Moro, indigenous peoples and settlers living in the new political entity is still a work in progress.
In fact, the Annex on Normalization signed in January this year, provides that the Transitional Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) that would be created, will “undertake a study and recommend to the Panels the appropriate mechanisms.”
While there have been some discussions and opinion pieces on transitional justice in the Bangsamoro, “Moving Beyond: Towards Transitional Justice in the Bangsamoro Peace Process” launched Monday at the Apo View Hotel here is the first publication specifically devoted to Transitional Justice in the Bangsamoro context.
The 55-page publication, described by Ateneo de Davao University president, Fr. Joel Tabora as “very important” and a “compulsory reading,” aims to contribute to a wider and deeper discourse on transitional justice in the Bangsamoro, familiarize readers with current debates in the field of transitional justice in general, share lessons learned from post-conflict areas like Aceh, and open the discussion on “particular opportunities, concerns, and entry points for doing transitional justice based on local understandings of truth, justice, and reparations.”
Published by forumZFD (Forum Civil Peace Service), a German NGO that has been working on conflict transformation work in Mindanao since 2008, “Moving Beyond..” has three parts: Transitional Justice as an evolving concept, Regional experiences and lessons learned, and Towards transitional justice in the Bangsamoro peace process.
In the first part, Jasmina Brankovic and Hugo van der Merwe of the Centre for Study of Violence and Reconciliation in South Africa, discuss “Transitional Justice in Post-Conflict Societies: Conceptual Foundations and Debates;” while Rosario Figari Layus talks about “Implementing Transitional Justice: Insights from Latin America.”
The second part has GaluhWandita, co-founder and director of Asia Justice and Rights (AJAR), writing about “Lessons from Aceh for Mindanao: Notes from the Field.” It also features an interview with Ruben Carranza, Director of the Reparative Justice Program at the International Center for Transitional Justice in New York, who delivered the keynote address at the launch.
“Not a separate notion of justice”
In the third part, Rosa Cordillera Castillo, a doctoral fellow in Social and Cultural Anthropology at the Berlin Graduate School Muslim Cultures and Societies at Freie Universitat Berlin, talks about “Perspectives on Truth, Justice, Reparation, and
Reconciliation in Central Mindanao;” Marian Pastor Roces, a cultural critic and independent curator based in Manila discusses “Fine Grain and Big Picture;” and Jurma Tikmasan, chair of the Nisa Ul Haqq Fi Bangsamoro, writes about “Lived Realities and Transitional Justice in the island provinces of Western Mindanao.”
In his presentation at the launch, Carranza narrated that when he talks about transitional justice, he makes it a point “to make sure it is not seen as a separate notion of justice.”
“Nobody ever comes forward to say ‘we want transitional justice,’” he said, adding victims of armed conflict or a dictatorship will say “we want justice.”
He explained that justice is usually equated with courts “but what if you talk about 50, 60 years of injustice or so massive in terms of number, in terms of latitude of violations experienced, do you go to the courts? Do you for instance ask people in the Bangsamoro who were victimized by armed conflict to sue in the regional trial court of Ctoabato? How many cases would that entail? It is even possible to litigate these cases, to go to the courts and resolve these questions?”
Carranza said transitional justice “is a way of addressing injustices that does not rely solely on courts, that does not depend only on the judicial process whether it is criminal litigation or civil litigation.”
He said the prosecution mechanism should be integrated with truth-seeking, reparations program and institutional reforms, the idea of “Nunca mas” or never again.”
Tabora, in his welcome address said “Moving Beyond” is a “very important publication” and a “compulsory reading.”
“It is about doing transitional justice: doing what is necessary in justice to transition from a situation of hostility and conflict to a situation of peace,” but acknowledged that “it is not easy.”
“It involves people who are still alive, punishing perpetrators of injustice and atrocities of war, managing impunity, encouraging truth-telling, getting victims to participate in evolving transitional justice solutions, offering reparations, and the like. It is not easy, because it doesn’t always work. And the transition from conflict to peace sometimes even involves measured forgiveness and empowering love,” he said.
For Tabora, “Moving Beyond….” is “as provocative as it is exploratory, as certain as it is tentative” as it discusses the concept of transitional justice, experiences in trying to implement it, and its requirements in the context of the Bangsamoro, “that is why it is profoundly disturbing.”
A future with hope
In his foreword, Cardinal Orlando Quevedo, Archbishop of Cotabato, said a close reading of the articles “will help significantly in understanding the transition of Mindanao towards a future with hope.”
As a religious leader, he said his emphasis is “not on the legal aspects of transitional justice, but on moral obligations and accountability.”
“Justice is of course a moral virtue. Yet it is often understood simply in its legal sense. What is legal and what is moral is separated by a very fine thread, but the separation is nonetheless present. What is legal may not always be moral, granting the operations of different moral traditions in various religions in Mindanao,” he said.
In her foreword, Raissa Jajurie, a member of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, said “Moving Beyond…” will enrich the discourse in the Bangsamoro on transitional justice, “towards designing and implementing a program that would propel the process for addressing justice issues, facilitate the healing process, and inspire genuine reconciliation.”
“Only when we are able to deal with the past can we fully face the challenges of building a Bangsamoro that is just, harmonious, and progressive,” Jajurie said.
In his foreword, Teduray Timuay Santos Unsad, Deputy Supreme Tribal Chief of the Timuay Justice and Governance, said they view the establishment of the Bangsamoro as the political entity that would replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), as “a golden opportunity of development and improved living conditions for us Indigenous Peoples, provided that our inherent and legislated rights will be entrenched in the Bangsamoro Basic Law.”
“It is in this context that a transitional justice program should give prime attention towards Indigenous Peoples’ experiences of historical injustices, particularly regarding land tenure, to attain just peace and reconciliation in Central Mindanao, the future Bangsamoro Political Entity and in Mindanao in general,” Unsad said.
Aside from the print version, “Moving Beyond” can be accessed through http://www.scribd.com/doc/233661369/Moving-Beyond-Towards-Transitional-Justice-in-the-Bangsamoro-Peace-Process (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)