ANGAY-ANGAY LANG: The Minoritization of the Indigenous Communities of Mindanaw and Sulu (16) Epilogue II

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6 of 16 parts
Epilogue 2

(Done in 1992 at Iligan City, published initially as two versions. First as the abbreviated edition published by The Minority Rights Group, London entitled The Lumad and Moro of Mindanaw, July 1993. The Philippine edition carrying the full draft was printed by AFRIM in Davao City 1994. This was later updated in 2003, summarized in an epilogue. This is the third revision, now with an expanded Epilogue.) 

Part XVII
Epilogue II (Done in August 2012)

A Mindanao Historian’s Views; Quick Recalls on the Basic Issues of the GRP-MILF Peace Process

1.Historical Background.

The peace process between the government and the Bangsamoro Fronts, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has been going on in the last 37½ years, from January 1975 to August 2012. Already between 100,000 to 120,000 lives have been lost. Billions of pesos have gone down the drain.  If the problem has taken so long to discuss and has not yet been solved, maybe we do not have a common grasp of the problem. So, how about re-thinking the problem?  Some military generals have said: we were second lieutenants when we starting fighting the Moro rebels in the early 70s. Now, we are generals and are still fighting. They have solid reason to think that military force is not the answer, they said.

The peaceful way, peace process, peace education, community dialogues just might provide the way, they added.

1.Agenda of the GRP/GPH-MILF peace talk, Jan 1997-Aug 2012

  • In 1997 the MILF presented “Solve the Bangsamoro problem” as the sole agenda. In the course of subsequent deliberations this was detailed into six sub-agenda items.
  • In  the Tripoli Agreement on Peace, the following three agenda items were agreed upon:
    1. Security Aspect
    2. Rehabilitation Aspect
    3. Ancestral Domain Aspect, later broken down into Concept, Territory, Resources and Governance.
  1. In the first agreement between the GPH Panel and the MILF panel on April 24, 2012, two years since they started, they signed the Ten Decision Points on Principles which would serve as the basic framework in the formulation of the comprehensive compact. Let me just focus on three items of interest, not necessary in their order of appearance.
  2. The first item is that both parties recognize Bangsamoro identity and the legitimate grievances and claims of the Bangsamoro people.
  3. The second item is that the status quo, meaning the totality of the situation affecting the Bangsamoro, a major part of which is the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), is unacceptable. With respect to ARMM a new political entity, ministerial in form, will be created by them in its place.
  4. The third point is that they would have a transition mechanism from the present ARMM to the new political entity.
  5. My observations as a historian. Let me use the three items from the ten decision points as my reference points.
  • The name Moro had a bloody history in the Philippines. In the 333 years that the Spanish colonizers tried to conquer the Moros, they always employed thousands of Filipino Christians as soldiers and supporters. In their counter-attacks, the Moros would also hit these Filipino Christian communities. Since it was the Spanish chroniclers who wrote the stories, they naturally labeled the Moros as pirates. They even wrote books, one of them being titled Guerras Piraticas. Unfortunately for us historians, the Moros never wrote their own impressions of these bloody events. What we have inherited is the deep=seated mutual distrust that that Filipino Christians have for Moros. This is one of the invisible problems that we face today. It interferes with the proper objective appreciation of the political issues being raised by the Bangsamoro advocates. The Moros hated the name that is why when I was in the grade school,  if one wanted to have a fight with Moro kids, all one had to do was call him Moro.  After the Moro National Liberation Front used this name in Moro National Liberation Front and fought for it, it has now acquired an honored position in Bangsamoro consciousness. It has become a badge of honor.

It took a while for government to accept the name Bangsamoro. I remember using it in 1993 in one of the early meetings of the GRP Panel in the talks with the MNLF, I was immediately corrected by my chair that the government panel, representing the Republic of the Philippines, cannot use this name; the government did not recognize it.

Again, when I was member of the GRP panel in the peace talk with the MILF, the same name Bangsamoro was being used in panel meetings, even in meetings with other officials of government and nobody was raising any issue about it. This was between 2004 and 2008. It was gaining public acceptability.

So, now we see both GPH and MILF panel using the name in an agreement and, to me as Mindanaw historian this is historic and unprecedented. More so, because the recognition of the name is followed by the recognition of the legitimate grievances and claims of the Bangsamoro people.

If I may go back to the early years of the struggle for self-determination, the immediate labels and comments – this was in the time of President Ferdinand Marcos and remained so until the reign of President Fidel Ramos – that I would read or hear about were: Moro secessionist, the government cannot allow the dismemberment of the national territory and the integrity of the Republic. The assumption of course was that the formation of the Republic was based on solid historic grounds, and that the challenge being posed by the Bangsamoro Fronts were wrong.

But what does history say? The Bangsamoro were definitely not Filipinos prior to the Treaty of Paris in 1898, nor their sultanate territories part of the Spanish colony. And the Philippines, that was once Spanish colony, had declared its independence six months prior to the Treaty of Paris. What Spain sold to America, the newly independent Philippines, the uncolonized Moro Sultanates, and the Pat a Pongampong ko Ranaw,  she did not own.  It was the Filipino and Moro defeat in the war against American that brought them together, as colonial subjects, under the American flag.

So much for the name.

For the government to sign an agreement recognizing the legitimate grievances and claims of the Bangsamoro people is also equally unprecedented, if not unheard of. What does this imply? That the Bangsamoro Front, the MILF in this case,  is right after all? Am I getting this right, Mr. Chairman?  And so, it is alright to agree to another point… (please move on to #2 below)

  • that the ARMM is unacceptable and the right thing to do is create a new political entity, ministerial in form, in its place. Wow! To my non-lawyer’s mind, this is mind-boggling.

For one, ARMM is really a product of the GRP-MNLF peace process and the GRP-MNLF Final peace agreement of September 1996 has yet to be fully implemented, in fact meetings are still being held, presided over by the OIC (Organization of Islamic Conference) Committee of the Eight, to put in legal form the remaining points of agreement so that its processing by Congress which will lead to the amendment of the Organic Act governing ARMM can be initiated.

There is also the fact that honest to goodness reforms are being undertaken by the current Acting Regional Governor who seems to be doing a great job cleansing the whole ARMM machinery.

And now here comes the Ten Decision Points that will lead to its dissolution. Not only that. How to insert the ministerial form of regional government into the national structure which is both presidential and unitary?  This is enshrined in the Philippine Constitution but the ministerial form is not even mentioned.

Does the new agreement mean that the ministerial form can be inserted into the constitution without constitutional amendment?

Or does it mean that that administration of President Benigno Simeon Aquino III is ready and able to bring about a constitutional amendment without fail?

  • The transition mechanism is another name for provisional government as it was called in the Tripoli Agreement of 1976. Within the context of martial law where the president had dictatorial legislative powers, this was possible.

But since the post martial law government of President Ramos did not anymore allow the president to create such a government.

What came out of the GRP-MNLF peace talk was the Southern Philippines Council for Peace and Development, a mechanism that was not a government, only a structure with advisory or recommendatory powers. It did not even have the authority to receive and disburse funds.

Now, given the ambitious push for a ministerial form of structure, my question is, does the present constitution allow the President, or Congress for that matter, to create such a transition mechanism, with power to govern, with authority to create the way for the smooth passage to the new political entity? Another mind-boggling proposition, I should think.

But I leave it to the wisdom of the present negotiating panels. Where there is a will, there is a way.

  1. Before I close, let me comment on two important items which both sides tended to take for granted in the past.
  • The Lumad or Indigenous Peoples as they are referred to in the Indigenous People’s Rights Act of 1997 have equal rights to their ancestral lands, as the two Bangsamoro Fronts, the MNLF and the MILF often state both in writing and in public declarations.

Both sides, Lumad and Muslim, claim common ancestral roots.  These are duly documented in my book A Story of Mindanao and Sulu in Question and Answer (2003) This is partly why they are included in the Front’s definition of Bangsamoro.

It must be noted, however, that these Indigenous Peoples have reached a level of political maturity such that in 1986, they had their own Congress in North Cotabato where 15 of the then known 18 tribes of Mindanao decided to adopt Lumad as a collective name – this means indigenous or native. It is Bisaya but it is common knowledge that when Lumad come together in big assemblies they spontaneously shift to Bisaya as their lingua franca.

Along with the name they also proclaimed that they have their own right to self-determination and they wished to govern themselves within their respective ancestral domains in accordance with their customary laws.

Eleven years later, the government enacted the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act recognizing the right of the Indigenous Peoples to their ancestral domains/lands and the right to use of their customary laws to govern themselves.

Now, they, too, like the Bangsamoro, cite the provision in the UN Declaration of Indigenous Peoples Rights recognizing their right to self-determination.

I should point out that from 1975 to 1996, both government and MNLF saw no need to consciously involve the Lumad in their negotiations. It was only in the last two years of the three-year negotiation that the MNLF saw the need to include in their delegation one Lumad for a while, then a larger number in the last two rounds of negotiations. But they just sat there, in silence. On the government side, there was zero attempt to even consider Lumad presence in the negotiations.

To the credit of the GRP-MILF negotiations, Lumad presence was felt but only in the background, as invited consultants, as deemed appropriate, in government technical working group meetings.

In subsequent negotiations, starting from 2004, the government panel had one lady Lumad, and three, one lady, two gentlemen in the technical working group.

The MILF has had one in the technical working group until the present. In the current government panel, there used to be a Lumad member but then his status was modified to senior consultant on IP affairs.

Lumad voice was also getting louder and more systematic  in the espousal of their cause. Among the points raised is the assertion that while they recognize the legitimacy of the Bangsamoro struggle, they must insist that they, too, have their distinct identity, their own ancestral domain and their own right to self-determination.

They also recall, louder and more clearly, that their ancestors, Moro and Lumad, had entered into agreements which included territorial borders.  They urged upon their Bangsamoro counterpart to affirm these sacred agreements.  For one thing, not only are these sacred, these also have no expiration dates.

I like what I heard that the MILF panel had been holding dialogues with Lumad leaders in their public sorties. And more positive developments to date, there have been held already several re-affirmation ceremonies between Lumad and Moro leaders in Maguindanao, in Cotabato, in Bukidnon and in Pagadian City.

  • Migrants and their descendants have been made to believe by government that the lands they acquired were public lands and their acquisitions were legitimate under the law, and that this government is the only legitimate government they know.

They are bewildered not only by Bangsamoro claims to ancestral homeland, as it was articulated by the MNLF – the MILF later shifted the language to ancestral domain– but also by their audacity to assert their right to self-determination, not hesitating to employ the weapons of war.

Threatened by these claims, they are naturally wary and afraid that they lands might be taken away from them and their lives disrupted by the wars that intermittently erupt in their midst.

In my experience in peace advocacy, I have noted that a patient narration of history will tell them that we have all been heirs to a history that brought about the marginalization of the Lumad and the Bangsamoro in their ancestral lands, and the settlers were unwitting instruments in this marginalization process.

Many participants in my various audiences have consistently asked: how come your version of history is not taught in our Philippine history books?

It is incumbent upon government to ensure that correct Mindanao history is told in Philippine history books used in schools.

  1. So, while the two panels are trying to sort out the details of their agreements, the public must also be prepared through dialogues to come to terms with each other.  So much the better if the details of the agreements can be publicly discussed with them. They themselves ought to be appreciate how they will be affected by the comprehensive compact.

It is important for all, Lumad, Bangsamoro, and settlers to realize that coming to terms with history is also coming to terms with each other’s presence in a land that is now shared.

We need to dialogue to determine acceptable social space for everyone in a spirit of mutual recognition and mutual acceptance of each other’s collective rights. We must learn to dream together, to find peace in each other’s presence.

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. A peace specialist, Rudy Buhay Rodil is an active Mindanao historian and peace advocate)

TOMORROW: Update Epilogue III: Panagtagbo A  One Big Event 2004 to 2020

 

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