CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews / 03 April) — As a member of the MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) peace panel that negotiated with the Philippine government for 17 years, and as one who took active part in the Moro struggle against the Marcos dictatorship in the 70s, it is but ‘normal’ and an obligation on my part to advocate for identity reassertion consonant with self-determination.
Today, because of the peace agreements — the FAB (Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro) and CAB (Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro) as well as the Tripoli Agreement of 1976 — Bangsamoro, both as a people’s identity and homeland, has been given the recognition it deserves.
But many Moros ironically still disdain the identity ‘Bangsamoro’ and continue to perpetuate the urban legend that this word had been invented by the MNLF (Moro National Liberation Front). In this sense, they are one with the historical revisionists and denialists who say that the Jabidah Massacre and the atrocities committed by the Marcos regime against the Moro people never happened.
So where does the identity term ‘Bangsamoro’ come from? Let’s put aside etymology for a while and focus on one of the most important episodes of Moro history. On February 1, 1924, Moro leaders from all over Moroland led by Sultan Mangigin of Maguindanao assembled at Zamboanga City and delivered a petition known as the ‘Declaration of Rights and Purposes’, a.k.a ‘Zamboanga Declaration,’ to the American Governor-General and addressed to the US Congress asking the US government NOT to include Moroland in what was then bruited about as the grant of independence to the Philippine islands; and that 50 years hence (transition period), the same grant of independence after a plebiscite be given to the Muslim people of Moroland who are to be known as the “Moro Nation.”
In Malay language, “Moro Nation” translates as “Bangsa Moro.” This was how the identity term came about. To put it in proper perspective, therefore, the MNLF and MILF struggled and fought to assert this identity that our forebears declared in 1924.
The Zamboanga Declaration may not be appealing to the taste of today’s nationalists because of its pro-American sentiment, but this has to be contextualized by the intent of the Moro petitioners to appeal to American sense of justice in the light of imminent Philippine incorporation, and most importantly, to assert Moro nationhood.
National identity, one must not forget, is indispensable to identity reassertion in pursuit of the right to self-determination, whether in terms of political independence or autonomous self-rule.
So if we were to be asked now that a degree of self-rule has been granted the Bangsamoro people, which include non-Muslim indigenous communities and any settler resident of the Bangsamoro, who, by ascription, opts to be called a Bangsamoro, and by virtue of the peace agreements as a result of which a Bangsamoro Government has been established, there ought to be a Parliamentary resolution or law, or whatever one calls it, declaring February 1 each year as ‘Bangsamoro Identity Day’ to commemorate the historic Zamboanga Declaration and to remind every Moro or even non-Moro of the historicity of the identity ‘Bangsamoro’ and not just a recent invention.
(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Robert Maulana Marohombsar Alonto was a member of the peace panel of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front that negotiated the Framework Agreement of the Bangsamoro signed in 2012 and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro signed in 2014. He was also a member of the Bangsamoro Transition. Commission that drafted the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law that the Aquino administration did not pass. This piece was first published on his FB page on 01 April 2021 MindaNews was granted permission to publish this).