Women in the Bangsamoro speak up on “better Bangsmaoro for all”

COTABATO CITY (MindaNews/07 March) — Two women members of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) called on women in the proposed Bangsamoro political entity to collectively raise their voices so they can be heard by the male-dominated BTC and to demand transparency and inclusivity in the ongoing drafting of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

“We want equal rights for all women and men in the Bangsamoro. We want to be free from all forms of violence and discrimination. We want better access to education, health facilities, and other basic services,” Commissioner Froilyn Mendoza, a Teduray who co-founded the Teduray Lambangian Women’s Organization, Inc. (TLWOI), said in her welcome remarks.

In her keynote address, Commissioner Johaira Wahab, chief of the legal team of the government peace panel from 2010 until her appointment to the BTC in February last year, urged the estimated 200 women gathered at the Em Manor Hotel not only to support the BTC in its work of drafting the Bangsamoro Basic Law but also to “demand from us to be transparent and for you to participate in the process.”

“Transparency and inclusivity. That is the only way we can empower you,” Wahab said.

The 15-member BTC has four women members: Mendoza representing the Lumads (indigenous peoples or IP); Wahab, the youngest member of the BTC; Fatmawati Salapuddin, director of the Sulu-based Lupah Sug Bangsamoro Women’s Association, who had earlier served as Director of the Bureau of Peace & Conflict Resolution of the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos; and lawyer Raissa Jajurie, a consultant of the MILF peace panel who was former executive director of Saligan Mindanaw, an alternative law group.

VISION.  One of the women participants smiles as she signs the document stating the Bangsamoro women's vision of a "better Bangsamoro for all." MindaNews photo by Gregorio Bueno
VISION. One of the women participants smiles at the symbolic signing on tarpaulin of the eight-page, ten-point document stating the Bangsamoro women’s vision of a “better Bangsamoro for all.” MindaNews photo by Gregorio Bueno

A total of 72 consultations on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law were held by the women’s groups from which were drawn what is now an eight-page, ten-point Vision document titled “A Better Bangsamoro for all: Women’s Contributions to the Bangsamoro Basic Law.”

The document cites a general provision and specific recommendations for each of these ten sections: Protection from Violence, Conflict and Insecurity, Recognition and Recognition of Indigenous People’s Rights, Shari’a Justice System, Administration of Justice, Truth/Justice/Reparation, Bangsamoro Government, Women’s Political Participation, Normalization and Policing, Education and Livelihood, Reproductive Health, and Cultural Rights.

Crafted by “Moro, IP and settler women in the Bangsamoro,” the document cites general provisions was presented to representatives of the BTC – Commissioners Raissa Jajurie, Abdullah Camlian and Talib Benito– at the end of the day-long Women’s Summit 2014, whose theme is “Celebrating the Women’s Commitment for a Better Bangsamoro for All”

In Datu Odin Sinsuat town in Maguindanao, at the St Joseph Retreat House, another women’s summit, involving the Lumads, opened Friday afternoon and will end evening of March 8. The IP Women Summit’s theme is “Recognition of the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao for their Empowerment and Sustainable Development.”

FOR HIS FUTURE. Participants at the Women's Summit 2014  in Cotabato City on March 7 submitted to the Bangsamoro Transition Commission an eight-page, ten-point Vision for a “Better Bangsamoro for All,” for this child and other children in the Bangsamoro. MindaNews photo by Carolyn O. Arguillas
FOR HIS FUTURE. Participants at the Women’s Summit 2014 in Cotabato City on March 7 submitted to the Bangsamoro Transition Commission an eight-page, ten-point Vision for a “Better Bangsamoro for All,” for this child and other children in the Bangsamoro. MindaNews photo by Carolyn O. Arguillas

At the Em Manor Hotel, the Vision document presented to the BTC was read section by section by representatives from different tribes within the proposed Bangsamoro, in their respective languages. Women later affixed their signatures on a huge white tarpaulin.

A total of 72 consultations involving 2,750 women were conducted under the project “Entrenching Women’s Participation in the Basic Law of Muslim Mindanao,” implemented by Conciliation Resources together with the Nisa Ul Haqq Fi Bangsamoro, UNYPHIL-Women, Teduray Lambiangan Women’s Organization, Inc., Bangsamoro Women’s Organization Incorporated and Bangsamoro Women’s Action for Development Initiatives, and supported by the British Embassy.

Among the recommendations that the women want the BTC to include in the Bangsamoro Basic Law are the creation of a Department of Women’s Affairs for “promotion of women’s rights and the development of mechanisms to address women’s issue;” ensure that women from IP, Moro and settler populations are “adequately represented and involved in al levels of decision-making processes within the Bangsamoro government” and that women occupy 50 per cent of management level positions in the new Bangsamoro political entity.

They also recommended that part of the Bangsamoro Gender Fund be used to help start-up organizations for grassroots women “to ensure that women in the communities are consulted on issues that are relevant to them.”

The women also want the BBL to enact a law that will recognize the rights of the IPs to their ancestral domains/lands through the issuance of a tenure instrument that is acceptable to the IPS; to create a Bangsamoro Commission on Indigenous Peoples that will be responsible for protecting the rights of the IPs; ensure mandatory representation of IPs in all policy and decision-making bodies.

The women also want the Basic Law to “ensure that the women, children , and other vulnerable groups shall be protected from any form of violence or threats” and that it shall fulfill the provisions of the Convention to Eliminate all forms of Discrimination Against Women, the Magna Carta on Women, Anti-Violence Against Women and their Children Act of 2004 and the Code of Muslim Personal Laws.

The document also recommended that women participation in the normalization process as well as the Moro National Liberation Front be ensured; that the Joint Peace and Security Committee should include women from the committees of the MILF and MNLF; and that the Bangsamoro police force and other protective services such as fire department, jail management and penology, should hire more women.

The women also recommended that women, men, adolescents and children have full access to gender-responsive information and services on Maternal Neonatal Child and Health Care and Nutrition, health and nutrition, adolescent reproductive health (RH) and Family planning to improve the qualify of life; that the ARMM RH Law and the national RH law be filly implemented.

MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal, also chair of the BTC,  late last year announced they were targeting April 2014 for submission of the draft BBL to Congress. But in their courtesy call on President Aquino in Malacanang on January 30, Iqbal said they accepted the challenge to submit the draft sooner, on March 31.

According to Malacanang’s website, the President urged the BTC to “draw up soonest the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law so it can be ratified and implemented in time for the 2016 elections.”

Last year, in his State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 22, the President urged Congress to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law “before the end of 2014” so that “we will have ample time to prepare for the election of a new Bangsamoro government come 2016.”  (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)