Part 3: Question of Justice
DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/03 April) — On the issue of territory, Cotabato Arcbishop Orlando Quevedo asked the panel: “You and I know that Christians vehemently objected to that portion which was beyond Category A (of the botched 2008 Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain or MOA-AD) and especially people from Zamboanga, Davao and North Cotabato were vehement in their objections and yet I still find those very disputable contentious things in the draft. For historical reasons I can understand the MILF position but for the feasible and viable acceptance of this, for those who were vehemently opposed to this especially people from Manila, Zambonaga, Davao and North Cotabao, why should it still be there? For practical purposes, why should it still be there and risk again non-acceptance?”
Quevedo also noted that the late MILF chair Salamat Hashim “was realistic enough in his vision for a Bangsamoro, realistic in the sense that he would be able to say yes we cannot change the demographic and political status of Mindanao now but we wish to have some form of self-determination in a certain territory so that it’s no longer the whole of Mindanao but a certain very limited territory..”
“If he was realistic enough to do that, I wonder if that kind of a principle of realism that would complement the vision of the Bangsamoro, could extend to the idea of territory B. Why? Because the question of legitimacy is correct there but even Hashim Salamat himself said let this idea of legitimacy give way to realism. I would think the government would point to that as a contentious issue that will not be accepted by people who are already there in Zamboanga, Davao, North Cotabato — I mean that’s part of Category B (where) 25 years after, there will be a referendum. Why risk unacceptability by insisting on this one?” Quevedo asked.
Before the panel could answer, Quevedo said, “I suggest you be more flexible. I do not want to debate that. I just want to say the whole package could be thrown out because of one could be negotiable thing.”
Quevedo is acknowledged as the archbishop who understands the Bangsamoro struggle and the 2008 MOA-AD very well. In July 2003, after the war against the MILF in the Buliok area, he delivered a paper before the Bishops-Businessmen’s Conference, citing three historical injustices committed against the Moro people: “injustice to the Moro identity, injustice to Moro political sovereignty and injustice to Moro integral development.” Days after the MOA-AD’s aborted signing in August 2008, just as armed clashes started displacing thousands of civilians and the public was getting confused over the word war between those against and for the MOA-AD, Quevedo wrote a five-part series that helped the public understand the issue.
In the botched MOA-AD, some barangays of Zamboanga City, portions of North Cotabato and a town in Davao Oriental were listed under Category B, along with other areas, and were to be the subject of “special socio-economic and cultural affirmative action implemented by the Central Government pending the conduct of a plebiscite.” The plebiscite would be conducted at least 25 years “after the signing of the Comprehensive Compact” to determine if the residents in the Category B areas would want to be part of what the MILF peace panel referred to as “Bangsamoro Juridical Entity.”
Mastura said Quevedo’s question was a “welcome question because it addresses the very core issue in the negotiating table which has never been understood by negotiating panels of the government. What is that? It’s a question of legitimacy and legitimacy can be divided into acceptance which (Quevedo) mentioned, and justice, the issue of justice – the issue of justice is very well stated in his own paper and stand on the MOA-AD.”
“The question of acceptance is something we have to grapple with and that questions precisely the status quo. So that answers the question why should it risk again non-acceptance? Because it is a justice issue. … Look at the justness of the original position between the BM people and the Filipino people in general. Why should they object? Of course, it is reality that they are occupying some of our lands. Nobody for example thinks in terms of how we lost. We have been on the losing side.”
He cited historical events that led to the diminution of the Moro territory.
“Until and unless this nation realizes what it has done to us and continues to deny us, the narrative is the history – but as you know, I will repeat – legitimacy is the question. Salamat Hashim, the founder of the MILF, used to say ‘illegal and immoral incorporation of the Bangsamoro people and their territory into what is now known as the Philippine state,” Mastura said.
“All we are asking now is very practical… that we do an asymmetrical relationship,” that they be a sub-state. (Tomorrow: What sub-state?)