SPECIAL REPORT: Who’s afraid of a Bangsamoro sub-state? (Part 4)

Part 4: What sub-state?

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/04 April) – If the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity of the ill-fated Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain of 2008  was  perceived “very nebulous” by the majority, as Datu Michael Mastura, senior peace panel member himself acknowledged in the consultation with Mindanao’s business sector last March 31,  and the proposed  “Bangsamoro sub-state” is still a mystery to many, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) apparently needs to simplify its terms to communicate apparently needs to simplify its terms to communicate its proposed “asymmetrical relationsihp” with the Philippine government.

Stephen Antig, Executive Director of the Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association (PBGEA), said, it was the first time for him to see the draft of the MILF’s proposed peace pact, and “truth of the matter is I am having a splitting headache after listening to all the comments.”

Antig, who teaches strategic management in one of the local universities, said he believes “what will come out of it will be good for Mindanao” but wanted to be enlightened about “asymmetrical relationship.”

“Honestly,” he said, “I do not understand the meaning of an asymmetrical state or state relationship.”

MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal asked Mastura to answer.

“Asymmetrical? I thought I explained this about the Constitution. Symmetry means pare-pareho di ba (the same, right)? In other words, if we propose symmetry, we will require the other provinces to go federal or associative, whatever. Again, we are only using associative because federal is not yet acceptable – that’s in between. Between  integration and federalism  is associative,” lawyer Mastura, a member of the 1971 Constitutional Convention and former representative of Maguindanao, said.

“Imagine us as Sabah which we do not want because it complicates the.. .but imagine as us Sarawak or imagine as us some other state which you would think of in a federated system other than the unitary system. That would be a sub-state,” he said.

“In the case of sub-state, we would like to be within because we are proposing what is called sovereignty earned or earned sovereignty or shared authority where there will be enumeration of powers and authority and there will be concurrent powers and authority. That’s already in the draft. If you  have disagreements with our enumeration or if you want to have an input, you can write directly to the chairman of the panel,” he added.

Earlier in the dialogue, however, Mastura cited more examples of what their envisioned “Bangsamoro sub-state” would be.

He said: “We are not asking for parity rights. We are asking for parity of esteem. We are no longer talking Bangsamoro Juridical Entity or BJE, in other words, very nebulous, very generic. We are now saying Bangsamoro State. We are asking for a Bangsamoro State,  not a separate state but a sub-state. It can be like Queensland of Australia, it can be like that of Massachusetts, or it can be like Kelantan or Sabah or Sarawak in Malaysia, in a federation. But since you do not like, the rest of the country does not like federal – we go for associative and therefore it will be an asymmetrical relationship.”

It was at this point when Vicente Lao, chair of the Mindanao Business Council, said, “I would like to tell the MILF panel that the (line that separates the) aspirations of the MILF and the aspirations of the businesses sector in Mindanao is a very, very thin line. Our aspirations are very, very similar in the way we are being treated by Imperial Manila so you will have the support of the business sector in Mindanao,” Lao said, interrupted briefly by applause from the crowd, “especially if the benefits that will be taken out of this consultation will benefit the majority of the people in Mindanao.”

Harris Diamad, executive director of the Muslim Business Forum, who gave the response on behalf of the business sector immediately after MILF chair Mohagher Iqbal delivered his opening remarks and Prof. Abhoud Syed Lingga gave a Powerpoint Presentation on the “Salient Features of the MILF Final Working Draft on Comprehensive Compact,” asked not only how to resolve the “constitutionality” issue but also wondered, if an agreement is signed, “what will you do with the illegal business in Mindanao? How will you deal with the powerful political clans in Mindanao?”

Mastura responded:  “the Moros, the Bangsamoro people were richer centuries back or during the Moro province. I have a study on that. Did you know that it was more stable and business was thriving in Mindanao more than that of colonial Manila when Manila was still under colonial administration of  America? We would like to see it again, see it again float, see it again survive in this geopolitical world in which we live in. Because trade is in this draft.”

“For many centuries we were in business, we were in trade. It was not illegal. … We were richer..,” he said.

He also spoke about the political economy of armed conflict. “We have been to Belfast, we want you to know. We know about political economy of armed conflict. We know also about South America or Afghanistan raising money through illegal trade. MILF is not raising money from poppies illegal drugs… we would like to inform you that,” he said.

Mastura then added, “we would like to inform you that we have also in the case of mining, for example, or resource generation from gas or petroleum we have a we take it not from the investment stockholding side but we catch it from profit side, not profit sharing but it will be what we call  production sharing agreement.” [Tomorrow: Doing business in a “Bangsamoro sub-state] (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)