Will the new president speak for Muslim Mindanao?

After the historic first automated elections last May 10, Senator Benigno Aquino III is poised to take the presidency as the 15th President of the Republic of the Philippines.

The Philippine Council for Islam and Democracy (www.pcid.org.ph) congratulates Senator “Noynoy” on his resounding landslide victory. While the race for the vice presidential post and some senatorial slots have yet to be settled, PCID offers its congratulations to all newly-elected officials of the Republic. The voice of the Filipino has been heard.

We are not sure though if the voice of the Muslims in this country were heard.

While some attempted to inject a genuine discourse on the important issues, the issues of Muslim Mindanao (surprise, surprise) were largely relegated to the margins.

We hope that the electoral victors will not ignore the issues of our Muslim brothers and sisters that were basically ignored during the campaign. We hope that President Noynoy becomes, not just a President of the Christian majority, but also a President for Muslim Mindanao.

During the campaign PCID issued a Bangsamoro/Muslim Mindanao Agenda for the next President of the Republic. We sent this document to all the presidentiables. Sadly, when we organized a presidential forum to discuss this agenda only Sen. Loren Legarda, Sen. Richard Gordon and Engr. Bayani Fernando attended.

Which is why we are re-issuing the agenda for the benefit of President-in-waiting Noynoy Aquino. The agenda, summarized below, is divided into short and medium to long-term:

1. Demilitarize ARMM and strengthen the National Police Force.
2. Review cases of Muslims arrested under the Human Security Act and free the innocents.
3. Give the Muslims significant representation and participation in government, per the 1996 Final Peace Agreement.
4. Create the Shari’ah Appellate Court.
5. Immediately put into place a catch-up budget for conflict-affected areas in Mindanao.
6. Provide reconstruction and rehabilitation assistance to the IDPs.
7. Approve the executive order setting up the Funds for Assistance to Madrasah Education (F.A.M.E.) to strengthen Madrasah education.
8. Support Islamic Studies Institutes.
9. Ensure autonomy for institutions of higher learning.
Medium-Term to Long-Term
1. Put in place a holistic and inclusive peace process.
2. Rethink government strategy in relation to the peace talks.
3. Uphold the primacy of peace, not military objectives.
4. Ensure the full implementation of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement.
5. Strengthen the rule of law.
6. Reform the electoral process.
7. Ensure genuine fiscal autonomy for ARMM.
8. Capacitate the ARMM-Regional Government.
9. Pass legislations pertaining to anti-discrimination against any cultural, religious or other groups; equality of opportunities in education, economic pursuits, and employment; certification of Halal food and other products.
10. Should there be constitutional change, support amendments to the charter that would be beneficial to Muslims and that would address issues on ancestral domains.
Despite many problems in the automated elections, we also congratulate the teachers and election workers who persevered to ensure that the first automated national elections of the nation are “fairly successful.”
While PCID agrees that it is important to make accountable those responsible for the glitches that caused the nation undue anxiety, we are more interested in learning the lessons of this automated election in preparation for the 2011 ARMM regional elections.
We hope that the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) will provide ample time for preparation to avoid the problems encountered in this national election.
We likewise commend Senator Manny Villar for his act of statesmanship in conceding the electoral contest a day after the elections. We urge all candidates, national or local, to do the same to ensure peaceful transitions in our government.
Finally, PCID lauds Muslim teachers, volunteers, civil society members, the Ulama and the Aleemat for their active participation in ensuring the success of this election.
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