INSIDER MEDIATORS: This is about self determination, not determination by others

(Statement of the Insider Mediators, read at the press conference of civil society organizations at the Dapitan Room of EDSA Shangrila Hotel on 17 July 2018. Insider Mediators is a platform for the Bangsamoro from various sectors who try to work within their respective organizations to achieve a wider consensus on major Moro issues such as the Bangsamoro Basic Law, federalism and Marawi rehabilitation).

As the Bicameral Conference Committee is expected to finalize today (July 17, 2018) the version of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), we the Insider Mediatorsearnestly appeal to all the 28 Conferees to recall again historical and legal truths whose appreciation, or the lack of it, would ultimately make or unmake the future of the Bangsamoro people as well as the other peoples of Mindanao.

The Bangsamoro have exercised sovereignty in their ancestral domain until American colonization slowly diminished such sovereignty and Filipino migration eventually made them minorities in their homeland. All these past five centuries, resistance to colonialism and neo-colonialism has been the unenviable preoccupation of every generation from the advent of the Spaniards in 1578, Americans in the early 1900s, Japanese in 1945, and succeeding governments of the Philippine Republic from 1946 up to the present.

We, and our leaders both in the past and present, all wish for a pacific settlement of the long-standing armed conflict between the Philippine state and the Bangsamoros. We have believed in the virtue of negotiation as the most civilized form of settling conflicts, and have reposed our trust and hope that the peace process and its resultant agreements would bind parties to the conflict and, more importantly, would be faithfully complied with.

For us, the BBL, as submitted by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission to the Congress of the Philippines, is the faithful translation of the 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) and other past agreements, and is the restoration, fulfillment and safeguard of our peoples’ rights and welfare. Hence, this is the first appeal we make to the Conferees: respect all signed agreements by passing a law that is not counter to the letter and spirit, text and context of the CAB and past agreements.

Specifically, we appeal that the following provisions be revisited again before our fate is finally sealed, to wit;

  1. Retain and adhere to the principles of right to self-determination, parity of esteem and asymmetric relationship;
  2. Retain the provision on periodic plebiscite;
  3. Bangsamoro waters should be 22.224 km; and
  4. Management of inland waters and the Bangsamoro waters must be exercised by the Bangsamoro.

The BBL must usher in a new framework of relationship that will address the legitimate grievances of the Bangsamoro to chart their political future by setting their own government consistent with their way of life, but keeping the bond of statehood with the Philippine central government through clearly delineated powers and a duly recognized unique character (asymmetry) from the rest of the regions.

Consistent with the above principles, the results of the 2001 plebiscite must be respected, wherein the six municipalities of Lanao del Norte and the 39 barangays of North Cotabato voted for their inclusion in the ARMM but were excluded because of the unjust “double-majority standard,” which is again being repeated in the diluted BBL. The delineation of the Bangsamoro in these areas must be by simple majority in the municipality and barangay levels only, respectively. This is the most just and democratic process for the Bangsamoro to preserve their territorial identity. They must not be denied of periodic plebiscite since it is their peaceful recourse to join their fellow Bangsamoros separated from them because of state-sponsored gerrymandering.

On the matter of the Bangsamoro Waters, this regional territory of the Bangsamoro must be retained at 22.224 km from the coastline towards the sea. ARMM already has enacted a regional law for it. It is also agreed under the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB).

Similarly, it is also agreed in the CAB that inland waters must belong to the exclusive powers of the Bangsamoro. All management of inland waters must be done by the Bangsamoro government, without distinction whether it be a source of energy or not.

This is about self determination and should never be the determination of those who have committed injustices against us much less by those who have nothing but ill will and prejudice against us.