A Boholano’s View by Jose “Pepe” Abueva
The Bohol Chronicle
October 14, 2012
Commentary by Jose V. Abueva
“Bangsamoro” a great historic achievement. Recognition of Bangsamoro as a united Muslim ethno-linguistic-cultural community and a distinctive political entity is a great historic achievement. It recognizes the Moro self-identity and the unity of Muslim Filipinos who otherwise also belong to various ethnic communities, such as the Maranaos, Maguindanaos, Tausugs, etc. and compete with, and even fight, each other. By self-ascription, non-Muslim lumad or indigenous peoples in contiguous areas in ARRM will also form part of Bangsamoro and are to be guaranteed their ancestral land and their rights as indigenous peoples.
Bangsamoro is to be a truly inclusive community with an autonomous regional government under our Republic of the Philippines and our 1987 Constitution. The final establishment of Bangsamoro before 2016, the end of the term of President Aquino III, will signal the end of the subordination of, and discrimination against, our Muslim brothers and sisters under Spanish and American colonial rule. And under the Republic of the Philippines and its policy of “national assimilation” pursued by a national government dominated by a Christian majority. The grand plan is to establish Bangsamoro by an organic act of Congress, not by amending the Constitution unless it becomes necessary.
For centuries “Moro” was a label of rejection and discrimination. Then the name “Muslim” was substituted for “Moro” in an act of accommodation, thus establishing the “Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao.” Nur Misuari in 1971 led the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in a bloody Moro rebellion that persuaded President Cory Aquino and the framers of the 1987 Constitution to authorize the establishment of ARRM. The MNLF and President Fidel Ramos signed a peace agreement in 1996 with the mediation of Indonesia.
But the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) of Salamat Hashim and his successors resumed the Moro rebellion that has now caused some 150,000 casualties and many more people displaced in Mindanao since it started in 1971. Peace talks with the mediation of Malaysia since President Arroyo’s time has led President Aquino III finally to agree to the establishment of Bangsamoro to replace the ARRM.
The reality is that our Republic is made up of various “bangsa.” In fact, the Filipino nation is made up of several “bangsa”—each one a people forming distinctive ethno-linguistic-cultural communities and economic and social structures, who have their own identities. They are proud of their regional identity as well as being Filipino and citizens of our Republic. Their identity is often revealed in their accents. This is why we often ask each other: “Taga saan kayo?” in meeting with strangers for the first time.
Following the Bangsamoro identity, we can actually say that the Philippines has a Bangsa-Iloco, a Bangsa-Cordillera, a Bangsa-Tagalo, a Bangsa-Bikol, a Bangsa-Bisaya, a Bangsa-Ilongo, a Bangsa-Waray, and so on. These ethno-linguistic-cultural communities happen to coincide with some of our existing administrative regions in our highly centralized Unitary System.
In Mindanao which is our second largest island and with the most numerous migrants from all over the country, many people speak the languages of their origin. They are also learning to speak our Tagalog-based Filipinoas our emerging national language. But others speak their indigenous languages like Chabacano in the Zamboangas, the Bangsamoro languages and the languages of the lumad. In Metro Manila or Greater Manila Tagalog-based Filipino is the lingua franca, as well as English.
What is good for the Moros is good for all other Filipinos! The proposed “Bangsamoro” is a most welcome model for the fundamental reform of our highly centralized Unitary System under which our various administrative regions of differing ethno-linguistic-cultural communities gravely suffer from the lack of powers, authority, and resources as poor dependents of the National Government in “Imperial Manila.” In genuinely autonomous regions, like Bangsamoro is to become, our regional and local governments will be able to develop their natural resources, raise local revenues, and empower their people to participate in democratic governance and development. We shall liberate ourselves from the shackles of our dysfunctional centralization.
The Bangsamoro model is good for all our “bangsa.” So why not maximize and optimize the powers, functions, and resources of the existing administrative regions under the Local Government Code of 1991 and Article X of the Constitution, in line with the proposed Bangsamoro, until a constitutional amendment can be made creating additional autonomous regions?
The President’s new attitude toward institutional reform. President P-Noy’s new attitude as a transforming leader will elicit growing approval and support from our people. He will be perceived to go beyond his campaign reform slogan: “Kapag walang corrupt walang mahirap! And his inaugural and first SONA campaign of “daang matuwid” and “walang wang wang.”
We need more “transforming leaders” for a modernizing polity, not “transactional leaders” who perpetuate our patronage system, obsolete institutions, and under-development. The President and our leaders in Congress and our local governments, business, civil society, and the media should support the reviving campaign for regional and local autonomy in transition to federalism. And hopefully Charter change toward a parliamentary government as well.
From the early 1990s the federalist movement was initiated in Mindanao and spread nationwide by Kusog Mindanao and the Citizens’ Movement for a Federal Philippines, led by Rey Teves and Lito Lorenzana, followed by Senator Nene Pimentel with his federalism bill. Then Dante Jimenez led the Bicol Regional Autonomy Movement. With our federalist and parliamentary primers that I helped to draft, we campaigned vigorously nationwide. But we were frustrated by the people’s resistance to Charter change under President Arroyo. She and Speaker de Venecia sponsored the campaign for parliamentary government without the support of the Senate. Now, the NGO Coalition for a Citizens’ Constitution is joining us in supporting “Charter change and Federalism.”
The new national political party, Centrist Democratic Party of the Philippines: Partido ng Tunay na Demokrasya is promoting federalism and parliamentary government as fundamental reforms and goals. With former Under-Secretary of Local Government Lito Lorenzana as chairman and Representative Rufus Rodriguez (Cagayan de Oro) as president, the CDP is conducting a nationwide campaign and regional leadership seminars on Centrist Democracy, federalism and parliamentarism, as well as political party reform.
Mabuhay ang Bangsamoro! Mabuhay ang lahat nating mga bangsang Pilipino! Mabuhay ang Republika ng Pilipinas!