Student Forum on Updates, Issues, and Concerns on the Bangsamoro Basic Law

Minority Care International Students’ Associations (MCISA) hosted a weekly students’ study forum about the BBL to apprise the students on the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) on May 13, 2016. Mohagher Iqbal, the Chairperson of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s (MLIF) Peace Panel, gave updates, talked about issues and concerns, and answered questions about the MLIF perspective on the Bangsamoro Basic Law. The discussion was centered on the BBL and the MILF’s next step toward the BBL. Iqbal, along with the Minority Care International’s Dr. Aland Mizell, and Dr. Norodin Salam of the Director of the Peace Center at the Cotabato City State Polytechnic College in Mindanao, Philippines and the Dean of its College of Business and Public Administration headed the event. Students from different universities, such as Ateneo De Davao (ADDU), the University of Mindanao (UM), the University of South Eastern Philippines (USEP), the University of Immaculate Conception (UIC), Holy Cross of Davao College, Rizal Memorial College, and several others attended the event. The issues discussed were about the ongoing process for peace in Mindanao specifically in the Bangsamoro region, Iqbal’s view on the Mamasapano incident, the President Elect Rodrigo Duterte’s stand on the BBL, and the latest progress of the MILF in achieving peace. In terms of Iqbal’s views on the Mamasapano incident, he believes it was set up by the Philippine government to make Muslims look bad; he thinks they were the victims. The Mamasapano incident was not the only reason that could cause the Congress not to pass the BBL, but it is one of the reasons because Filipino people could lose trust. He also thinks the people who do not agree with peace gave money and lobbied against the BBL.

Iqbal said the MILF is ready to partner with incoming President Rodrigo Duterte and his administration. Chairperson of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s Peace Panel Iqbal said to the students that President Elect Rodrigo Duterte has a strong mandate to achieve the peace process. Because Duterte is from Mindanao, he understands better than anyone else how the Moro people are marginalized minorities, what the people of Mindanao went through, and how important it is to correct the historical injustices. Iqbal also mentioned that President Elect Duterte ran Davao City for two decades without having any major problems with the Muslims. Even in his campaign tour, Duterte told the crowd his grandmother was a Maranao, and he has grandchildren who are Tausug. He said that they remain highly hopeful for and confident of peace and justice in Mindanao. When questioned if President Elect will support BBL, Iqbal answered they have not officially talked to President Elect Rodrigo Duterte, and they are looking forward to partnering with his administration, but he also mentioned that Duterte defended the BBL during the election campaign; that is why he got more votes than any other candidate and the majority support of our people. When a social worker student, Joy Bayonon, asked questions about whether Mr. Duterte advocated having a federal system of government instead of just an autonomous region for the Muslims, Iqbal answered that they want to change the system, and that federalism serves the Bangsamoro’s best interest and aspiration for genuine self-rule in the homeland through the implementation of the CAB. He also said that the federal system of government will give internal self-determination and unite groups in a federalized association for the greater good of the Philippine country.

As of now the peace process with the MILF is on the implementation phase, which includes the passage of Bangsamor Basic Law. Under the FAB and CAB, the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law will pave the way for the establishment of the Bangsamorp, the new Autonomous political entity that would replace the ARMM. However, Congress under the Aquino administration failed to pass the BBL. Without this Law, the ARMM continues and, in fact, elected its new set of officials on May 9, 2016. When questioned by the Mindanao Times Editor–in-Chief, Amalia B. Cabusao, about what Iqbal thinks of the plan of the President Elect Duterte’s administration to hold a constitutional convention and if this will affect the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro and the BBL proposal, Iqbal said it depends on the people, the method he will use, and who will be on the team. If he puts those on the team who understand the peace process and the BBL well, then it may not have any problem, but otherwise it will take time and might have a negative effect on the peace process.

As soon as President Elect Rodrigo Duterte takes his oath in office on June 30, 2016, as the 16th President of the Republic of the Philippines, he will be the first ever Mindanowan to make it to the highest post of the land. The Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) will again be elevated to the center stage of his administration because there is great hope among the Muslims and non-Muslims people who live in Mindanao regarding Duterte. However, it is going to be very complicated, and it is not going to be easy according to what the President Elect thinks, because Duterte would like to include Nur Misuari of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in the peace process, and the MILF thinks that Nur Misurari already had his chance and now is their turn. Duterte is also opposed to the establishment of an autonomous police force and armed forces for the Bangsamore Autonomous Region, and he believe that under the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region different Muslim groups would not get along well under just one Bangsamoro Autonomous Region. Further, he proposes a federal state for the Bangsamoro on the main Island of Mindanao and another federal state for the Muslim tribes on the Islands. We are not sure whether is going to work or not, but one thing is certain--that it will be very difficult and I am not 6 years enough for Duterte to solve the peace and order in the Mindanao. Because there is no trust between the Philippines government and Muslims, achieving peace without trust would be almost impossible. The Mamasapano incident demonstrates how the Philippine government talks peace with the MILF, but at the same times does not trust them as a partner in Mindanao. It also shows a lack of concern about Manila politicians finding a solution to the conflict in Mindanao. With or without the BBL, historical injustices in the Bangsamoro, including serious human rights violations and impunity, must be addressed to provide conditions for peace in Mindanao.

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