Commentary: Creation of Bangsamoro nation a Constitutional test
By Henry S. Lagasca
San Fernando City, La Union (5 August) -- The signing set for today in Kuala Lumpur of a memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain (MOA-AD) between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) will not take place.
A temporary restraining order (TRO) issued by the Supreme Court yesterday cancelled the signing and as Press Secretary Jesus Dureza said, "We have to submit to the sound discretion of the Supreme Court."
The government's move to postpone the elections in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) is to give way to an agreement for a lasting peace in Muslim regions of the country and an opportunity for everyone to "dispassionately and objectively view and examine," the draft MOA.
The proposed peace accord seeks to create a Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE) for Muslim separatist insurgents in southern Philippines wherein such territory would rise an independent Islamic homeland as their lands of birth and ancestral domain.
The concept that the BJE has the right and freedom to determine its future by separating itself from the Philippine Republic, as aptly mentioned in the MOA, is the thorniest issue that hobbled negotiations between the government and the MILF.
Dureza said that a plebiscite, as the law allows, would be the highest form of consultation that will be done as part of the whole process whether or not the country's Muslim minority be given their ancestral domain.
The other point, as stressed by the Press Secretary, is the subsequent amendment of some provisions of the Constitution.
While the government and the MILF acknowledge that the right to self-governance of the Bangsamoro people is vested exclusively in them they will still be under the Philippine Constitution, under one Philippine flag.
Taking a close look on other salient provisions of the MOA, the BJE resembles a nation-state in the modern sense with all the elements just as a completely independent country.
Reflecting on the MOA vis-ā-vis the government's effort to end nearly four decades of armed conflict there, the Bangsamoro nation-state undoubtedly will get outside help such as funds for development including armaments from the Islamic countries friendly to the MILF. And that being the case, the MILF intends to rule, singly and without interference from the "central government", referring to the government of the Republic of the Philippines.
We understand that the BJE will have a defined territory distinct from the rest of the national community; they have a definite historic homeland of their own and with a system of government with "inherent power to enter into treaties of amity and commerce with foreign nations."
We are one with our separatist Muslim brothers to claim birth lands as their ancestral domain wherein they will be able to live in their own way, in their own culture, in their own religious way and to be able to utilize their resources within the area so that they can become dynamic and productive citizens of the country.
The apparent setback, however, to realize efforts to make the MOA legally effective is the constitutional implication wherein changes in the Constitution might be needed. ARMM is a constitutional body and BJE cannot simply take the place of the autonomous region.
Dureza said that this will take a long process and "amending the Constitution is the bigger framework."
Following legal processes will bring brighter prospects in Muslim Mindanao as a Bangsamoro state within the Philippine's sovereignty.
We welcome the decision of the High Court, we hope that the "court of last resort" will finally solved the legal questions on the draft MOA and would eventually "uphold the position" of the government and lift all obstacles to ending the Muslim separatist rebellion. (PIA Region 1) [top]