Moro Homeland and Identity

WE can only but hail Malacanang’s announcement last week (February 25) of the appointment of a complete 15-man Transition Commission as a move that fast-tracks the implementation of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB), in view and inspite of the increasing delay in the completion of the four annexes necessary to make FAB executory. The appointments are another sign that the Philippine government – as well as the Moro Islamic Liberation Front as its newfound partner in the search for the peaceful settlement of the Mindanao conflict – are strongly committed to an announced timetable.

The Transcom has three functions. Primary is to draft the Bangsamoro Basic Law which will translate into a Congressional bill that when approved will supplant the 20-year old Autonomous Region in Muslim MNindanao with a new autonomous government. Second is to push for any amendment of the Constitution if later on found necessary to institutionalize a truer Bangsamoro autonomy. Third is to coordinate socio-economic programs in the Moro territory especially during the transition between the abolition of the ARMM and the inauguration of a “New Bangsamoro Political Entity”.

There could be the usual criticisms coming soon against some of the appointees, but if Malacanang and MILF vetted well the nominees, they all should be equal to the challenges to their quite hard and highly charged tasks. As they say, the devil is in the details (of the envisioned Bangsamoro Basic Law). To not waste precious time, while waiting for the annexes’ completion they can start laying the groundwork for the drafting of the Basic Law, such as the mechanics for the indispensable sectoral or stakeholders consultations and reviewing alternative autonomy systems.

By FAB’s definition of who is the Bangsamoro, staking and harmonizing cultural and tribal sentiments and aspirations in one doable Basic Law will be a feat of wisdom, courage and justice. Mindanao is an enigmatic nation is nations, as the ongoing, spiraling stand-off in Sabah between the Sultanate of Sulu and Malaysia brings to a dangerous, slippery fore.

Parenthetically, if the FAB is all about recognizing and restoring Moro historical and cultural identity and justice, the crisis in Sabah should be no less a major concern to the general peace settlement, for all the now-flying threats and rethorics. After all, he Sulu sultanate or its datus led the centuries of resistance against foreign domination of Mindanao, an epic struggle that in a very real and historical sense defines who is the Bangsamoro man or woman today, from the hills of Lahad Datu to the rivers of Liguasan Marsh. Time has considerably diminished the means of the sultanate, but to the people of Sulu archipelago, (royal and common) blood will always be thicker than water. The Bangsamoro may be a nation of many bloods but only one homeland: Mindanao and Sulu – and by the latter’s well-documented claim, Sabah, too, where some 800,000 of them live today. No homeland, no identity. (Peace Advocates Zamboanga)

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