Monday, January 31, 2011

Full, delegated sovereignty & people's justice system for Muslim Mindanao


Full but delegated sovereignty & people’s justice system in Moroland

If I were to decide what peace pact should be done in Mindanao, I will insist that the Muslims be granted full but delegated sovereignty over their territories and its justice system should be what I could call as “people’s justice system.”

By a legislative fiat, or an act of the Congress, this can be done without going against the principles of the present Constitution. This proposal will answer the long story of blindness to pay for the sins committed for at least four centuries and give recognition and respect to the humanity and religion of the Moros who have long deserved to be heard by the deafness in us Christians.

These sins were constituted in part by the tens of thousands of natives killed by the Spanish conquistadores who used Visayas and Luzon natives to invade them. These sins were constituted in part by other tens of thousands of Moros killed by the American occupation forces that also used Visayas and Luzon natives as part of their infantries in their bid to subjugate the Datus and their men. Furthermore, these sins were constituted in part by the hundreds of thousands of deaths caused by the invasion by the national government when Marcos sent in soldiers from Visayas and Luzon to stop the call for freedom of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) led by Nur Misuari.

These types of sins were repeated when then President Joseph Estrada staged all-out war against Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) that led to the recovery of Camp Busra. Tens of thousands were killed in this particular official action of the national government. These deaths were aggravated by the Japanese occupation forces during World War II.

Past is past and those lives lost can never be resurrected to life once more. We can never repay for these sins but we can repent and beg for forgiveness from the Moros and hope they will forgive us Christians. But giving them full but delegated sovereignty whereby they can determine their own fate with only the Constitution as the limitation will reinforce the faith in the virtue of forgiving.

Sins of the past were also constituted by other acts. The American colonial government in the 1930s sent in Christians from Visayas and Luzon to occupy lands in Mindanao, Palawan and Sulu through homestead patents of 24 hectares each. After independence was granted by the USA on July 4, 1946, the national government again sent in Christian settlers from the Visayas and Luzon, massively, during the presidency of Magsaysay by means of luring them out of Hukbalahap rebellion with homestead patents of 12 hectares each.

As a result, the Moros and the indigenous people lost substantial part of their ancestral domains to waves of migration of Christians from the Visayas and Luzon. Yes, we can no longer give back the lands they lost to Christian Filipinos, but the national government can always deliver an official statement of apology through the Congress of the Philippines to be reiterated in flag-ceremonies in all schools in Mindanao, particularly in lands now belonging to Christian settlers.

As men of hearts, too, the Moro people will embrace the virtue of giving in order to make life worth living. And I believe that if the national government will pass a law to give reparation payments for all the lands lost to Christian settlers, the Moro brothers will always be ready to embrace us Christians as their brothers in blood and brothers in need.

And giving them full but delegated sovereignty over what remained of their territories will always be a welcome road to peace. And if this is a road to peace, we all must take that path. As Mahatma Gandhi said, “There is no road to peace. Peace is the path.” Along with these enumerated and irreversible sins of the past, the national government dominated by Christian politicians and the Christian settlers exhibited discriminatory acts and behaviors embodied in the laws, acts in the actual implementation of laws, policies and rules that the benefits given just trickle down to the Muslims, acts and discriminatory stereotypes of belittling dignity when Moro people come passing by, and other acts of bias that are revolting to conscience. Yes, we Christians have never thought: “What if we Christians were born Muslims and the Moros were born Christians?”

These deeply-rooted biases are the general explanation why you can hear extremist Abu Sayyaf beheading Christian marines whenever they would have the opportunity. These are the reasons why you can hear Christian hostages also got their heads falling on the ground, too. These are the reasons why you can hear brutalities done by them whenever they would have opportunities. We condemn these acts because they are truly revolting. But have we Christians ever condemned Christians doing the same to Moros?

Nevertheless, if we compare these brutalities done by the Moros to the centuries of madness that had bedeviled them we can readily see that the former pales too far in comparison to the latter. In the present, we hear full details of brutalities brought forth by the high-technology communication facilities. But it is very reasonable to conclude also that the brutalities of the past could have been worse had they been reported.

Yes, it is very sure that the Spanish officers and their soldiers composed mainly of Christian Filipinos must have committed detestable and despicable acts against the fighters and residents of Lanao, Cotabato and Sulu archipelago. Yes, I also believe that the American soldiers must have also committed acts that are revolting to conscience when they invaded Mindanao and Sulu. Remember that the .45 pistol was invented because of the “juramentados” of the Datus, when kris swords even cut into uselessness the rifles the Yankees used.

Yes, I also believe in the stories of Ilaga (a militia of Marcos composed mainly of my fellow Ilonggo settlers in Mindanao) eating the ears or whatever flesh of their Muslim captives in the 1970s. Can we Christians now stand up and have an uncommon bravery to ask for forgiveness although we see our marines beheaded and pastors or priest brutally killed and although it is almost impossible for them to forgive us?

Yes, I believe there is such a thing as love that springs eternal for one who knows how to repent and ask for forgiveness. And if this full but delegated sovereignty is given the Muslims in the South, the act of great peace will open the door.

The full but delegated sovereignty

The full but delegated sovereignty I am proposing to give to the Muslims is one where the people of the Bangsamoro land will have full discretions of what they would do with respect to all aspects of governance, civil and political rights, rights to explore and develop and utilize the national wealth and other forms of natural resources, rights to impose and collect taxes, rights to have own police forces, rights to education curricula, and almost all other rights.

An organic act for Bangsamoro may be passed by the Congress to give it the right to pass its own laws and for it to be exempt from the application of the laws supposed to be for the entire Philippines with only the Philippine Constitution as the limit. Thus, with this organic act it can now have the power to create provinces, towns, cities and barangays and it shall be governed by a Governor General they themselves choose. It can supervise its own elections through the delegated power form the Commission on Elections. It can have its own judicial governor under the delegated powers from the Supreme Court. It can determine its taxation and customs schemes with only the Constitution as the limitations. It can do almost endless acts with only the Constitution as the limitation.

In terms of military, the national government will still be the one that will provide them external defenses against foreign invaders and terrorists because the Constitution wills that there will only be one armed force in the Philippines. Now, for every income the Bangsamoro will get from taxes, fees, customs and utilization of the national wealth and other natural resources, it will be shared with the national government on the proportion acceptable to both parties. Of course, the Moros shall retain the right to vote for president, vice-president and senators in national elections and will still retain the right to send their own district congressmen to fight for their welfare in the national government.

People’s justice system

Since it is not repugnant to the Constitution, I will put in place a justice system where the present courts, including the Shari’ah courts, shall be peopled by the representatives chosen by raffle from the Muslim people themselves. These people shall form as a group of laymen who will adjudge who are telling the truth and who are not in all cases. The judges in these courts, including Shari’ah courts, shall perform the job of applying the laws on the truth found by the laymen-jurors.

To ensure that the non-royal blooded Moros have fair fighting chance in every criminal complaint to be determined to be brought to court for trial or not, the fiscal’s or the Ombudsman’s job of saying who should be tried in court shall also be given to the representatives chosen from Muslim voters.

Each group of those picked to perform the duty of saying who should be charged in court in every Muslim province shall serve for a term of six months and their faces and names shall be hidden from the Moro communities so as to ensure their independence of deciding who should be charged in court and who should be spared.

Recommendation to MILF panel

The proposition I state here is being earnestly recommended to the MILF panel headed by Mohaqher Iqbal. I strongly believe that if I am given the full opportunity to explain this idea to the MILF panel, I believe I can convince the Moro people to embrace this as their main talking point when the peace negotiation begins on February 9, 2011 in Malaysia.

I also believe that the Filipino Christians will embrace this idea as their official act of repentance for the past sins, recognition of the Moro blood and lands, and respect for the way they worship. When this is accepted, I can see the whole land singing the song, “There is not a Christian Filipino. There is not a Muslim Filipino. There is not an indigenous Filipino. There is one Filipino.”