Right to self-determination
In the past few weeks, I actively participated the series of public hearings of the Sub-Committee on the Bangsamoro Basic Law in the Senate. We had long hearings in Manila and in the provinces of Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi. We also went to the City of Zamboanga and heard the voices of our people and their stand on the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).
During these public hearings, I could sense the need for the Filipino people to understand the essence of the “right to self-determination of the Bangsamoro people. We need to understand this in order for us to support the passage of the BBL.
In the different provinces, municipalities, and barangays of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), the people on the ground fully support the passage of the BBL. We were warmly welcomed by our people coming from different sectors.
The highlight of the recent public hearings boiled down to the clamor of the Bangsamoro people to express their right to self determination. But what do we mean by right to self-determination?
We need to bear mind that there is no clear and precise definition as to the concept of self-determination. What we may have now are key concepts from the United Nations and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
Self determination is a principle in international law that allows the people of a state to determine the sovereignty and political status of that state “without any interference.” Moreover, the right to self determination means the right of a group of people to freely determine and control their political, economic or social-cultural destinies.
In the whole Bangsamoro peace process, we need to trust the sincerity and commitment of the Bangsamoro people
The development of the right to self-determination is in tandem with the development of government. Also, this right traces its origins as a political and constitutional principle to the democratic principles proclaimed by the American and French revolutions of 1776 and 1789 respectively. All these principles are easier said than done.
Political and fiscal autonomy requires more mature and competent leaders and informed constituents in order for the democratic process to function well. Discussing this issue also opens the fear of other people on the concept of secession. The MILF Central Committee categorically said that they are no longer fighting for independence.
There are groups who are proposing we put words in the BBL to ensure that the Bangsamoro will not secede from the country. And that the right to self-determination will be only within the context of the Philippine Republic.
We should give respect to MILF and the members of their Central Committee. It was clearly stated in the BTC draft BBL that the Bangsamoro recognizes the supremacy of the 1987 Constitution. The territory of the Bangsamoro is within the Philippine Republic. What more do other people want from the MILF?
In the whole Bangsamoro peace process, we need to trust the sincerity and commitment of the Bangsamoro people. Trust and good relationship cannot be legislated. It is a continuing process of human interaction.
Lastly, no amount of legislation can be enacted by Congress to stop the people to fight for their independence when the government is persecuting and oppressing them.