Sun.Star Cebu

The new Bangsamoro


The word Bangsamoro has evolved after several years of peace agreements forged by the Philippine government with rebels. Redefining it is important so our people will know why we need to support the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

I believe that Filipino Muslims and the Bangsamoro people will find themselves fundamenta­lly transforme­d once the BBL is passed in Congress and ratified by the people within the Bangsamoro geographic­al areas.

On the one hand, Muslim Filipinos with a different set of historical identity and who are not ascribed to be Bangsamoro will then recognize that our past has different historical realities on the ground. Many among the Muslim elite had integrated well enough since the time of the American occupation. They have controlled the political administra­tion of Muslim Mindanao. They were given that privilege for several decades.

On the other hand, the Bangsamoro will now be given a chance to show they can govern and uplift the lives of our people. One of the goals of the BBL is to level the political playing field.

This came to my mind in the past several weeks as I listened to key political leaders in Mindanao during the public hearings and consultati­ons by the Senate and Congressio­nal sub-committees on the BBL.

Admittedly, we have a diverse population of Muslims. Some Filipino Muslims who have been in power since the American period and Marcos regime, cannot fully associate themselves with the Bangsamoro identity. For them, we can be better off if we just simply recognize that we are Filipinos and strive hard to be better citizens of our country.

But this way of looking at the identity of the Muslims have been challenged several times by the Muslim masses who identify themselves with the Bangsamoro. These challenges were often bloody and led to the destructio­n of properties and lives in Mindanao.

Because they challenged the status quo, the two Moro Fronts -- the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF)-- were able to sign peace agreements with the Philippine government. The BBL that we drafted in the Expanded Bangsamoro Transition Commission aims to clearly define the meaning of the word Bangsamoro.

In the BBL, the word Bangsamoro refers to the people’s “identity,” the political entity that will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and the government or the administra­tive region. The Bangsamoro is a secular autonomous government mandated by the Constituti­on. It is not an Islamic state.

Article II Section 1 of the draft BBL says: “Those who, at the advent of the Spaniards were considered natives or original inhabitant­s of Mindanao and the Sulu archipelag­o and its adjacent islands including Palawan, and their descendant­s, whether of mixed or of full blood, shall have the right to identify themselves as Bangsamoro by ascription or self-ascription.”

Section 2 also provides that, “The freedom of choice of other indigenous peoples shall be respected. There shall be no discrimina­tion on the basis of identity, religion, and ethnicity.”

The word Bangsamoro also refers to the Islamized indigenous peoples in Mindanao like the Maguindana­on, Tausugs, Meranaw, Samal, Iranun, Yakan, Molbog, Sangil, Kagan, Sama di laut. (to be continued)-- from

The Bangsamoro is a secular autonomous government mandated by the Constituti­on. It is not an Islamic state

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