‘Political struggle of the Bangsamoro could move forward through Federalism’: Advocate says

The political struggle of the Bangsamoro people, aimed to achieve their right to self-determination, could still move forward through a federal set up of government in the country, a human rights lawyer and advocate of federalism said.

Lawyer Mary Ann Arnado who is part of the All Moro Convention (AMC), a group that drafted the Bangsamoro State Constitution, said the idea of coming up the proposed charter is to help advance the political struggle of the Bangsamoro people.

Arnado was a  resource person in a panel session entitled “The Bangsamoro Organic Law and Federalism: How can these new forms of governance strengthen human rights and peacebuilding in the Bangsamoro region?” in the second day of 5th International Conference on Justice, Peace and Conflict in Southeast Asia held at Marco Polo Hotel at Pasig City on October 15-17, 2018.

She said, “While we have the organic law deliberated in Congress, we are also aware it has been subjected to so many amendments, so many substitution provisions in the guise of constitutionality.”

The Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) which was drafted by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) and passed by the Philippine Congress last August was diluted, according to her.

Arnado pointed out that “Coming up with a basic law that is faithful and compliant to the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) could not be realized because it was always confronted with the issue of constitutionality.”

“Basically it’s the same political arrangement that was developed in the CAB, but the intent of the framers is to have a Bangsamoro state that will be under the federal set-up,” she conveyed.

Arnado added that the AMC, comprised of peace advocates, Moro intellectuals, lawyers, former members of the peace panel, and negotiators, have decided to come together to informally engage the Federalism Project by coming up with a Bangsamoro State Constitution.

“The Constitutional Commission has come up with a draft but it was more on the regionalization. The old Region 10 simply becomes one state. The other regions also becomes one state,” she said.

“The draft Bangsamoro State Constitution was already presented to President Duterte in the last Eidul Fit’r celebration,” the presenter said.

The CAB, a peace deal signed by the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in 2014, provides the passage of BBL by Philippine Congress. 

The BBL, the legal translation of the peace agreement, seeks to establish a Bangsamoro autonomous political entity with more fiscal and political powers.

The measure, known as Republic Act 11054 or the Organic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao has been popularized as Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL).

“In the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law, in every page there is a question. Is this constitutional? Is this constitutional? They question on the subtext of constitutionality,” Arnado lamented.

The Duterte Administration is pushing for the charter change (cha-cha) to shift the current unitary system of government into federal set up.

“In the AMC draft, we just put everything that we want for the Bangsamoro state to govern effectively,” she said unlike in the crafting  the BOL whose provisions were limited because of the issue of constitutionality. Arnado also clarified that the AMC is not against BOL.

She said, “We should not stop with the BOL itself, we should continue this process forward and if there is an operation for cha-cha for federalism project, we should push further the Bangsamoro assertion for self-determination.”

Arnado is optimistic that the efforts of lawmakers to shift the form of governance to federalism will continue despite being busy in the upcoming of 2019 national and local elections.

More than two hundred peace workers, human rights activists and researchers from Southeast Asian states pooled in the said event to discuss the status of human rights, peace and conflict in the region.

The panel discussion was moderated by Dr. Ayesah Uy Abubakar, a senior lecturer of Universiti Malaysia Sabah and member of the Southeast Asian Human Rights Network, the organizer of the event.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), one of the agencies of the UN that has been providing assistance to the conflict-affected areas in Mindanao, supported the conference.