By: Nash Maulana, (October 2000)
A Federal State of Bangsamoro, along with nine other states in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao is shaping up, with lawmakers bringing to popular consultations debates on federalizing the republic for a “lasting solution to separatism,” and a final option in dealing with Filipino diversity.
As this developed, a petition paper addressed to the President of the United States and US Congress, reasserting Moro independence from the Philippines, is being passed around among Mindanao Muslims in the last two weeks.
Sen. Aquilino Pimentel, Jr. said congresspersons and 18 senators will gather at the Tradehall of Cebu SM Megamall on Nov. 18, 2000 to tackle the issue of federalism with other concerned sectors – during which, the Federal Movement would also be launched.
Pimentel said Gov. Nur Misuari of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and Chairman Salamat Hashim of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front were also invited, although they had yet to confirm their attendance.
But Lihok Pideral (Federal Movement), a non-government organization spearheading the federalization proposal, has advanced the confirmed participation of Senators John Osmena, Vicente Sotto III, Miriam Defensor-Santiago, Francisco Tatad, Tesie Aquino Oreta, Robert Jaworski, Juan Flavier, Juan Ponce Enrile, Ramon Revilla, Rene Cayetano, Gregorio Honasan, Ramon Magsaysay, Rodolfo Biazon and Pimentel.
According to Pimentel, the first sitting down of lawmakers and concerned citizens and NGOs on federalism, initially considers for a discussion framework, the creation of four federal states in Luzon (Northern Luzon; Central Luzon; Southern Tagalog and Bicol); three in the Visayas (Eastern, Western and Central Visayas Federal States) and three in Mindanao (Northern; Northeastern Mindanao and Bangsamoro Federal States).
Meanwhile, legal documents supporting a written petition asserting Muslim sovereignty through a United Nation-sponsored referendum are adding meat to nearly a century of Mindanao independent movements. And still, other similar initiatives from various groups apparently offer an alternative to the MILF’s jihad al qital (armed struggle) for Moro independence.
One petition titled “Declaration of Intent and Manifestation of Direct Political Act” (DIMDPA) is now being passed around – 76 years after the 1924 Zamboanga Declaration of Rights and Purposes (ZDRP) by Muslim leaders to the United States government.
Prof. Michael Mastura, a Muslim historian, said under the ZDRP, Moro leaders petitioned the US Congress “that 50 years after independence may have been granted to the rest of the Philippines ‘a plebiscite be held in the proposed unorganized territory’ consisting of the islands of Mindanao, Sulu and the islands of Palawan – (to) decide by vote whether the proposed territory will be incorporated in the government of the island of Luzon and Visayas; remain a territory, or become independent.”
“It’s about time. Because as you may notice, the 50 years from the 1946 Independence” (as stipulated in the Jones Law) is supposed to end in 1996.
“But it was the Macapagal administration, through an Executive Order, that moved the (Philippine) independence back to 1898. However, the Aguinaldo government had already recognized the sovereignty of the Muslim nations in the south, by writing the Sultan of Sulu (in seeking for alliance against Western colonizers), Mastura argued.
Also addressed to the Organization of Islamic Conference, the DIMDPA cites as bases for a UN-sponsored referendum for Moro independence such documents as the ZDRP; the Dansalan Declaration of 1935; the Cotabato Memorial of Datus and Persons (1916); the Petition of the People of Sulu Archipelago (1921), and the Bangsamoro observer status in the OIC.
The DIMPA petition read in part: “We do affirm the intendment of these declarations for which reason, we appeal to the President of the United States and the US Congress to correct the injustice done and/or to rectify it by legitimate means such as a resolution for referendum under UN supervision.”
People behind the petition would not wish their names published for the time being and as to how many have already signed. But Mastura said the DIMDPA is a product of collective efforts by several sectors of the Muslim community, mainly the Kadatuan (Royal) Council of traditional leaders and academics.
On the other hand, there have been independent moves seeking to de-colonize Sulu and Maguindanao through affirming UN Resolutions recognizing indigenous nations.
Datu Amir Baraguir, an heir to the Maguindanao Sultanate and a serious student-advocate of Maguindanao tradition and his group of traditionalists, are currently exchanging notes with unnamed foreign counterparts to help resolve the issue of Maguindanao de-colonization through affirming UN documents recognizing the existence of indigenous nations.
Prof. Limpas Ijirani, a Tausog writer and political scientist, authors the Sulu Archipelago de-colonization Movement (Sadem) and had drafted a petition to the UN ahead of DIMDPA. It was not known, however, if any independent country was sponsoring the Sadem petition to the UN.
While the Philippines has just celebrated its centennial independence from Spain, Sulu recently celebrated its 613th Founding Anniversary from the coming of Malay Missionary Shariff Makhdum.
Maguindanao, too, would have celebrated its 355th even by reckoning its existence from the Lopez-Kudarat Treaty of 1645. The treaty defines the boundaries between Spanish-claimed territory on Islas Pilipinas and Maguindanao.
Mastura said DIMDPA petitioners were optimistic of having for a sponsor any country member of the OIC or the US, citing main provisions of the historic ZDRP.
“In the case of East Timor, Portugal sponsored their petition (for independence) to the UN,” Mastura said.
Pimentel said participants, including Mastura and Maguindanao Rep. Simeon Datumanong, to the launch of the Federal Movement were expected to share their views on federalism.
Hashim has also called for a UN-sponsored referendum among Mindanao Muslims, similar to that in East Timor, to determine whether they want to remain under the rule of the Philippine government or that they want to assert independence.
The DIMDPA has now reduced such calls to a formal written petition to the UN, Mastura said.
Mastura noted the only basis of Moro statehood is the administration of the Sultanate governments in Mindanao and Sulu, which entered into treaties with nations – among them, Spain, Britain and the Dutch East India Company.
But Baraguir said UN reaffirmation of Sulu and Maguindanao nationhood, would consequently seek to “de-moroize these former nations.” “Moroization,” he pointed out, has evolved in three stages of history – the American “moroization” through the creation of Moro Province; the Filipinization that started with President Manuel L. Quezon’s administration, and the return of “moroization” through the MNLF separatism.
Baraguir, a cousin of Mastura, sees “moroization” as an effective colonial and neo-colonial tool in systematically dismantling “the foundation of ‘natural nations’ in Mindanao and Sulu – the Sultanate – in favor of the Philippine constitutionalism structure that made up a ‘contrived nation.'”
He noted that after the Treaty of Paris, by which Spain ceded her rule over Islas Pilipinas to the United States for 200 million dollars, the US had systematically encroached on the territory of Mindanao and Sulu Sultanates (not being included in the treaty) by declaring it the MoroProvince in 1903.
Preceded by the Filipinization, the return of “moroization,” Baraguir said, emerges in the MNLF uprising, which is still being sustained by the MILF.
In both cases, he argued, the established traditional Muslim rule has been systematically isolated in a political evolution of filipinization and moroization. The first, in favor of constitutionalism, and the second, paving the way through an autonomy that is designed to fail, for a political settlement, and worse, the other could be leading to a Taliban-like Islamist rule.
Baraguir said in the first phase of “moroization,” Maguindanao began losing its identity as a nation.
Mastura and Baraguir agree on reasserting the independence of Sultanates as governing institutions of the natural nations, but not on “de-moroization.”
In a convention here last week on the Maguindanao culture and tradition, the Cordillera Peoples extended their greetings to the Maguindanao nation, through Prof. Benny Balweg, brother of slain former priest Conrado Balweg.
“Bearing in mind that the Bangsamoro People is accorded is accorded with observer status in the Organization of Islamic Conference when it agreed to include in its agenda the Question of the Muslims in the Southern Philippines in 1973, we do hereby convey our public sentiments to the Ministerial Committee of Six (now Eight) to heed the call for a referendum as the ultimate, just, peaceful and permanent solution to the Bangsamoro Problem,” the DIMDPA petition read.
It further said that the Manifesto of Muslim Independence of May 1, 1968 “has elevated the Muslim Question to the attention of the United Nations as a step toward decolonization process by adhering to the Universal Declaration that all peoples constituting a minority in a given state shall have the rights to self-determination.”