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PEACETALK: Our past, and what we were and what we are now, are older than all these constitutions

QUEZON CITY (MindaNews/05 July) — Two cases have been filed against me, along with the other members of the Government Peace Panel, and other personalities involved in the peace process. The first one is a criminal case for treason (at a time when there is no war) and inciting to sedition (for discharging my job description as a member of the government’s peace panel). The second is a certiorari petition for being involved in drafting and concluding the annexes of a peace agreement, which are alleged to contain unconstitutional provisions.

The unconstitutionality of laws is up for the Courts to decide, in this case, the Supreme Court of the Philippines. As a lawyer I subscribe to this. As a Muslim born of parents and grandparents who have subscribed to the laws or Sara’ of my people… Laws that derive from the teachings of Islam and the traditions of the Tausug, laws that arose from my culture and the traditions of yore, laws that defined the ways of my forefathers and continue to define my way … I claim the prerogative of entertaining other alternatives that are legitimate to my history, culture and traditions.

For one, I and my fellow Muslims did not see any constitution, nor were we protected by one, when our unconquered lands were ceded along with the rest of the Philippines, by the Spaniards to the Americans in that unfortunate scion of war mockery, the Treaty of Paris.

For another, no constitution came to our aid when our Sultan was compelled to sign the Bates Treaty and the Carpenter Agreement, and certainly no constitution prevented the influx of settlers into our lands.

And neither did we demand for any constitutional restrictions. For us, there could be a way to live together without being technical about constitutional provisions. But we cherished our culture, as we also continued to cherish our right to live as Muslims and to respond to our problems as Muslims… To live in a society that is as Halal as our Holy Book tell us it should be.

For this is what our forefathers have fought for in the long wars of attrition that impeded our opportunities at progress. Without those wars, we could have been like Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia now. Without the annexation that did not go through any plebiscite and were not subjected to any constitutional limitations, we could have freely affiliated with the Sultanates of Brunei and the Federation of Malaysia, and we could have gone along their way of peace and progress.

But we stayed on, in a country where we call each other brothers and sisters, where the majority marveled at our culture and prospered in our lands.

Today, we want what we have always been doing in the past, and we are willing to do this with the people who call us brothers and sisters. We want to be able to rule ourselves and chart our destiny as Muslims in the Philippines.

After we have acceded much to this country and its people, is that too much a desire? Is our desire for self rule within one sovereign country to be stifled now by a constitution that has changed several times in the past, but was never employed to ascertain our collective choice?

Our past, and what we were and what we are now, are older than all these constitutions, and have not changed at all. Not in 1935. Not in 1973. And certainly, not in 1987.

What makes you think now that it will change with the cases you have filed, which includes me as a respondent? I am just one Muslim, and there are many of us who think like me. (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Mehol K. Sadain of Jolo, Sulu is a graduate of the University of the Philippines’ College of Law, Class 1986. Sadain served as Commissioner of the Commission on Elections and was Secretary of the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos, where he served as concurrent member of the government peace panel in the negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. Atty. Sadain posted this piece on his Facebook wall on Saturday evening, July 4. MindaNews sought and was granted permission to publish this).


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