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COMMENT: IV. BEL: Roadmap and Roadblocks (7)

7th  of nine parts


Speaking to the Muslims during Harirayah celebration in Davao City last July 8, President Rodrigo Duterte talked about “reconfiguration”. In his rambling speech, he did not elaborate. However, from what he said, we might be able to figure out his idea:

“… if I succeed in convincing everybody in Mindanao, if I can convince my MILF  brothers and Nur Misuari of the MN there will be a reconfiguration of the territory … x x x x x … in fairness to Nur, we might also configure his territory of the Tausug nation …” (Bold supplied)

What did he mean by “the territory”?  Was he referring to the entire Mindanao? If so, he was only telling what was expected. Mindanao and Sulu will be reconfigured into federal states with the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) as one state should federalization become a reality.

Was he referring to the ARMM? It has been a distinct autonomous region since 1977 when President Marcos proclaimed the autonomy of 13 provinces and included cities according to the 1976 Tripoli Agreement – reduced into two regions of five provinces each in the 1977 plebiscite, finalized into the ARMM in the 1989 and 2001 plebiscites.

What did he mean by in fairness to Nur, we might also configure his territory of the Tausug nation …”? Create Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-tawi into a region for Misuari?

Whatever he really meant, he gave a clue to the puzzle. 

Misuari, MILF and the Lanao-Maguindanao Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) factions are like oil and water that will not mix. Let the 1996 Final Peace Agreement (FPA) be the enabling law for the Basilan-Sulu-Tawi-Tawi Autonomy where Misuari’s leadership is unopposed – naming it as it suits Misuari. Let the CAB-FPA-R.A. (Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro-Final Peace Agreement-Republic Act) No. 9054 convergent Bangsamoro Enabling Law (BEL) be the enabling law of the Lanao-Maguindanao Autonomy named Bangsamoro. Passing separate organic acts might be easier for the Congress.

Reconfiguring the ARMM can easily be done as part of the federalization process. But both the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF)-Misuari want the Bangsamoro basic law passed before the shift to the federal system which will not happen before 2019, the projected time for the plebiscite on the anticipated federal constitution. And, federalization is still a long shot that can miss the mark.

Can “configuration of a Misuari territory” or the creation of two autonomous regions out of the ARMM be done without violating the 1987 Constitution and the 1976 Tripoli Agreement?

President Marcos created two regional autonomous governments (RAG) – RAG IX and RAG XII – he reasoned, according to the will the people expressed in the 1977 plebiscite. In that plebiscite, South Cotabato, Davao del Sur and Palawan opted out of the proposed 13-province autonomy. The ten other provinces preferred to maintain the existing Region IX and Region XII set up. Of course, the plebiscite result was rigged.

The one-region ARMM was established by President Corazon C. Aquino pursuant to Article X, Sections 1, 15 to 21 of the 1987 Constitution in recognition of the 1976 Tripoli Agreement, said the Peace Commission under President Corazon C. Aquino. President Marcos justified the two-region Muslim autonomy as being the will of the people and in accordance with Paragraph 16 of the Tripoli Agreement.

Can Duterte make good his Harirayah proposition — “convince my MILF brothers and Nur Misuari of the MN” then hold a referendum to validate his proposition and make it constitutional? Reconfiguration, if approved by the people, will be constitutional and in accordance with Paragraph 16 of the Tripoli Agreement.

A big BUT even if done: Will they who cannot unite accept their separation?

Tomorrow: The Only Option


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