Thursday, April 17, 2014

Being Christian to Non-Christians in Bangsamoro Land


To Catholics and other believers of Jesus Christ, it is Holy Week and Christianity is in the forefront.  It is a reminder that someone died to benefit others and that a new life resurrected to bring hope, justice, peace, and development to mankind.

To be relevant, I thought of writing about Christian values as applied to non-Christians in the Philippines.  Over decades if not centuries, a group of Filipinos who have resisted foreign invaders have been fighting a Holy War against another Christianized group.  Their cry was Justice, Peace, and Development.  Many sacrificed their lives so that future generations would heed this cry for a better tomorrow.

Holy Week and Easter reminds Christians of their responsibility to adhere to Social Doctrines embedded in everyone’s hearts and minds – JUSTICE, PEACE and DEVELOPMENT.

I am glad to hear that, finally, a Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) has been drafted and submitted to the President.  Once it passes legal and constitutional scrutiny by the President’s legal advisers and by Congress, it could become law either by the end of this year or by early next year.

A Commission of 15 people created by Executive order earlier drafted the proposed law.  It was composed of 8 and 7 representatives from the MILF and the Philippine Government, respectively.  Two of the fifteen belong to the Indigenous People (IP) or Indigenous Cultural Communities (ICC). 

The IPs and the ICCs are also called the Lumad (a Cebuano term for Indigenous People). The Lumads who are located in many parts of Mindanao include, but are not limited to, the T’boli (Sultan Kudarat); B’laan (Cotabato); Tiruray (Maguindanao); Manobo (Bukidnon); Subanon (Zamboanga); and Bagobo (Davao/Agusan).

Within the Bangsamoro Land, it was reported that “there are more than 100,000 Lumads who lay claim to ancestral domain that spans 300,000 hectares of land and coastal waters within 12 municipalities of Maguindanao and parts of neighboring Sultan Kudarat province.”

Many are pinning hopes that the peace agreement (CAB) and the eventual Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) would finally bring justice, peace, and development to a people and areas devastated by war, injustices, and poverty.

Facing representatives of a government ruled by the Christian majority led by PNoy, the Muslim minority represented by the MILF indeed competently negotiated a good agreement that benefit the Muslims in general.  Desirous for peace, tired of the effects of war, and negotiating in good faith, we hope to see a law that could withstand legal and constitutional scrutiny.

Admittedly, the non-Christian Muslims must benefit from a peace agreement that they and their forefathers fought and died for.  I assume that they are also sharing it with other minorities who live since time immemorial in areas equally devastated by war, injustices, and poverty.

I am referring to the Lumads.  Constitutionally, they are given recognition and semblance of protection:

1.             Article II, Section 22. The State recognizes and promotes the rights of indigenous cultural communities within the framework of national unity and development;
2.             Article XII, Section 5. The State, subject to the provisions of this Constitution and national development policies and programs, shall protect the rights of indigenous cultural communities to their ancestral lands to ensure their economic, social, and cultural well-being;
3.             Article XIII, Section 6. The State shall apply the principles of agrarian reform or stewardship, whenever applicable in accordance with law, in the disposition or utilization of other natural resources, including lands of the public domain under lease or concession suitable to agriculture, subject to prior rights, homestead rights of small settlers, and the rights of indigenous communities to their ancestral lands. The State may resettle landless farmers and farmworkers in its own agricultural estates which shall be distributed to them in the manner provided by law;
4.             Article XIV, Section 17. The State shall recognize, respect, and protect the rights of indigenous cultural communities to preserve and develop their cultures, traditions, and institutions. It shall consider these rights in the formulation of national plans and policies; and
5.             Article XVI, Section 12. The Congress may create a consultative body to advise the President on policies affecting indigenous cultural communities, the majority of the members of which shall come from such communities.

In fact, statutorily, the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) of 1997 was declared constitutional by the Supreme Court, As stated by former Chief Justice Puno, “After all, the IPRA was enacted by Congress not only to fulfill the constitutional mandate of protecting the indigenous cultural communities' right to their ancestral land but, more importantly, to correct a grave historical injustice to our indigenous people.”

In the ARMM agreement, the Lumads were completely ignored. In the current CAB, there was some representation by the IPs in the negotiation. And in the Framework of the CAB, there are specific provisions that refer to the Indigenous Peoples Rights:

1.             III – POWERS, 6. The customary rights and traditions of indigenous peoples shall be taken into consideration in the formation of the Bangsamoro’s Justice System. This may include the recognition of indigenous processes as alternative modes of dispute resolution; and
2.             VI – BASIC RIGHTS, 3. Indigenous peoples’ rights shall be respected.

This actually shows a good faith effort on the part of the parties to include the interests of the Indigenous People in this historic undertaking.  I just hope that in the final Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), the powers and rights of the IPs as enumerated in the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) in implementing the constitutional mandates, would be more detailed, more pronounced, and as clear to avoid any misunderstanding.

In the interest of social justice, lasting peace, and accelerated development for all, it is the sign of the times.  It is both the Christian and Islamic way!

HAPPY EASTER!


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