OPTION FOR PEACE IN MINDANAO
… the fundamental issue in the Mindanao Problem that has to be addressed is the continuing assertion of the Bangsamoro people of their right to freedom and independence. No doubt that the problems of mass poverty, neglect and underdevelopment and other social inequities should ultimately be addressed but it should be after the issue on the political status of the Bangsamoro people is settled. It should be noted that all these economic and social problems had taken roots when the Bangsamoro homeland was illegally annexed to the Philippine nation-state.
Abhoud Syed M. Lingga, “Understanding Bangsamoro Independence as a Mode of Self-Determination”, Dansalan Quarterly 22:1-4, 100-109. http://www.yonip.com/main/articles/determination.html
To address the political issue of the problem without resorting to war is to give the Bangsamoro people a chance to choose their political status with respect to their relation to the Philippine government through a referendum. They shall choose whether they want to remain part of the Philippines or to be free and independent. To accommodate other proposals, questions whether to retain and improve the existing autonomous set-up, or to be changed to free association or federal arrangement can also be included.
Referendum will give the Bangsamoro people the opportunity to make the final decision of their political status, not just their leaders. It is the democratic and peaceful way of resolving political conflicts. It has been used in many countries, like in Czechoslovakia, in the Canadian province of Quebec, in East Timor and many others. Countries that refused to use this internationally accepted democratic mechanism suffer the consequences of war — the former Yugoslavia, the Philippines, etc.
The referendum shall be held in areas where the Bangsamoro people presently occupy. This includes the provinces of Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, and the cities of Cotabato, Marawi and Isabela. There are also towns in the provinces of Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, South Cotabato, Sarangani, Davao del Sur, Davao Oriental, Lanao del Norte, Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga Sibugay and Palawan that should be included, subject for discussion with the people in the areas. Territories that will vote for independence shall constitute the independent Bangsamoro state.
The referendum has to be supervised by the United Nations in order that the result will be acceptable to all parties. Common sense dictates that a party to a conflict, like the Philippine government, cannot be credible to conduct or supervise such political exercise. The UN is the best body to oversee the referendum to ensure that whatever will be the result will be respected by all parties and implemented. If there are groups that would not respect the result of the referendum the UN can organize its force to disarm them.
If we have to avoid war, this is the best political option. The Philippine government and the Bangsamoro liberation fronts have to agree to a referendum if their leaders are indeed statesmen. Statesmanship of leaders is not measured on how bloody and how long they can suppress the right of peoples to self-determination but how they see through that they enjoy this fundamental human right. History is never been kind to leaders who do not hesitate to use military might to suppress people’s aspiration to be free.
Abhoud Syed M. Lingga, “Referendum: A Political Option for Mindanao.”
VII. As Muslims, we stand firmly for peace and justice. In this context, we fully agree with and strongly endorse the popular consensus that the war in Mindanao, as in all conflicts and wars throughout the globe, should be resolved through peaceful dialogues and through the democratic processes, and as befitting civilized nations and peoples belonging to one and the same human family. We therefore support and endorse the holding of United Nations supervised referendum in Bangsamoro areas to give the Bangsamoro people an opportunity to determine their political status whether to remain part of the Republic of the Philippines or become independent.
Declaration of the First Bangsamoro Women Assembly held in the City of Marawi, Philippines on April 23-25, 2003
The Mindanao People’s Peace Movement (MPPM), in its sincere desire to attain a just and lasting peace in Mindanao, calls on the Government of the Philippines to hold within the next few years a United Nations-supervised REFERENDUM in the Bangsamoro areas in Mindanao. In this Referendum the Bangsamoro people would have the opportunity to determine their political future as either part of the Philippines or as an independent nation. The MPPM pledges its commitment to support and promote this proposal through a multi-track strategy, including but not limited to, legislative pressure, people’s initiatives, peace constituency building and national and internal lobbying.
Declaration of the Mindanao People’s Peace Movement (MPPM) on the occasion of the 2nd Mindanao People’s Peace Summit, December 17-20, 2002, Southern Christian College, Midsayap, Cotabato, Philippines.
The Bangsamoro People’s Consultative Assembly (BPCA)
The Bangsamoro People’s Consultative Assembly advocates independence through referendum as basic in the Moro right to self-determination. While its advocacy is parallel to that of the MILF, the BPCA is not part of or an affiliate of the MILF. It is advocating referendum as an alternative to war as a solution to the Mindanao conflict. As advocated, the Bangsamoro people, through a referendum, must choose among four options: the status quo, autonomy, federal state, or independence, notwithstanding that the BPCA prefers the last. The vote of the majority will prevail.
The BPCA, chaired by Prof. Abhoud Syed M. Lingga of Cotabato City, surfaced in 1996 when it held its first congress, said to have been attended by more than one million Bangsamoro people from all over Mindanao on December 3-5 of that year. On June 1-3, 2001, it held another congress said to have a bigger attendance. In both congresses, the participants passed resolutions and issued manifestos demanding independence through referendum. The BPCA has a well-defined advocacy and a clear mechanism for its actions.
While neither an arm nor an affiliate of the MILF, the BPCA is supporting the MILF’s demand for independence now. But should the MILF drop its demand, the BPCA will continue its own. Without an armed component, the government may either ignore or not take the BPCA seriously. But it can continue stoking the fire of Bangsamoro independence based on the Moro right to self-determination.
The Moro people’s assertion of their right to self-determination has become integral to the Mindanao problem. As it is a problem, it can also be a solution. The Mindanao policy makers of the government should seriously study this demand, its implications and the proper options. As Professor Lingga has pointed out, a number of conflicts in the world today rooted in a people’s desire to govern themselves has been, or are being, solved by respecting the right to self-determination.
Patricio P. Diaz, Understanding Mindanao Conflict (Davao City: MindaNews Publications, 2003), pp 40-41.
Bangsamoro People’s Consultative Assembly
Hadji Daud Bldg., Campo Muslim, Cotabato City 9600, Philippines
Telefax: (00 63 64) 421-7886 email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The date posted here is due to our website rebuild, it does not reflect the original date this article was posted. This article was originally posted in Yonip on July 17th 2004