Saturday, August 2, 2008

The ‘Bangsamoro Juridical Entity’: Road To A Republic’s Dismemberment

With 20 months left in her ‘disputed’ presidency and eager to eave a ‘historical legacy’ Filipinos will remember and supposedlt derive lasting benefits from Mrs. Gloria Macapagal Arroyob is embarking on a bold but totally dangerous path that could prove fatal to the Republic: the establishment, the carving out of what is being called a ‘Bangsamoro Juridical Entity.

The Philippine Daily Inquirer in a bylined report written by Fe Zamora reports:

“Bangsomoro to get own state

Gov’t, MILF to sign ancestral domain pact Tuesday

By Fe Zamora
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Posted date: August 02, 2008

PRACTICALLY A NEW STATE WITH “A DEFINED TERRITORY” and “a system of governance suitable and acceptable to [the Bangsamoro] as a distinct dominant people” will be established in Mindanao under the proposed Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) on Ancestral Domain between the Philippine government and the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Under the proposed agreement, which is scheduled to be signed on Tuesday, the planned Bangsamoro homeland will have its own “basic law,” its own police and internal security force, and its own system of banking and finance, civil service, education and legislative and electoral institutions, as well as full authority to develop and dispose of minerals and other natural resources within its territory.

Copies of the draft MOA were distributed to retired generals during a forum on July 24 in Camp Aguinaldo, where Hermogenes Esperon, President Macapagal-Arroyo’s adviser on the peace process, was the guest of honor. The Inquirer obtained a copy.

But Inquirer sources privy to the peace process said the proposed agreement with the MILF would require amending the Constitution.

They said its provisions on territory and governance would require amendments to the “existing legal framework” and a plebiscite in areas to be included as part of the Bangsamoro homeland.

The proposed homeland will be governed by the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE), which will have authority to send trade missions to and enter into economic cooperation agreements with other countries provided it does not include aggression against the Philippine government, and send representatives to the Association of Southeast Nations as well as agencies of the United Nations.

Described as a “landmark deal,” the proposed MOA will pave the way for the crafting of a “comprehensive compact” seen to finally end the 40-year, on-and-off Moro armed struggle in Mindanao.

The conflict has left 120,000 dead despite the signing of a peace agreement between the government and another separatist group, the Moro National Liberation Front, in 1996.

Ultimate objective

According to the proposed MOA, the “ultimate objective of entrenching the Bangsamoro homeland as a territorial space” is to “secure [the Bangsamoro’s] identity and posterity, protect their property rights and resources, as well as establish a system of governance suitable and acceptable to them as a distinct dominant people.”

The proposed homeland will include the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (Sulu, Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Tawi-Tawi, Basilan and Marawi City); the municipalities of Baloi, Munai, Nunungan, Pantar, Tagoloan and Tangkal in Lanao del Norte; and hundreds of barangays in the provinces of Sultan Kudarat, Lanao del Norte and North Cotabato, which voted to become part of the ARMM in 2001.

The proposed MOA also provides for the inclusion of the Bangsamoro’s “ancestral domain” in Mindanao, Palawan and Sulu.


“Ancestral domain” and “ancestral land” are defined in the proposed agreement as land “held under claim of ownership, occupied or possessed, by themselves or through the ancestors of the Bangsamoro people, communally or individually since time immemorial continuously to the present, except when prevented by war, civil disturbance, force majeure or other forms of possible usurpation or displacement by force, deceit, stealth or as a consequence of a government project or any other voluntary dealings entered into by the government and private individuals, corporate entities or institutions.”

“The ‘Bangsamoro homeland’ and ‘historic territory’ refer to the land mass as well as the maritime, terrestrial, fluvial and alluvial domains, and the aerial domain, the atmospheric space above it, embracing the Mindanao-Sulu-Palawan region,” according to the proposed agreement.

It also states: “It is the birthright of all Moros and all indigenous peoples of Mindanao to identify themselves and be accepted as ’Bangsamoro.’ The ‘Bangsamoro people’ refers to those who are natives or original inhabitants of Mindanao and its adjacent islands including Palawan and the Sulu archipelago at the time of conquest or colonization of their descendants, whether mixed or of full native blood. Spouses and their descendants are classified as Bangsamoro. The freedom of choice of the indigenous people shall be respected.”

Shared authority

Per the proposed agreement, the government — referred to in the document as the “Central Government” — and the BJE are to exercise “shared authority and responsibility” over the Bangsamoro homeland.

The details of the structure of shared governance will be defined in the “comprehensive compact.”

A multinational third party will be jointly invited by the government and the BJE to observe and monitor the actual implementation of the “comprehensive compact.”

The other salient points of the proposed MOA are:

Internal waters extending to 15 kilometers from the coastline belong to the BJE. Waters beyond the 15-km limit belong to both the government and the BJE.

The government and the BJE will share all natural resources such as gas, hydrocarbon, petroleum, etc.

The BJE has the sole power to revoke or grant forest concessions and enact agrarian laws, and to explore or obtain minerals, oil, natural gas, petroleum, etc. within its territory.

Stalled peace talks

Peace negotiations between the government and the MILF have been stalled on the contentious issue of ancestral domain since December 2007.

Only on July 25, informal talks aimed at getting the peace negotiations back on track broke down in Kuala Lumpur, with the MILF panel accusing the other side of trying to “undo” provisions in the “breakthrough” agreement forged on July 16.

The MILF said the meeting had been intended to finalize the text of the draft agreement on ancestral domain, but that the government panel led by retired general Rodolfo Garcia wanted certain settled issues reopened.

Stumbling blocks hurdled

But both Garcia and Press Secretary Jesus Dureza, himself a peace negotiator with the separatist rebels for more than 10 years, expressed optimism that the stumbling blocks would be hurdled and the peace process would go forward.

Indeed, on July 27, the government and MILF panels led by Garcia and Mohagher Iqbal, respectively, initialed the final draft of the agreement on ancestral domain, according to Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita.

“This will lead to the signing of the MOA on ancestral domain on Aug. 5,” Ermita said.”

This story breaking out on a Sunday will likely catch by surpise even the critics of the government of the day so I’ll delay any extended analysis until I am able pending consult more knowledgeable sources but this early it is abundantly clear to this writer that:

1) Palawan is being included in the Bangsamoro entity;

2) That entity is being given its own ‘basic law’, meaning a constitution;

3) It will be allowed to set up its own armed forces with delineated territorial limits.

This is a de facto separation of that southern section of what the governments touts as “a strong republic.

Absent any law on the introduction of a fderal system and absent any amendment of the 1986 Constitution, GMA is embarking on a path to dismember the Republic of the Philippines.

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