While the peace agreement between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) was hailed as an unprecedented positive development that could finally end the conflict situation in Mindanao, the contents of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) and the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law had been viewed with skepticism by many.
Various issues concerning the constitutionality of the law, the propriety of the Bangsamoro form of government, the division of powers and wealth between the central government and the Bangsamoro, the territorial coverage of the region, the rights of indigenous peoples and other sectors within the Bangsamoro, and many other aspects of the proposed law have been raised in public discussions, in media, and in the congressional consultations/hearings. As early as now, while the law is still yet to be finalized, it is already certain that the constitutionality of the law will be challenged before the Supreme Court by various parties. The Comprehensive Agreement’s predecessor, the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD), which was negotiated and finalized during the administration of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, was nullified by the Supreme Court for being unconstitutional. There are fears that the Bangsamoro Basic Law may suffer the same fate as the MOA-AD.
But beyond the genuine legal and constitutional issues that are raised against the Bangsamoro Basic Law, criticisms hurled against the law spring from a number of factors such as misconceptions about the meaning of autonomy, suspicions about potential future secession of the autonomous region, misunderstandings (or misinformation) about the provisions of the law and their implications, and, to a certain extent, anti-Muslim sentiments.
As the law is expected to be the path to peace in Mindanao and the country, it also has the potential to be divisive, as already seen from the early discussions. The road leading to the establishment of the Bangsamoro Government, from the Congress, to the Supreme Court, to the final approval in the plebiscite, to the actual transition, is a long journey that is contentious and conflict-ridden. It is imperative that stakeholders take this journey in a well-informed, non-biased, and rational manner, seeing the law as a consensus document, probably the final chance for peace.
With the objective of promoting broad-based participation and support for the establishment of the Bangsamoro, the ALG is currently undertaking an integrated policy advocacy program that will have the following components:
Policy discussion and advocacy planning;
Production and dissemination of IEC materials;
Policy advocacy activities (meetings, discussion sessions, etc.)
Through the project, the ALG plays the critical roles of disseminating information about the law (helping communities, especially marginalized communities, understand the draft law and its implications), integrating human rights principles in the law (ensuring the protection of indigenous peoples and other vulnerable groups), and actively engaging in policy debates (making known the coalition’s position on various constitutional and other issues, in the legislative debates, and, possibly, before the Supreme Court).
The project is supported by OXFAM.