Under the BJE, the MILF had settled for “shared authority” in terms of territory, resources and governance. Iqbal said ’shared authority’ is different from ’shared sovereignty,’ which the MILF initially asserted but eventually compromised, because the government construed it to mean “granting independence” to MILF.
“The GRP is afraid to open (granting independence to MILF) because of its many crimes against the Moro people and because of vested interests of political warlords and business oligarchs,” Iqbal said.
BJE also redefines the relationship of the Bangsamoro and the Filipino people, according to Iqbal. After Mindanao was included in the territories that made up the Philippines, he said, the Moro people have become “second class” citizens.
“It is rare for the Moro people to occupy positions in the bureaucracy,” he said. “Who is the President? Who are the senators? Who own big companies in Mindanao? Who heads the military and the police? Who are the big landowners?” he asked.
He explained that the BJE would have redefined such ‘lop-sided’ relationship.
Most of all, the BJE recognized the Moro people as the “First Nation,” which Iqbal said, meant they’re the original occupants of Mindanao. The document defines the First Nation as a “domestic community” distinct from the rest of the national community, which has a “definite historic homeland.” The First Nation has a “defined territory” and a “system of government.”
Iqbal claimed that the former Sultanates that governed Mindanao had entered into “treaties of amity and commerce” with foreign lands, as proof of this advanced system of government.
In the book “Bangsamoro, a Nation Under Endless Tyranny,” Salah Jubair, (Iqbal’s pseudonym) said the Sulu sultanate, considered even more superior than the Brunei sultanate, ruled the entire Sulu archipelago, Basilan, Mindoro, Palawan and Sabah in 1450.
He said the Maguindanao sultanate, at one time headed by Sultan Dipatuan Muhammad Qudarat, had once controlled the whole of Cotabato, Lanao, Davao, Misamis, Bukidnon and Zamboanga during its grandest time in 1619.
Amirah Lidasan, president of partylist group Suara Bangsamoro, said the BJE is just a piece of paper that recognized the birthright of all Moros as original inhabitants of Mindanao, Palawan and Sulu.
For Lidasan, BJE also defined the ancestral domain of the Moro people, by including those villages where the Moro live.
In the 1890s, the Moro people controlled 90 percent of Mindanao but now they own only about 15 percent of the land in Mindanao, Lidasan pointed out.
Among the Bangsamoro people are 13 ethnolinguistic tribe which include Kalbogan, Jama Mapun, Badjao, Tausug, Samal or Sama Bangingi, Maranao, Iranon, Maguindanao, Yakan, Sangir, Kalagan, Palawanis and Molbog in Palawan.
Lidasan referred to the Sulu sultanate, founded in 1450, as the oldest and the most developed.
Jubair said that before the turn of the 20th century, the Moros owned 98 percent of the lands in Mindanao and Sulu but several land laws during the American colonization had taken the land away from them.
Public Land Act No. 718, enacted by the Philippine Commission under the Americans, nullified all land grants made by Moro leaders or any Christian tribe without the authority of the state.
The Mining Law of 1905 declared all public lands free, open for exploration, occupation and purchase. This particularly included Mindanao.
Commonwealth Act No. 141 limited the lands that the Moros could apply for titling to not more than four hectares; while Christian settlers are allowed as much as 24 hectares; and corporations as much as 1,024 hectares.