“…if traditional politicians will be here to stay, then this will be no different from the past attempts to build an autonomous region.”
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA — With the recent swearing in of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority that will assume interim leadership in the villages and cities now confirmed part of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), questions on the future of the Moro people – their struggles and aspirations – have once again been brought to the fore.
Provinces in the formerly-known Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao, Cotabato City, and 63 other villages of North Cotabato will now constitute the BARMM. The new region, under the Bangsamoro Organic Law, will be governed by an 80-member transition body until its first regular elections in 2022.
But critics are skeptical over what appears to be a focus on the structural changes that the implementation of the Bangsamoro Organic Law may bring to the Moro people.
On its face, the BARMM will introduce structural changes to the Moro people’s political sphere, arriving at a parliament form of governance after the national government has, in the past, introduced many “experiments” to address what they referred to as an ethno-struggle.
Professor Julkipli Wadi of the University of the Philippines Institute of Islamic Studies said the MILF hopes to bring their struggle to another level, parliamentary politics, to attain their right to self-determination.
Wadi noted that the added and new factor under the Bangsamoro Organic Law is that their “former enemies” are now their “partners” in governing the Moro people. This, he added, may result to an “identity crisis” among the MILF leadership.
Wadi, however, noted that the organic law has lost its “venom” and “teeth” as it may one day be easily amended according to the whims of those seating in Congress.
Meanwhile, Suara Bangsamoro’s Amira Lidasan pointed out that the development plan for the BARMM will practically remain the same, most especially how natural resources will be utilized.
“We always rank as ‘first honor’ in inflation and poverty incidence. What will happen if the same development plan will be used?” she said
Holding the line
The ARMM experience, Wadi said, showed how there was never really genuine decentralization as only those that had the blessings of the national government could run and consequently win the gubernatorial post during elections.
He added that “imperial Manila” will not allow the genuine fulfillment of the Moro people’s right to self-determination. As such, they will need traditional local politicians to be their lackeys.
Wadi explained that there will now be a new relationship between the national government and the parliament. But if traditional politicians will be here to stay, then this will be no different from the past attempts to build an autonomous region.
Lidasan said that instead of the Moro people’s genuine representatives, they are hearing reports from the ground that politicians and Duterte himself who are seemingly having the upper hand in the transition body.
“They have hi-jacked the Moro people’s struggle,” she said during a forum in the University of the Philippines dubbed as “Eyes on the BOL,” adding that their right to self-determination should not be treated as mere adornments
Meanwhile, during the open forum, former lawmaker Satur Ocampo shared that the total disarmament among the ranks of the MILF will create a lopsided political scenario as the national government is doing too little steps to disband private armies.
Like Ampatuan all over again
Lidasan pointed out that the heavy deployment of state security forces in BARMM and the discrepancies pointed out during the BOL plebiscites remind the public of the Ampatuan era during the 2007 elections, referring to the 12-0 votes in favor of then re-electionist Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s senatorial slate in areas that are bailiwick of the Ampatuan clan.
“They say it was a mere clerical error. But under martial law, can truth ever be set free?” Lidasan asked.
Martial law, she pointed out, played a big part in the referendum as more than 20,000 soldiers and police officers have been deployed.
Wadi said the MILF stands to lose support from the ground as a result of a possible identity crisis among its leadership.
Wadi said the mainstreaming of the armed revolution being waged by the Moro people as a result of the Bangsamoro Organic Law may leave a vacuum both in their territories and in their ideology.
“Will transitional justice be enough? Reparation? Social fund?” asked Wadi.