ILPS Philippines on the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law

By ILPS Philippines

The Philippine chapter of the International League of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS-Phils) calls on the Filipino people and their international supporters to be ever more vigilant against the divisive moves of the US-Aquino regime in using the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) against the Bangsamoro people themselves and against the interest of the entire Filipino people.

The draft law has been submitted to the 16th Congress (House Bill 4994) and is now in the hands of Aquino’s party-mates and allies in Congress who, just recently, shot down three impeachment complaints filed by the Makabayan bloc against the President. The bill can easily pass the Lower House and reach the Senate by next year after the 2015 national budget laden with new hidden pork is approved.

President Aquino is set to proclaim this as a milestone for peace as he goes for a European visit and US tour, including an address at the United Nations Leaders’ Summit. It just might click, just for an instant — for the UN has itself overseen the Balkanization of regions and entire countries only to find more wars and unrest in the world.

The BBL is a product of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) signed on March 27, 2014 after 17 years of peace negotiations between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Some of its outstanding features are:

  • A new political entity covering five provinces, to include Isabela and Cotabato City, six towns of Lanao del Norte, some villages in North Cotabato, areas contiguous to the ARMM where at least 10% of the population opts for inclusion, and territorial waters extends up to 12 nautical miles (22.224 kms) and still can be enhanced 10 years after the law’s passage;

  • A better revenue and wealth sharing; for metallic and non-metallic resources, at least 25% higher than ARMM or 35% than under the local government code;

  • Under an “asymmetrical relation” with the national government, the Bangsamoro ministerial government will have enhanced powers over economic zones and industrial centers, sources of revenue, financial and banking system, owned and controlled corporations, grants and donations, power generation, public utilities; “concurrent powers” over land registration, justice, public order and safety, human rights;  but the national government keeps “reserved powers” over defense and security, foreign policy, monetary policy, citizenship, immigration, common market and global trade, customs and tariff, and intellectual property rights.

In short, this piece of proposed legislation promises more lands, more money and more power-sharing than the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). In exchange, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace Process could hope that, with the Muslims out, it can now focus on killing the peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and for the Armed Forces of the Philippines to concentrate its war on the Communist Party of the Philippines and New People’s Army (CPP-NPA). This paves the way for more development aggression of transnational corporations and big capitalist-landlords and favorable grounds for US military forward-basing.

The MILF believes that, through the agreement, they have fought for the recognition of the Bangsamoro identity, recognition of their right to self-determination, their right to ancestral domain, control over resources, the right to rule their homeland and self-government. All these rights are recognized — in form.

The draft law does not necessarily mean land reform, industrialization, progress and peace for the masses, Moros and Lumads alike.  Ownership and control over land, waters, and other resources would still be in the hands of the Moro elite.  The same goes for the development agenda and political representation in government.

The fall of Camp Abubakar, the largest politico-military base command of the MILF, pushed the MILF to seek the GPH-MILF peace talks. After the Tripoli Agreement of 2001 for a “comprehensive, just and lasting political settlement”, there came a failed Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain about to be signed in Malaysia in August 2008 but was struck down by the Supreme Court as “unconstitutional”. Hence, the subsequent talks led to the drafting of the BBL within the confines of the Philippine Constitution.

It remains to be seen how the BBL will hurdle the constitutional constraints; i.e., provisions on territorial integrity, national patrimony, unitary government, and other provisions.  Pres. Aquino publicly stated that the BBL is constitutional and does not need constitutional amendments. But some legislators think otherwise.  In the meantime, Aquino has injected certain provisions in the draft BBL to shackle Bangsamoro within the frame of the Manila-based unitary state and its constitution.

And certainly, the Congress will make further amendments to keep the BBL within the box of the 1987 constitution and its provision creating the ARMM as well as within the bounds of the local government code.  Constitutionalists will certainly oppose in Congress and the Supreme Court the provisions in the BBL  that  allow exclusive powers for the Bangsamoro government in certain matters,  asymmetrical relations with central government and higher sharesof revenues that may be questioned as discriminatory to other regions.  It remains to be seen how the MILF and its following will be able to stomach the kind of BBL that Congress will approve.

Meanwhile, other Moro groups left out of the deal such as the MILF breakaway group Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) of Nur Misuari have reacted strongly and have vowed to assert and fight for secession.   The MNLF has protested against the waste-basketing of the 1996 peace agreement and has cited nullification and  violation of said agreement as a ground for resuming a war of national liberation against the Manila government.

The scheme of the Aquino regime to dismantle the BIAF of the MILF and to use the Bangsamoro Police  under the direction of the Manila government and the Philippine National Police in coordination with the Armed Forces of the Philippines to disarm  the  MNLF, BIFF, ruling class politicians and the widespread armed clans  has the potential of igniting a far bigger war in Bangsamoro than ever before.The ragtag Abu Sayyaf Group, once trained by the US in Afghanistan as Jihadists against Russia, which now aligns itself with the rising Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), will also contribute to the violent turmoil. With President Obama’s pronouncement to strike at ISIS “wherever they are,” the Moro problem could lead to increased US intervention in the country.

Four centuries of Spanish colonialism has never completely subjugated the Moro people. After the bloody US occupation at the turn of the 20th century, a pre-war Commonwealth government, and the GI-Joe post-war “independence,” the Manila government has never given ethnic national minorities in the Philippines genuine autonomy and self-rule. This holds true for the Moros who comprise the biggest group of indigenous peoples in the country.

Only the struggle of the Moro people themselves, together with the national-democratic aspirations and struggles of the entire nation, can bring about genuine liberation, autonomy, self-determination and emancipation for the Moro masses. Genuine peace and development can best be guaranteed by the struggles and solidarity of the laboring masses and oppressed peoples to break free from US imperialist hegemony and local reactionary rule.


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