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MILF: Constitutions are living documents

August 30, 2008      

“Good constitutions are living documents that allow changes or amendments to address problems that are not anticipated by their framers. A constitution should be concise, coherent, and flexible, and more importantly, not discriminatory to any particular group especially the minorities. The Philippine constitution is not the Bible or the Quran which is not subject for review or correction because they are deemed words of God.”

This was the statement of Muhammad Ameen, chairperson of the MILF secretariat, in response to stiff opposition of Filipino senators headed by Mar Roxas, and Franklin Drilon to the signing of the GRP-MILF Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD).

 

The two politicians, who are both Ilonggos, said the MOA-AD is unconstitutional and could pave the way for the dismemberment of the Philippines.

 

Drilon did not only petition the Supreme Court to declare the document unconstitutional but upped his opposition by spending huge amount of money for full page advertisement for two consecutive days in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the number one broadsheet in the Philippines today.

 

Roxas, on his part, appeared to have rested his entire presidential ambition to three platforms: 1). Anti-Moro stance and pro-settlers in Mindanao; 2) Direct appeal to Visayan-speaking peoples in Central Philippines; and 3) Pro-business groups especially the Makati Business Club, which supports his presidential bid.

 

Ameen, a student of law in Manila prior to the declaration of Martial Law in 1972, lambasted the two senators for being too shallow in their thinking, reminiscent of past centuries when Moro-Spanish confrontation was its height.

 

“Only when the totality of relationships of the Moros and Filipinos are redefined that there is going to be lasting peace in Mindanao,” he stressed, saying that since the annexation of the Bangsamoro homeland into the national territory of the Philippines in 1946, the Moros have always been treated a second class citizens by imperial Manila.

 

 “This injustice is fairly addressed when the government and MILF peace panels agreed to stipulate in the MOA-AD that the relationship of the Central Government and the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE) shall be ‘associative in character’’, he asserted.

 

“Associative relationship is not about two independent states but about state and sub-state relationships,” both MILF panel chairman Mohagher Iqbal and senior member Datu Michael Mastura confirmed it when asked for comment. They were involved in crafting the original working draft (one a political science graduate and the other a full-pledged member of the bar). “We are both historians who have written books based on the narrative of the Bangsamoro people struggle,” they said, adding “we are engaged, too, in asserting their collective rights because we on the right side of history.”

 

When Iqbal and Mastura met Ambassador El Masry at the aborted signing ceremony of the MOA-AD the same line of questions were posed by the OIC envoy to them.  “A part of the redefining of totality of associative ties between the Bangsamoros and Filipinos”, they elaborated, [to El Masry] “is to revive commerce and trade at the BJE territory where borders intersect. They disclosed to Luwaran that the conduct of trade by the BJE is not a mark of secession, arguing that Taiwan or the Basque and Catalan enjoy similar arrangements, but remaining part of Spain.  Quoting El Masry who pointed out “Tanzania has been allowed to do that”, the MILF peace negotiators emphasized precisely that is not pure activity of foreign relations but more of global trade ties.

 

Ameen reminded the two senators that the agenda of the GRP-MILF Peace Talks agreed by the Parties in 1997 was and still is “How to solve the Bangsamoro Problem”.

 

“If Senators Drilon and Roxas still insist on the Philippine Constitution as framework of the negotiations, then they are not helping the peace process but sabotaging it,” he explained.

“The MOA-AD is a living testimony as to how far sovereignty and the right to self-determination can be balanced into a compromise political arrangement,” he explained further.

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August 30, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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