ILIGAN CITY (MindaNews) – The Regional Consultative Commission for Muslim Mindanao (RCC-MM) was a creation of the 1987 Constitution. The command is clear from the start:
“The Congress shall enact an organic act for each autonomous region with the assistance and participation of the regional consultative commission composed of representatives appointed by the President from a list of nominees from multi sectoral bodies.” (Art. X, Sec. 18)
Long before the enactment of this law, the Office of the President initiated the process of selecting the composition of the RCC-MM. On 2 October 1987, President Aquino enjoined the Peace Commission (OPC) and the Mindanao Consensus-Building Panel (MCBP) to handle the responsibility.
In about six months, from October 1987 to February 1988, joint OPC-MCBP teams fanned out in the 13 provinces enumerated in the Tripoli agreement and processed nominees for the RCC-MM, both those designated as district representatives and at-large.
Interviews were done by the joint panels and as soon as the nominees were short-listed to three per district, these were in turn interviewed by the President before final selection.
There being no R.A. 6649 yet to guide them, how did the joint OPC-MCBP panel decide on the basis of representation? The Constitution was clear on the matter of “nominees from multi sectoral bodies.”
It was merely a matter of defining what multisectoral bodies were, and they did. These were: highlanders, farmers, fishermen, laborers, professionals, businessmen, traditional leaders, and armed Muslim factions. And they were to be private, not government entities that would do the nomination.
And the next issue was what specific territorial unit to represent. The only constitutional reference to territory which could be used as basis for representation was “Muslim Mindanao,” nothing more.
Apparently, the joint panel guided themselves with the policy statement made by President Aquino with respect to Muslim Filipinos on 20 August 1986 in which she expressed a solemn commitment to honor the Tripoli agreement.
Also, a scrutiny of the journals of the Constitutional Commission will show that the Tripoli agreement was a basic reference in the formulation of the provisions on regional autonomy.
These 13 provinces and nine cities were subdivided into 27 congressional districts. These districts became the basis for territorial representation.
They also added the ethnic element. Representation by ethnic group went as follows. The Muslims were distributed into Magindanawon – 8, Meranaw – 7, Tausug – 6, Yakan – 2, Sama – 2, and convert – 1, but married to a Maguindanawon. The Highlanders were Subanen – 2, one-part Subanen – 2, Blaan – 2, T’boli –1, Teduray –1 and Cuyunon –1.
The imbalance among the Muslims may be explained by the appointment of commissioners-at-large representing special groups or sectors.
In the end, 52 people composed the RCC-MM. Twenty-six (26) of these were Muslims, nine (9) identified themselves as Highlanders, and the rest were Christians. A 53rd member was confirmed by the Commission on Appointments on 29 September 1988, the day before the last session; he was unable to participate in the body’s deliberations.
Five (5) slots were kept vacant for members of Bangsamoro Fronts. The latter understandably kept their distance.
Oath-taking by the members was presided over by President Aquino herself on 26 March 1988, at Cotabato City.
Five days, April 4-8, were spent at the Asian Institute of Management, in a live-in seminar spiced with group dynamics, workshops and inputs from resource persons. Atty Jose Nolledo, a member of the Constitutional Commission, explained how the provisions on autonomous regions came into being; Rev. Joaquin Bernas, SJ, spoke on the Tripoli agreement; Ambassador Pacifico Castro recounted how the Philippine Government got entangled with the Organization of Islamic Conference which led to the Tripoli Agreement.
Dr. Marilou Palabrica-Costello of Xavier University shared the findings of the study-survey on autonomy done within the 13 provinces by a consortium of universities (Xavier, Ateneo de Davao, Notre Dame University, MSU-Marawi, Western Mindanao State University) and it was found out, among others, that of the Christians who were asked if they wanted their place to be part of the autonomous region, nearly one hundred per cent replied NO; a similarly NO was given by the Lumad, and the Muslim respondents naturally answered in the YES, also by nearly one hundred percent.
The survey impressed on everyone the odds faced by the entire Commission if the intention was to make autonomy acceptable in the 13 provinces and nine cities. But morale among the Commissioners was high and odds of 7 to 3 or even 9 to 1 was nothing to be scared about, only a battle to be won.
The organizational phase at Zamboanga City lasted until April 19, 1988. The spirit of camaraderie and mutual accommodation was very visible and the first result of this was to have a Muslim chairman and three vice chairmen, one each from the Muslims, Highlanders and Christians. Another was the decision to distribute committee membership on a 40-40-20 principle, meaning 40% Muslim, 40% Christians and 20% Highlander.
But as early as the nomination for the offices which was done by group, followed immediately by the selection of committee membership, this spirit would emerge for what it was: an illusion.
To the Muslim submission of a single nominee for chairmanship, there were spontaneous but subdued reactions of “being violated” from some non-Muslims: sigurado ng kanila, hindi pa tayo pinadesisyon. (It should be pointed out that the Muslims violated no election rules approved earlier by the Commission.)
Through whispers a joint Christian-Highlander meeting was convened at past midnight that same evening. More expressions of resentment were put forward. The discussions that followed led to a decision to strategize on how to capture the chairmanship of substantive committees.
But apparently the Muslims did the same thing and, on the day of reckoning, cornered more substantive committees.
Tomorrow: Part 2: What is the Expected RCC-MM Output?
[Si Prof. Rudy Buhay Rodil ay aktibong historyan ng Mindanao, tagapasulong ng kalinaw (Bisaya sa kapayapaan). Kilala siyang espesyalista sa paghusay ng mga gusot sa Mindanao-Sulu. Naging Komisyoner noon ng Regional Consultative Commision sa siyang nagbuo ng draft organic law ng Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao noong 1988. Dalawang beses siyang naging miyembro ng GRP Peace Negotiating Panel. 1993-1996, pakikipag-usap sa Moro National Liberation (MNLF), at noong 2004-2008 sa pakikipag-negosasyon sa Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Naging visiting propesor sa Hiroshima University, Oktubre-Disyembre 2011. Nagretiro noong Oktubre 2007.]