ILIGAN CITY (MindaNews – There are four items in political life that the autonomous region for Muslim Mindanao cannot do without: (a) the inhabitants of the autonomy; (b) the territory of the autonomy; (c) the political power of the autonomy, and (d) the resources of the autonomy.
Put in question form, these four items can be written, as follows: (a) For whom is autonomy? (b) Where is autonomy? (c) What is the political power of the autonomy? (d) With what does the autonomy sustain itself?
It must be clear from the very start that assessing the organic act along these four items is not possible without at the same time touching the 1987 Charter; it will also be evaluating the basic law of the land. According to Article X, Sec. 15 of the 1987 Constitution, it is the mold within which the organic act must be and was formed.
For Whom Is Autonomy?
Where Is Autonomy?
The nearest clue to this is Article X, Sec. 15, as follows: “… Muslim Mindanao… consisting of provinces, cities, municipalities, and geographical areas sharing common and distinctive historical and cultural heritage, economic and social structures, and other relevant characteristics….” Also, “ancestral domain” in Sec. 20 of the same article.
The second paragraph of Article X, Sec. 18 provides us with our final lead. It states: “The creation of the autonomous region shall be effective when approved by majority of the votes cast by the constituent units in a plebiscite called for the purpose, provided that only provinces, cities and geographic areas voting favorably in such plebiscite shall be included in the autonomous region.”
The clues cited are not in any way conclusive, as every working member of the RCC-MM’s Committee on Preamble, Regional Territory and Declaration of Principles would testify.
What is the meaning of “Muslim Mindanao?” It is open to at least nine interpretations, and each corresponds to a specified territory ranging from 23 to zero provinces.
Notice that the only clear lead we have is the word “Muslim” in Muslim Mindanao. Thus, if we have to answer the question “for whom” we are constrained to look elsewhere.
But if we look elsewhere, and this means the realities of the region, what do we see? The Christian population, and this meant at least 70% of the people in the 13 provinces and nine cities, has not expressed any interest in autonomy.
The Lumad groups for their part have only started to articulate their desire for self-determination in the mid-80s and have not been specific on the form. Statistically, they constitute about five percent of the total population in the 13 provinces and nine cities.
And this leaves us with 13 Islamized ethno-linguistic groups, the core of the MNLF-led Bangsa Moro struggle for self-determination, constituting about 25% of the total inhabitants in said region.
But the Constitution fell short of stating that autonomy was for the Muslims. So, for whom indeed?
We referred to “Muslim” as the only clear lead because the continuation of the provision “… consisting of provinces, cities, municipalities, and geographical areas sharing common and distinctive historical and cultural heritage, economic and social structures, and other relevant characteristics…” certainly does not square off with 13 provinces and nine cities. To Be Continued
[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.]