NO one would really argue with this provided that it did not mean 13 provinces and nine cities. I wrote to him in reaction to his column saying in part (5 Jan. 89):
“… when you say ‘Give Muslim Mindanao a chance to be truly native — and Muslim’ (underscoring mine), non-Muslims, the Tribal Cultural Communities are spontaneously excluded. And yet they, too, all 12 tribes of them in the 13 provinces, are native. Do they have less right to a name they can call their own in the areas of the region where they too are indigenous because they are less in number? And what about the Christian inhabitants who by a twist of colonial history became the majority in eight of the 13 provinces, have they lost the right to a name? Because they were born of migrant parents, most of them?”
His reply to this letter appeared in the same column of the Manila Chronicle on 20 January 1989, said in part:
“Let me just say that I am not firmly wedded to the name Muslim Mindanao. But I am wedded to the conviction that the autonomous region must be given a chance to choose its own name.”
Father Bernas’ change of tone is actually no less than a shift in position from Muslim-centered autonomy to a geography-centered one.
Which inevitably arouses the suspicion that the Constitutional Commission (ConCom) delegates as a whole were not appropriately informed about the social realities in the 13 provinces.
And a reading of the ConCom proceedings confirmed this.
What they had in abundance was goodwill and an honest to goodness desire to bring about the Bangsamoro self-determination to an end.
But what the implementers of the Constitution discovered was that such an end cannot be attained without giving due consideration to the other major segments of the population.
So, how did Congress try to resolve the problem in the organic act? It adopted the proposal of the RCC-MM but attached a clause allowing for a change of name, as follows:
“The name of the Autonomous Region shall be the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao unless provided otherwise by Congress upon the recommendation of the Regional Legislative Assembly.”(Art. I, Sec. 1)
And in recognition of the basic differences of the three major segments of the region’s population, Congress combined Sections 7 and 8, Art. III (Declaration of Principles and Policies) of the RCC-MM’s Final Report and entered it as Sec. 5, Art. III of the Organic Act (R.A. 6734), as follows:
“The Regional Government shall adopt measures to ensure mutual respect for the protection of the distinct beliefs, customs, and traditions among its inhabitants in the spirit of unity in diversity and peaceful coexistence: Provided, That no person in the Autonomous Region shall, on the basis of creed, religion, ethnic origin, parentage or sex be subjected to any form of discrimination.”
Before we proceed to the section on political power, let me just point out that the basic design of R.A. 6734 is for 13 provinces and nine cities, geography-oriented, and calculated to accommodate all the three major segments of the population.
But if the Constitution had been more definite about the Muslim character of the autonomy, then the design of the organic act would have been made to fit the Muslim-dominated areas. This of course is now wishful thinking, a post mortem, and an academic discourse. (My thoughts in 1990!).
[Si Prof. Rudy Buhay Rodil ay aktibong historyan ng Mindanao, tagapasulong ng kalinaw (Bisaya sa kapayapaan). –
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