By Bernadette E. Tamayo With Hector Lawas | Journal Online
JOLO, Sulu – The Sultanate of Sulu does not want to be included in the proposed Bangsamoro core territories and instead wants to be a “separate” autonomous region.
Abraham Idjarani, secretary general of the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo, made the remark during yesterday’s public hearing here on Senate Bill No. 2408 or the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) creating a Bangsamoro entity in Southern Philippines.
Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., chairman of the Senate Committee on local Government tasked to tackle the BBL, led the hearing to allow Sulu residents to air their concerns about the BBL.
Marcos received seven position papers from stakeholders or groups in Sulu that will be affected by the proposed Bangsamoro entity, including the Moro National Liberation Front (MILF).
Idjarani maintained that the Sulu sultanate must not be included in the Bangsamoro territory considering that it has already been recognized “historically” by Spain, the United States and even the Philippine government as an “independent” entity.
The BBL provides that the Bangsamoro people as the “original inhabitants of Mindanao and Sulu archipelago and its adjacent islands including Palawan, and their descendants, whether mixed or of full blood shall have the right to identify themselves as Bangsamoro by ascription or self-ascription.”
“What is the reason with the change of the historical name of Sulu Sea to Bangsamoro Sea?” asked Idjarani as he cited other BBL provisions which he deemed unacceptable to the Sultanate of Sulu.
The MNLF also opposed the passage of the BBL since it will abolish the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) which will lead to the “abrogation” of the Tripoli Agreement of 1976, a peace accord forged between the Philippine government and the MNLF.
In response to the concerns of the MNLF and Sultanate of Sulu, Marcos said that he will hold separate hearings on May 18 and May 25 to allow them to further explain their respective positions on the BBL.
Not a harbinger of peace
A retired justice of the Supreme Court yesterday said the BBL cannot bring peace to Mindanao.
Associate Justice Florentino Feliciano noted that the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the group which the government has been negotiating with, is not the only armed group in the war-torn Mindanao.
“Bear in mind that there are other armed Muslim and non-Muslim groups who have taken up arms -- MNLF (Moro National Liberation Front), Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), BIFF (Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters), NPA (New People’s Army) etc. Thus, a peace agreement entered into by the Philippines with the MILF does not and cannot necessarily bring peace in Mindanao, regardless of what our peace panel ladies are insisting on,” Feliciano said.
Feliciano made public his observation during the launching of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) journal on the Bangsamoro Basic Law.
Feliciano bewailed the fact that the comprehensive agreement between the government and the MILF has recognized insurgency which is supposed to be punishable under the law.
“What took place when the meetings between the Philippine government and the MILF resulted in a comprehensive agreement was not recognition of belligerency. It was rather a recognition of insurgency of the MILF which has taken up arms against the Republic,” Feliciano said.
The former magistrate explained that insurgency alone is rebellion and is punishable under the country’s Revised Penal Code.
“It follows that rebellion is a serious offense against the Republic. Rebels, by definition seek to take over control of the territory or part thereof of the Philippines,” he said.
Feliciano pointed out that the Philippine government seemed to be giving away some of its powers including control over natural resources.