Oscar Franklin Tan is slowly becoming required reading for the simple reason that The Bangsamoro Bill will define how a fourth of the country’s citizens and probably a third or maybe even half of it’s natural resources will be used. I believe and this is based on some calculation I did way back in college that we could with some luck and effort inch our way towards Malaysia’s Per Capita GDP. We desperately need a workable solution to our problem in the South.
The formidable array of legal experts tapped by the House of Representatives’ ad hoc committee on the Bangsamoro Basic Law will not be able to resolve the bill’s constitutionality. This issue turns on whether or not one chooses to interpret our fundamental law broadly to accommodate the idea of an unprecedented autonomous region in Mindanao. No clear legal standard governs this central question. It is ultimately not legal but political, and will be resolved with a political stand that the Supreme Court must respect.
The ad hoc committee’s first hearing last Oct. 27 opened with a representative of our retired generals. He asked that we ensure that our armed forces’ deployments are not restricted and that a de facto Bangsamoro army that may turn against us not be allowed. He insisted that the law contain an explicit provision prohibiting secession. With great conviction, he expressed the hope that his grandchildren would not spit on his grave for failing to protect our territory’s integrity.
The night before, I had coffee with an old Maranao schoolmate. He spoke animatedly about the Aquino administration’s cleanup of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, with more roads built there this term than in the rest of the ARMM’s history. About the need to properly manage Lake Lanao’s crucial biodiversity and hydroelectric resources. About organizing idealistic, young Moro professionals.
In a student magazine feature I wrote in 2000, my Muslim schoolmates narrated both the discomfort of being served pork at our freshman orientation and appreciating the beauty of Catholicism as a Muslim in Jesuit Ateneo. “All-out war” against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front was declared that year. Female students wearing head scarves were searched more closely in Manila malls. In Quiapo’s Golden Mosque, a friend was accused of being a dupe in a Christian plot to use Atenean Muslims to subvert others in Manila. He told me of aspirations for a dignified space of their own and that dream’s many meanings for different people. He lamented how the deep resentment of our Muslim peers in the University Belt translated into refusing to call themselves Filipino or having the flag on display at interfaith events.