For peace to finally settle in the South, there has to be a recognition that the Bangsamoro Question is simply not just a territorial issue, but an adoption of an entirely different system of life. Islam, which is the core belief of about 8 million Muslims living in Mindanao, is by itself, a way of life, not just a religion. To practice Islam is to live in a system entirely Islamic or recognizes Islamic principles and laws. Without this recognition, all efforts toward peace run the risks of being sidelined.
To resolve the Bangsamoro Question, there must be a change in the system of the Republic, which codex of laws must be a fusion of Islamic and non-Islamic principles.
What is happening right now is that the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) is trying to experiment whether the Islamic system being held by the Bangsamoro People can work within the republican, democratic system as adopted by the country from the United States. That since this is just a territorial problem, the GRP thinks that the “democratization” of institutions is the panacea for the Bangsamoro people.
This is okey if the concept of “democracy” jibes with the concept as held in Islam.
What peace advocates think of “democracy” runs dissimilar with the “democracy” of the Bangsamoro people. The “democracy” espoused by the GRP is based on civil rights—the recognition of these rights as enjoyed by peoples and individuals and based on many UN conventions.
Meaning, the GRP is content of giving and recognizing the “democracy” for the Bangsamoro in the form of respect of religious and civil rights, but not the full extent of democracy, as what the Bangsamoro wants.
For the Bangsamoro, when one talks about “democracy”, one does not just cover civil or cultural rights but political and economic rights as well. This is where the problem lies.
The GRP in sum, proposes a “limited political democracy” where Bangsamoros are free to vote and be voted upon but under the republican democratic system. Unknown to the government, a republican system is not the proper and prescribed governance system in Islam. Islam proposes a totally different system, described as close and more consultative than the present Republican form as mandated by the 1987 Philippine constitution. That explains why an autonomous setup failed and will always fail in the Bangsamoro claimed territories because it does not satisfy even the minimum requirements of Islam.
Besides, given the minority status of Filipino Muslims in society (in terms of numbers), there is always the risks of substantive changes not implemented based on Islamic terms because really, the ideological belief conflicts with the majority belief. For example, will the government recognize a different code of labor in relation to Filipino Muslims? Will government recognize that five times in a day a Filipino Muslim laborer or worker is mandated by his religion to pray before Allah SWT? Will government mandate every factory and office to provide prayer rooms in their offices even though they only employ one Filipino Muslim?
How about the concept of “interests” in government finances? In Islam, it is prohibited. In the system currently being adopted by the Philippines, interests in loans and money transactions exist or are recognized. Will our system recognize non-liability or non-responsibility in defaults in loans?
In the United States, to avoid such complications, the government assumes or recognizes no dominant religion. In the Philippines, this is different. The very fact that the Preamble recognizes the existence of God and that the Supreme Court issues rulings in recognition of some religions meant that the republic, by itself, adopts a religious belief which the State assumes to be dominant or being believed at by majority of its peoples.
Right now, what this government and its peoples are ready to accept are mundane things in relation to Islam, most are about family relations. Filipinos generally accept polygamous relationships and ascribe these to Islamic beliefs. There are many other Islamic practices and beliefs already being recognized but this acceptance comes short to political and governance issues.
This strong aversion to the terms “independence” and “political democracy” has its roots to the belief that Bangsamoros are themselves, Filipinos and hence, based on the concept of national unity, these peoples have no right to create or establish their own governance system.
This concept can be traced back to the simple interpretation of the term “unitary” in our Constitution. Being a unitary system, there is simply no room for another political entity and hence, any suggestion of a state within a state or a “sub-state” runs the risk of being struck down as unconstitutional.
Our present interpretation of the very nature of our State is Unitary, Republican and Democratic. If we are to truly resolve the Bangsamoro Question, we need to address these terms, change it to accommodate Islamic principles; otherwise, there is no room really for true and lasting peace, only perpetual destabilization in the South.
A Bangsamoro State
Is a Bangsamoro state possible? Yes it is, provided that the system being held as sacred by the Bangsamoro peoples are recognized in a new Constitution of the Philippines.
Malaysia and Indonesia are two examples of a state “unified” inspite of differing religious systems. Muslim Malaysia has a harmonious relationship with other religions because its system recognized and adopted such systems to its own. Hinduist, Buddhists and Christian beliefs are tolerated because Islam by itself, provided for such a system of acceptance.
In its history, clashes among several states happened in Malaysia, not to mention racial conflicts. These clashes are now a thing of the past because Malaysia opted for confederation and religious tolerance.
Secular Indonesia has learned to face the raging tides of change by recognising other religions as well, because Islam does not discriminate. Notice that in these two countries, they operate a Parliamentary form, something consistent with Islam. There is a strong national acceptance of the system. With acceptance comes strict adherence especially of the laws established.
Singapore, another Southeast Asian country, is likewise Parliamentary, yet entirely not federal because its obvious---it is just one small island.
Peace means Federal Parliamentary
It is time for the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) to recognize the urgency of changing the present form of governance from republican democratic to a federal parliamentary form. This solves the Bangsamoro Question because this system does not run in conflict with Islam plus the fact that the very nature of this country, an archiepelago, with several power centers in place, puts the proposed system as suited to solve the fundamental problems in political and economic governace of this country.
Changes toward Federal Parliamentary is struggle, even war
Many young leaders of this country thinks that this system is most essential if we are to survive the next decade and if we are really serious in solving the fundamental problems of this country.
The only hindrance towards the attainment of this ideal is the traditional political and economic powers of this country, whose dominance over the lives of the Filipino people has been for generations.
The economic elites of this country favors permanent political destabilisation simply because it does not affect the economy and even provides stimulus for its growth. A change in the system which favors a more equitable distribution of the national wealth is unacceptable to these people.
Hence, there is no more option left for change seekers---struggle towards the complete overhaul of the entire system dominated by these selfish economic elites and create a new elite whose interests lie in deconstructing Philippine society.