THE government on Tuesday said the Bangsamoro entity that will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) will not be a separate Islamic state.
According to peace panel member Senen Bacani, who attended a public forum in Lanao Del Sur, they never envisioned a separate Muslim state in crafting the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB).
“The Bangsamoro will be part of the Philippines, it will not separate from the Philippines. Bangsamoro officials will report to the President of the Philippines. The laws of the Philippines will apply to the Bangsamoro,” he told an audience of 3,000.
“The envisioned Bangsamoro government will not become an Islamic state but a secular one with a working democracy where everyone will continue to enjoy [for example]freedom of religion and freedom of expression. Walang mawawalang rights and privileges natin bilang mamamayan ng Pilipinas dito sa Bangsamoro . . . including vested property rights,” Bacani explained.
Lanao del Sur Gov. Mamintal Adiong 3rd also attended the forum and expressed full support to the CAB, which is being criticized by some Organization of Islamic Conference officials’ as “illegal.”
The Manila Times tried to get a reaction from Malacanang officials on these claims but Presidential Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said they still have to verify this with the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process.
Presidential Peace Adviser Teresita “Ging” Deles could not be reached for comment.
Meanwhile, last Sunday’s rally for the CAB was also attended by residents who littered the dialogue venue with streamers denouncing the creeping formation of an Islamic state.
They raised concerns that they would lose their lands to Muslims when the Bangsamoro is in place.
But Adiong allayed their fears, saying that they will continue to enjoy the same privileges under the new set up.
Bacani and Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) members Pedrito Eisma and Said Sheik reiterated that the government peace panel signed the CAB with their Moro Islamic Liberation Front counterparts strictly adhering to the instruction of President Benigno Aquino 3rd that it must be within the parameters of the Constitution.
The BTC members particularly took turns explaining that the CAB does not seek the establishment of a separate state.
Benigna Rosal Aguirre, a leader of a Catholic women’s organization there, thanked Bacani and the BTC commissioners for coming and clarifying the disinformation spreading in the locality.
“There’s nothing to fear in the Bangsamoro. It’s good they came here. I’m enlightened now because it’s clear we will continue to enjoy our rights such as religious freedom and that we will continue to own our lands,” she said.
Also on Tuesday, the OPAPP announced that two senators and nine members of the House of Representatives arrived in Spain last Sunday to attend a study visit program focused on the country’s autonomy models, in preparation for the deliberations on the Bangsamoro Basic Law that is expected to be submitted by Malacanang to Congress soon.
“The study visit will provide us with a broader outlook on how Spain created its 17 autonomous regions. It will definitely help us in crafting the Bangsamoro Basic Law,” OPAPP quoted Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez as saying.
Organized by the Spanish Embassy in Manila and funded by the Agencia Española de Cooperacion Internacional para el Desarollo (AECID), the visit is participated in by Senators Pia Cayetano and Aquilino ‘Koko’ Pimentel 3rd and Representatives Pangalian Balindong, Jim Hataman-Salliman, Jesus Sacdalan, Bai Sandra Sema, Nancy Catamco, Rodolfo Biazon, Teodoro Baguilat, Jr. and Arnulfo Go. They will be accompanied by Secretary Deles who flew to Spain on Tuesday.
“There are lots of lessons that can be learned from the experiences of Spain from the time its Constitution was approved by the majority of people all over the country in 1978,” Spanish Ambassador to the Philippines Jorge Domecq said.
Currently, there are 17 autonomous communities in Spain with their own “statuto” or basic law, a parliamentary form of government and clear separation of powers. The legislators will visit the autonomous communities of Galicia, one of the first three regions recognized as “historical nationalities” and granted autonomy, and Madrid.