BBL and liberal peace-building in Mindanao
The imminent signing of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) by President Duterte is an important step in rectifying the historical injustices suffered by the people in Muslim Mindanao. The centerpiece of the law is the granting of broader fiscal and political autonomy to the region. While we, as a nation, must remember and serve the ends of justice in the unfortunate incident in Mamasapano, the focus should now be the empowerment of the people in the Bangsamoro.
Göran Collste, in “Global Rectificatory Justice,” proposes compensating the victims of past injustices. Colonialism impacts the lives of people in a negative way. While the struggle against oppression can also ignite a people’s sense of nationalism, imperial powers often leave behind a deeply fragmented society.
Mindanao is unique in that, although it has not been subjugated by Spain, the island also suffered because it was largely ignored since the colonial period.
Indeed, the liberal peace-building process depends on institutional reforms. Democratic deficits, like the absence of participatory governance, as pointed out by Clarita Carlos, should be addressed by means of political representation.
There is a limit, however, to this pragmatic approach. While such types of empowerment create a new way of economic interdependence, the animosity among tribes remains due to mistrust and the sense of exclusion felt by minority groups.
The right question to ask, then, is not how much the victims of historical injustices deserve to get. Rather, it is about how we ensure that the mistakes of the past are no longer repeated. For instance, the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao has had a problem of governance. There was only limited progress in the area under past administrations. In this regard, critics often point out that all stakeholders have to consider how competence and accountability at the local level can be improved.
Yet, an important element in the post-conflict process is changing the biased perceptions of people. Some groups might still feel stigmatized and fear oppression when structures, systems and laws are changed. Confidence-building measures, in this sense, must be initiated in order to rally popular support. Beyond it, the overarching principle of respect for human dignity should define how the society will transition itself to become pluralist and culturally sensitive.
While possible military confrontation is not improbable, the greater threat actually comes from the failures of policy assumptions. There looms, as a matter of fact, the emergence of new centers of domination and control that are created once power is devolved. The influence of local elites and powerful clans still lurks in the background.
Thus, it is wrong to ignore the clamor of the people. While the pursuit of the common good should matter above all types of interests, it is necessary to listen to a plurality of voices.
Historical injustice is perpetuated when our history books fail to mention how Muslim Filipinos have suffered from political and economic exclusion. Education, in this respect, is important. But the problem is, as Renato Constantino points out, our miseducation as a people. The kind of education we give our children has been used as an instrument of oppression, especially so since our history as a nation is narrowly confined to dominant or prominent narratives.
However, since we are one nation, we have to move on and face the future with new hope. We must understand that, as Filipinos, we need to work within the framework of the constitution. This is the essence of what democracy is all about.
Human progress, for whatever it’s worth, actually means nothing if it is confined to a select few. The only way to attain lasting peace is to make a decent life available to everyone.
Christopher Ryan Maboloc, PhD, is associate professor of philosophy at Ateneo de Davao University. He was trained in democracy and governance at the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung in Bonn and Berlin, Germany.
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