SOME non-Muslims in Armm feared of what will happen to them if the Bangsamoro Organic Law is passed – will the new Islamic state persecute us, or perhaps chase us away from their new established government?
It turns out that the better protection and benefits of settlers and non-Muslims like us was ensured in the proposal for the new parliamentary government.
When the then, Bangsamoro Basic Law, was still being discussed, the security and welfare of the Lumad and Christian settlers was probed. There was fear among us that the proposals might antagonize the likes of us.
First, it was assured that the BOL and the new Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) will be secular in character. No religion will be the basis of governance or decision-making in the Region.
However, the religious and identity needs of the majority of the Muslim people in the Region will be provided.
In this setup, BARMM will still share the ideals of life and liberty of the Philippine Constitution.
In other words, the people living in BARMM, regardless of their religion, will have the freedom to exercise their religious and cultural rights. Even the mere selling of pork, especially in places with Christian blocks, was assured to not be banned.
The fear of others about the BOL to highly be based in the Shari’ah Law’s standards of punishment is not true as well; more so rumors that offenders and non-believers of Islam will be punished with amputation or execution, since these would conflict with the provisions of the Constitution.
In fact, the provisions of the BOL stated that the rights of both Bangsamoro and non-Bangsamoro will be assured, as provided in the Constitution.
According to the Institute for Autonomy and Governance in their article, “Q and A on the Bangsamoro Organic Law,” in the future Bangsamoro Transition Authority, Christian settlers will have representation.
There will also be two seats reserved in the Parliament for them, as well as representation in the Council of Leaders, which is a body that would advise the Chief Minister of BARMM in governing the Region.
Furthermore, an Office of Settler Communities will also be created.
These provisions all aim to ensure that settlers are given affirmative action, assurance that they will be given rights in the decision-making of the Region, and be provided with mediation for their needs and concerns.
Some settlers are also afraid of getting caught up in possible political clashes among the Maguinadanons, Meranaws, Tausugs, and other tribes.
The BOL proposes that the representation in the parliament and the chief seats will not be based on ethnicities, but by districts and the party list systems. This is because of BOL’s intention to unify the Bangsamoro region and all of its citizens.
The BOL will also adapt Mindanao State University’s ethnic balance policy in the hiring process of new government employees.
This is to make sure that no ethnic group would dominate and that all ethnicities will be given equal chances to be a member of the bureaucracy, according to the Institute for Autonomy and Governance.
However, despite the talks, possible attacks from groups that are still not satisfied with the provisions of the BOL, especially in the talks about resources, may still not be extinguished completely.
Reasons for this will be featured and discussed in an article I will be writing about an interview with Dr. Zainal Kulidtod, an MSU Marawi political science professor who has been studying the peace processes and conflicts in Mindanao.