STATEMENT OF ATTY. ADEL TAMANO ON SIGNING OF MOA ON ANCESTRAL DOMAIN
There is no one more interested in peace in Mindanao than I. I am a true son of Mindanao and my family, specifically my late father, Mamintal Tamano, has been in the forefront of finding a just settlement to the Mindanao conflict. On a purely personal level, I am very happy that the ancestral rights of the Bangsamoro people are recognized in the MOA on Ancestral Domain. However, the document – and the process undertaken by the Government – are constitutionally flawed and, in the long run, will prove harmful to the peace process.
It is unfortunate for both Muslims and Christians in the Philippines that GMA has polluted the Peace Process by negotiating in bad faith, promising the MILF things she cannot deliver, using the process as a backdoor to amending the Constitution, and, ultimately, setting the conditions for escalating the conflict in Mindanao.
As shown by the MOA on Ancestral Domain between the GMA Administration and the MILF, particularly Section 3 on Concepts and Principles, which states that ancestral domain does not form part of the Philippines’ public domain, GMA has effectively ceded part of the territory of the Philippines to the MILF. Obviously, GMA is not empowered to give up any part of our country to any group, only the Filipino people can do that in their sovereign capacity and only via amending the Constitution.
As others have pointed out, GMA, being a highly unpopular President, does not have the social capital to convince Filipinos to cede their territory, even for something as important as peace in Mindanao. So when the inevitable occurs and the Government fails to deliver the on its promise to the MILF, the rebels will have a clear casus belli or a justification for acts of war.
There will be some who will argue that the MOA is constitutional in light of the Indigenous People Rights Act (IPRA). However, the IPRA underwent vigorous debate both in Congress and, later, in the Supreme Court. For the issue of ancestral domain rights for the proposed Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE), there has been no public debate. In fact, the terms of the agreement were kept secret and hidden in the shadows away from public scrutiny.
It is the aspect of transparency and opening this issue to public debate and discussion that is sorely missing in this entire process. While, certainly, we must all seek peace in Mindanao, it should be done in an open manner and with justice to all. In fact, perhaps through the public debates it may be shown that my views on this issue are entirely wrong and that the government has dealt in good faith. I would actually be happy with that result.
However, until the Filipino people are involved in a broad-based discussion on this issue that will have a profound effect on our country’s future, we should approach this agreement – and the government’s motives – with caution.
As a final note, there may be some who will misconstrue my words and say that I am against recognizing the ancestral rights of Moros. That is untrue. Let me be clear – the aspiration for justice and peace for Moros, which includes issues on ancestral domain, integration, and even reparations for Moros, is something that I have always advocated. But we must see things in the long term and find the solutions to the conflict in a manner that is transparent, constitutional, and inclusive.