Constitutional change needed for peace in Mindanao

“Social conflicts” arise from a dissatisfaction by a significant group of how a particular power “game” is played. It is the assertion of the “losers”, i.e. the disadvantaged region or group, that the “rules” of the game are heavily stacked in favor of the “winners”. For the “losers”, the problem lies with the “rules” themselves. The “rules” are seen as, at the onset, determining the “losers” fate and forever relegating them to the position of “losers”. To resolve “social conflicts” then requires “rule” change. New “rules” that promote fairness, justice and equal opportunities must be designed. In our society, the “rules” of the game are embedded in the Philippine Constitution. To obtain peace (or at least a modicum of chance of securing peace) in Mindanao, the Philippine Constitution must be changed to give way to new “rules”, to new relations between the Bangsamoro people and the Philippine State.

For peace negotiations to be “constitutional” all that is needed is that substantive agreement requiring constitutional amendment must comply with the procedural requirements laid down in the Constitution. Theoretically, there is no limit on what can be agreed substantially by the parties.

It is the assertion of the MILF that the “rules” of the game has led to the political and social marginalization and the economic disadvantage of the Bangsamoro people as a whole. They assert that the present “game” is defective because, whatever the configuration, whatever the arrangement, in the end, the “Bangsamoro people” will always be the “losers” vis-a-vis the Philippine State and the Filipino nation. For the MILF, the present “rules” have led to grinding poverty and powerlessness of the Bangsamoro people vis-a-vis the Filipino nation. It is for this reason that they are demanding for a change in the “rules” — greater political autonomy, greater control of resources, control over regional security, etc.

The Philippine Government has basically 2 ways to respond to this demand.

They can dismiss the demand of the change of “rules” outright, insist that there is nothing fundamentally wrong with “rules”, offer minor rearrangements of the present rules, e.g. offering expanded ARMM autonomy, and require absolute compliance to the said “rules”. And as a last resort, Government will compel obedience to the said  “rules” by the use of force.

On the other hand, Government can go into political negotiations with the MILF, agree that there is something is need to change the present “rules” and negotiate new substantive “rules” that mirror a vision of new partnership between the Bangsamoro and the Filipino nations and then must comply with the procedural requirements laid down in the Constitution for its amendment.

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Author: Bong Montesa

I teach children how to think. I am engage in the work of ending armed conflicts and bring about a just, inclusive and sustainable peace in the Philippines and in the world.

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