[Address to the First National Congress of the National Association of Bangsamoro Education]
For this opportunity to address you in this First National Congress of the National Association of Bangsamoro Education, Inc. (NABEi), I am deeply grateful.
From the Ateneo de Davao University, I come wishing the Bangsamoro well.
We salute you in your struggle for a homeland, for peace and prosperity. Because of your struggle, we have been forced to try to better understand what this struggle is about. We have entered into dialogue. We have studied. We have learned. Our friendships with members of your community have motivated us to try to understand your struggle even more deeply.
In Solidarity with the Bangsamoro Struggle
In this manner, we recalled, or have even learned freshly, of the injustices that have befallen you as Muslim peoples in the Philippines. We have been horrified in recalling some of the historical injustices: how you as unconquered sovereign communities with matured cultures and traditions were sold by Spain to the U.S. without your consent; how your struggle to preserve your cultures based on the Islamic religion of your choice against foreign and Filipino intrusion, was neither recognized nor appreciated; how through the insidious pacification policies of the Americans then of the Filipinos you were dispossessed of your lands through insidious resettlement and agricultural-colonization policies, exacerbated by a unfamiliar land registration system, bizarre to your traditions of communal land ownership; how because of the choice of your religion you have been discriminated against, considered “savage,” regarded as “second class,” yet continually instrumentalized for the interests of the Filipino north. With great sadness and shame, we recall the Jabidah massacre, the foolhardy adventurism of Marcos, who slaughtered his Muslim soldiers in Corregidor rather then pay them the wages due them. We recall how because of these warrants you took to armed struggle to defend your dignity, your religion, your values and traditions. Weighing the gravity of these warrants to armed struggle, we now say we understand.
But that is all the more reason why after centuries of your armed struggle and so many lives martyred for your cause, we appreciate now your resolve for peace. We thank you for this. Today, we join our hopes with yours in solidarity. And brotherhood.
In brotherhood, through the Ateneo de Davao University (ADDU) as through the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP), we join you in trying to explain your cause. At ADDU, through the Al Qalam Institute for Filipino Identities and Inter-religious Dialogue in Southeast Asia (Al Qalam) we have been doing this through a series of conversations called the Pakighinabi. Here we have treated various aspects of the Framework Agreement Bangsamoro and the Comprehensive Agreement Bangsamoro, including the latter’s Annexes. We have also convened larger “Conversations” with the Jesuits as well as with the Bishops and Religious Superiors of the Catholic Church in the Philippines, all aimed at trying to understand how we can better support your peace process.
Through the CEAP, we have at our expense issued statements of support at important junctures of your struggle. We have asked our scholars to re-tell the story of Mindanao, not with the eyes of the conqueror nor of the Filipino nationalist, but with the eyes of the Muslim Filipino. We have asked our teachers to explain to their students and to our stakeholders the historical antecedents of the Bangsamoro. It was in this spirit that last week CEAP held a National Convocation on Reconciled Diversity focused on the Bangsamoro, first in Manila (Thurs., May 22), then in Cebu (Fri., May 23). It is in this spirit that when the CEAP calls its 1,350 member schools to it National Convention this coming Sept 24-26, the Bangsamoro issue will be one of its two major foci.
We salute you in your struggle. We declare our solidarity with you. We come in friendship and brotherhood. As in this spirit Sec. Luistro has invited you to call him Bro. Armin, please call me Bro. Joel.
On Bangsamoro Private Education
More on the theme now of Bangsamoro education, allow me to say that during the launching of the NABEi, I was deeply impressed when MILF Chairman Al Hajj Murad Ebrahim declared that the first Jihad of armed struggle was about to end, and that the more difficult second Jihad would be that of education. We have felt that if you would like to improve the education in your madaris, first, for Islam in the Philippines; second, for the shared, increasing consciousness that is Bangsamoro and for the shared responsibility for Bangsamoro, and third, in pursuit of the shared common good, we would be privileged to support you here and collaborate with you.
We take satisfaction in the fact that just as CEAP is an association of private schools, so is the NABEi an association of private schools. This is why we were pleased in your presenting yourselves for membership in the Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations (COCOPEA). You are private education. Private education takes primary responsibility for the delivery of its education. It does this because of the care it has for youth that need education. It does this because of a conviction that religion is served well through education. It does this because it is convinced that society is well served through education. Today, this is certainly the case with your Bangsamoro youth, with your way of practicing Islam, with your hopes for the realization of Bangsamoro – which cannot, it seems, succeed in its fullness without education.
As NABEi is private, I urge you: take education in your hands and deliver. Private education does not wait for government. It does not hope in government. With Bangsamoro peace, it converts local resources once poured into arms and bullets into classrooms, libraries and laborotories. It uses its entrepreneurial skills to bring scholars, teachers, parents, benefactors, facilities, and finances together and delivers education as it considers itself missioned to do. It cannot wait for government to tell it how to do this. Government will not be able to say how madrasah education is best achieved. But determined private education will. Eventually, it will show government the way.
Meanwhile, NABEi can enter relationships through which government helps it. But NABEi must be aware that government assistance, even if legal, always has costs. NABIi must always maintain its character as private Bangsamoro education if it is to preserve its mission. For Catholic schools, a relationship with government which would deprive it of its ability to teach religion would have to be rejected. I am sure it is the same with your schools. In its private relationship with government it must not lose its ability to teach Islamic values and religion.
Private education also takes responsibility for its quality assurance. It does not wait for government to tell it how to do quality assurance. Considering the shared desire of private schools to continually improve the delivery of quality education, the schools get together and decide on a roadmap of continuing improvement in quality education. This is what happened 57 years ago when the Philippine Accrediting Association of Schools, Colleges and Universities (PAASCU) introduced accreditation to the Philippines. This was a group of private schools deciding on quality assurance on their own, and implementing their accreditation on their own. Today, this involves, normally through self assessment and survey visits, assurance that minimum standards set by government are met, ascertaining levels of academic excellence, checking on the extent to which the individual school has met its mission and vision, and monitoring the manner in which the schools respond to the expectation of their stakeholders. Private education does this on its own, then tells government that it is doing it. It does not wait for government to tell it how to do this.
PAASCU would be happy to assist NABEi in developing for the madaris a quality assurance mechanism.
The CEAP-NABEi Volunteer Program
Finally, in the context again of your Bangsamoro struggle – which today takes place not only through high-level negotiations as in the Peace Panel or later in the Congress of the Philippines, but also through inter-cultural and inter-religious on the ground, I am happy to inform you that both the Board of the NABEi and the Board of the CEAP have approved the CEAP-NABEi Volunteer Program.
Through this program a graduate of a CEAP school would volunteer to enter Muslim community for one to two years, first, to learn of its culture, religion, and language. This would include experiencing how in a Muslim family within a Muslim community a guest can be cared for, guarded, and loved over years. Being in that community, however, the volunteer would also teach the non-Islamic DepEd content courses like English, Filipino, mathematics and science. Should you consent to this program, as your Boards have, then perhaps we can already begin deploying volunteers in the second semester, but certainly by the next academic year.
The program would contribute to breaking the isolation of two cultural worlds, even as a significant contribution to improved madrasah education might be achieved. Again, in this program, inter-personal and inter-cultural interaction and friendships on the ground will make a difference.
Again, thank you for your gracious invitation to be here! In friendship and brotherhood, we wish you well.