Bangsamoro: its Challenge to ADDU

[Address: ADDU General Faculty Convocation, June 2, 2014.]

 

Welcome to SY 2014-15!

Again, it is nice that we can once again bring together all our units into one assembly at the outset of this academic year. Briefly, we would like to touch on a number of things. But, because of the historical moment, and the mandate that is ours as a Catholic, Jesuit and Filipino University at this juncture of history, I would like to focus on the Bangsamoro. Based on the Comprehensive Agreement Bangsamoro, the Transition Commission has drafted a Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL). Soon, the draft, reviewed by the Office of the President, shall be submitted to Congress. The BBL, if approved, will create the Bangsamoro political entity to replace the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao. With the Bangsamoro, we hope for peace. But how bright are our hopes in the Bangsamoro? And what is the role that we must play from within our university in order to brighten these hopes?

Distinctions and Updates

But before we go into that, some matters cannot be left unsaid:

In the Quacquarelli Symonds University Rankings (QS Rankings), ADDU has made it to the top 300 universities (#251) in the whole of Asia. We are fifth in the country along with the University of the Philippines, the Ateneo de Manila University, the Univesity of Sto. Tomas, and De la Salle University. It is a ranking is based on 13 criteria, the most important of which are academic reputation (30%), employer reputation (10%) and the Faculty Student Ratio (10%). Congratulations to all, especially our tertiary level units! Our aim for next season: overtake La Salle.

We congratulate our Law School for topping the bar exams last year for first timers.

We congratulate our basic education units for taking on the challenges of the K-12 reform by working together to reform curricula and the grading system. Thank you not only for accomplishing this for ADDU but for leading the way among other schools in modeling how this must be done.

We congratulate our high school for its outstanding achievements in environmental teaching and practice. This has involved the integration of environmental concerns in all the subjects of the high school. Through the Ecoteneo, which it spearheaded, it has engendered a culture of environmental responsibility which earned it regional and national recognition as the Most Sustainable and Friendly School.

In this context, I am happy to announce that last Friday I received word Fr. Fr. Provincial that Fr. General Nicolas has approved the construction of our Senior High School as designed by Archt. John Immanuel Palma of our School of Engineering and Architecture. The SHS is conceived as a example of environmentally sensitive architecture.

One of the persons who contributed substantially to the environmental consciousness and praxis in the ADDU HS was Dr. Nina Ingle, Field Museum Parker/Gentry awardee for biodiversity conservation. For this academic year, while Fr. Michael Pineda shall be away on tertianship, Dr. Ingle, on the recommendation of the HS community, will serve ADDU as Acting Principal of the High School.

Meanwhile, through the formation of the Ecoteneo Advisory Board, now headed by Engr. Michelle Soledad, we intend to cultivate environmental consciousness and responsibility on a University-wide scale.

We congratulate members of different disciplines in the colleges for coming together to work on the multi-disciplinary syllabus for the future General Education courses in the college. During the visit here of CHED’s Technical Panel on General Education chaired by Dr. Maris Diokno, they earned the praise of the Technical Panel and the request from the Chairperson that they share their work as a model for how General Education course might be taught in other schools.

Congratulations to our college researchers under our URC! Allow me just to mention a few of the ongoing researches: research on Bagobo Healing Knowledge and Practice by Dr. Leah Vidal, research on the Flywheel and the Wind Turbine by Engr. Randell Espina, a philosophical and theological research on social justice by Dr. Renante Pilapil, a mass-media research on Radyo Tacunan by Dr. Judith Dalagan, research on salt-water intrusion into Davao’s Aquifers by Dr. Lourdes Simpol, and the ADDU City-Wide Survey Series by Ms. Mildred Estanda and colleagues. The latter got most prominent media attention through the collaboration, mentorship and encouragement of Dr. Mahar Mangahas, founder and CEO of the Social Weather Station (SWS) national public opinion surveys. Meanwhile Dr. Tony Laviña, Dean of the ADMU School of Government, predicts that because of the Ateneo City Surveys we shall grow in influence, especially when we do election polling.

Breaking news: Just last Friday, ADDU has been elected to chair of the Mindanao Studies Consortium Foundation.

Congratulations on our outreach activity coordinated by our UCEAC, again, far too extensive and intensive for this address. But our outreach has focused on Disaster Risk Reduction Management, on Community Organization and Development, and on Advocacy. Outside of post-Typhoon Pablo rehabilitation activities, and post-Typhoon Yolanda relief activities, we have begun networking with the Archdiocese of Davao, with Davao Assn of Public Schools, with the Davao Medical School Foundation, and the Society of Jesus Social Apostolate for disaster preparedness and relief coordination. We are engaged in community organizing and development in Brgy Adecor in Samal, next to our St. Ignatius Spirituality Center, and in Brgys. Buda and Baganihan in the Marilog district. We continue with our advocacies for the environment, social justice, peace and interreligious dialogue. We shall have more to say about this later.

We congratulate the University’s new athletics director, Mr. Noli Ayo, on ADDU’s fresh energies towards values-and-leadership-laden athletics – in the many competitions on the GS, HS and collegiate levels. Kudos for the Summer Sports’ Clinics – the Summer Sports Camp and the Summer Synchronized Swimming program – and last year’s Coaches’ Education Program. Special congratulations for linking sports with community involvement: women’s basketball in Gensan, and the sports mission clinics Brgy. Tigatto, Davao del Sur.

We are happy that the new rank and promotion scheme is now being implemented university wide. I am very grateful to all of you, especially to Mr. Elvi Tamayo and his committee, who mediated the agreements necessary for this important step in our university life. We are also grateful to Elvi and his team in the University Ignatian Formation Office for the ongoing nourishment in Ignatian spirituality.

On our facilities, we are happy that the Matina Parking House is built, even though we are still waiting for a permit to operate. The construction of 48 individual balay-ukit cottages in Matina is now complete. We are just finishing the utilities infrastucture before we can commence with the serious landscaping by our pro bono Archt. Jim Palma. Meanwhile, because of a problem that arose between our contractor, HRCC, and its steel manufacturer in China, there were serious delays in the delivery of the projects’ steel requirement. This means that the completion especially the Sports and Assembly Hall will be delayed. But the steel has meanwhile left China on one ship and is now on its way to the Davao port, and at least the main portions of the Community Center is near completion. Barring unforeseen problems, the Jesuits shall move from their exile at the Pinnacle into the 10th floor of the Community Center on Philippine Independence Day, June 12. Furnishing for the offices has already been ordered and delivered. But we shall probably have to delay the move of the faculty there until the bridge between the community Center and Finster is finished, at the end of the month.

This has all been relatively good news. We do have concerns.

We condole with the friends in our Law School and the bereaved family of our alumnus, Atty. Emmanuel Acuña, who yesterday succumbed to bullet wounds inflicted on him last Friday. He was a Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) lawyer, and apparently paid the price.

The implementation of K-12 nationwide is not as smooth as we would have wished. There is much uncertainty. We expect to do our part for the national implementation of Senior High School, first, for public school students; second, for region XI, and third, for the T’Boli Community of Lake Sebu, So. Cotabato. We hope that our transition in 2016 will be easier than it is in other schools; we have this year to work together on the details. We also hope that we can successfully conclude this year a new CBA. With the implementation, however, of the new rank and promotion scheme, the new HMO with Maxicare, and the attitude of constructive mission-driven collaboration that characterizes our four unions, I am hoping that we can do this with genuine concern for the welfare of our individual co-workers as well as for the long-term sustainability of the University.

 

The Challenge of Bangsamoro for the ADDU

We are at a historical moment in the history of Mindanao – as the Filipino nation shall deliberate on whether to pass or not to pass the BBL. In this moment, we as a Catholic, Filipino and Jesuit university community must understand our role.

It is a moment which impacts immediately on Muslims of 13 different ethno-linguistic tribes living in Mindanao and their longtime desire to find a homeland in Mindanao – a home where their customs and traditions might be practiced and respected, a home where they might worship and serve Allah in peace. It may be said, once the homeland was theirs when the Muslim missionary Sharif Muhammad Kabungsuan offered Islam to two brothers. One, Tabunaway, accepted Islam in freedom; the other, Mamalu, did not. As brothers, however, both accepted to live on this their island in peace. Mindanao was home to the Islamized indigenous peoples; it was also home to the non-islamized indigenous peoples. Together it is said they lived in peace.

The harmony forged by brothers tolerant of differing faiths was broken by the coming of the Spanish conqueror. Islam had not been forced on the Filipino, but it came with a vibrant seafaring trade between Mindanao and communities in Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam, and even China and India. By the time the Spaniards came, the Islamized descendants of Tabunaway had organized themselves into indigenized communities of Muslims in Mindanao: the sultanates of Maguindanao, of Buwayan, and of Sulu as well as the four principalities of Lanao. When they were discovered by the Spanish conqueror as worshippers of Allah, they were called Moros – the same pejorative, hate-filled term they had used for the north-African Muslims – Moors – who had ruled Spain for 700 years. The Spanish conqueror claimed the entire archipelago for the Spanish crown and named it in honor of the Spanish prince, Felipe, who eventually became its king.

We know the Spaniards shared their faith with the natives of the Philippines, whom they first referred to with disdain as indios.   In Luzon and in the Visayas “the child of colonization was the Filipino,” and most of us owe our faith and culture to that historic tradition. In Mindanao, however, the “offspring of anti-colonization was the Moro.”[1] The Moros refused Spanish rule, because they had perceived it as inextricable from Christianization. When the Spaniards came to conquer, often with the help of islanders from Luzon and the Visayas, they also came with the conviction that the “infidel” should be brought to the true faith. The Moros resisted in defense of their way of life, their traditions and their religion. They resisted in cunning, valor, and ferocity. They were never conquered.

But as we know, when the fathers of our Filipino nation had used the fruits of the European Enlightenment against the unenlightened European conqueror, when Emilio Aquinaldo had declared independence from Spain, and when the Malolos Constitution had amply demonstrated the Filipino to be educated, enlightened and skilled enough for self rule, independence was snatched away from the Filipinos through the Americans. At the end of the Spanish American War, Spain sold the Philippines that had won independence from it to the United States, and along with it the sovereign sultanates they had never conquered.

Ironically, it became part of the “manifest destiny” of American imperialists, whose nation had been born under the “self-evident” notion “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by the Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” to impose their notion of life, freedom and happiness and their imperial interests on the unequal Filipinos. While it was relatively easy for the Filipinos of the north to be reconciled with American rule, it was not the case with the Moros. After a brief interlude of peace, when the Moros thought the Americans offered them more religious freedom than they had ever enjoyed under the Spaniards, the true colors of the Americans emerged. Once he had conquered the Filipinos of the north, he turned to conquer the Moros of the south. It was the American manifest destiny to “civilize” the “savage” Moros and make them into “true Filipinos” – his “little brown brothers,” just like the Christian Filipinos of the north. With superior firepower and military might, their way of pacification was savage carnage and slaughter – as in the Battle of Bud Dajo and in the Battle of Bud Bagsak in Jolo. They created a Moro Province to further pacify the Moros and integrate them into Filipino society. In this “integration” they claimed respect for Moro culture, but subjected the Moros to the rule of Christian Filipinos in newly-created provinces. These had absorbed the American disdain for the savage and heathen Moros. In time, the Moros’ hatred for the Filipinos surpassed their dislike for the Americans, and many eventually preferred to be ruled by Americans than by Filipinos.

Already under the Americans, but even under the Commonwealth, an insidious means of pacification and integration of the Moros into Philippine society was the resettlement of Christian Filipinos from Luzon and the Visayas into Mindanao. First through the Agricultural Colonies Acts of 1913 of the Philippine Commission, then through the Colonization Act of the Commonwealth Government of 1935, waves and waves of homesteaders came into the Mindanao “Promised land.” But the promised land for the migrant settlers disenfranchised the Moros and the indigenous peoples of their communally-owned lands, and the unfamiliar system of land registration imposed on them led to the loss of their lands when they did not comply. What ought to have been an orderly homesteading program became chaotic and often violent. Landgrabbing became the order of the day, with the educated and those familiar with the northern bureaucracy taking advantage of the uneducated and ignorant, among them the descendants of Tabunaway and Mamalu. It must be noted that in both the Agricultural Colonization Acts under the Americans and the Commonwealth’s Colonization Act under the Filipinos, resettlement and repopulation was a tool of colonization. Not only the foreign Americans but the Filipinos subjected Moro territories to “colonization,” implying that they were colonizers and the Moros were foreign. For the Moros then, the Filipinos were foreign. Are we to be surprised at the deep-rooted ill-feeling Moros harbor for Filipinos?

Ill feeling became hatred, and hatred turned violent. To defend their new homesteads, the Ilongo settlers, the Ilagas, warred against the Moros. The Maranao Barracudas and the Maguindanao-Iranon Blackshirts retaliated. The Promised Land, now overrun with people who shared nothing of the fraternal harmony between the descendants of the brothers, Tabunaway and Mamalu, had become a battlefield of the imperialism, proselytization, “national” interest, greed and land hunger of intruders from the north, on which the Moros spilled blood in defense of their traditions and religion, and sacrificed their own. As houses were burned and people perished, hatred and frustration deepened. Where they were regarded as “other,” outsiders, second-rate citizens, pagan, savage, mere means for the good of the Filipino nation in the north, they knew their aspirations for a homeland had not been achieved.

Some of us have personal memories of the ferocity of the Mindanao wars against the Muslims, triggered by the massacre of men, women and children who had gathered in search of peace in the mosque of Manili of Carmen, Cotabato. How had the Muslim suddenly become the national adversary on the island of his birth? We may also recall the shamelessness and national treachery of the Jabidah massacre, where the adventurism of Marcos into Sabah, ended with his massacring the young Muslims he had recruited and trained in Corregidor, because they’d asked to be paid their fifty peso monthly allowance. How cheap Muslim blood had become! To cover up this murder, Marcos then renounced the Sabah claim that in fact was not his to renounce but belonged to the Sultan of Sulu. Soon after, the Maguindanaoan patriarch Udtog Matalam announced the Muslim Independence Movement; it was complemented by the emergence of Nur Misuari’s armed Moro National Liberation Front. The idea of Muslim independence sowed fear and terror in the hearts of many non-Muslim inhabitants of Mindanao. Soon the battlefield of Mindanao was to claim more victims, including an interlude when the President of the Philippines declared “all out war” against the Moros. Today, it is the Moro Islamic Liberation Front led by Al Hajj Murad Ebrahim that continues the struggle to break away from a past of discrimination, hatred, and violence, and find for the Muslims in the Philippines a homeland. After years of struggle and negotiation, the chance for that seems to have come in the political entity called Bangsamoro. It is the Bangsamoro Basic Law that is a chance for a Moro homeland in the Philippines.

I am not a historian. I confess, most of what I now understand – and moves me personally – concerning the Bangsamoro issue I have learned here through the various events[2] and conversations we have hosted here on the issue plus my readings in relation to these. Especially helpful have been been personal conversations with Datu Mussolini Lidasan of our Al Qalam Institute and with Dr. Heidi Gloria, author of the now sold-out, “History from Below: A View from the Philippine South.”[3] I have also been privileged to travel recently through Lanao del Norte, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, and Cotabato City where I have conversed on the Bangsamoro with such as Orlando Cardinal Quevedo and Chairman Murad Ebrahim. In all this I have been conscious of the role that the ADDU as a Jesuit, Catholic and Filipino university is playing in the issue, and shall continue to play.

Today, I would like to invite us all, from all of our units, to the extent that is possible to each, to continue to play a defining role in this process.

Work for understanding. Work for insight. Work for peace. Teach peace. Not the peace of the graveyard, not the tenuous peace that comes from signatures on parchment, but the peace that comes from what our Pope Francis calls “reconciled diversity.”[4]

For us, this means making our contribution as our mission mandates: in the service of the faith, in promotion of justice, in sensitivity to cultures, in inter-religious dialogue, in the preservation of the environment.

First, the faith. As we are Catholic and believe in Jesus Christ, pertinent to the Bangsamoro articulate the truth, no matter the cost, no matter how painful. Where we may have erred due to an overzealousness for our faith, or for our personal interests, that may need to be clearly stated in truth. That may need to lead to a more enlightened way of sharing our faith. Today, after the Vatican Council II, we all accept freedom of religion and the right of all individuals to worship as their consciences urge. Today, as has been demonstrated by Pope Francis in his recent visit to the Holy Land, this includes the right of Muslims to worship Allah as they freely choose. But it also includes concerns, based on painful lessons in history, that the freedom of religions does not violate fundamental human rights and human dignity.Today, we hope that Muslims’ witness of faith in Allah might help us to witness to our own faith in the Triune God with deeper fidelity and generosity. We also hope that our shared worship of a God of Compassion turns us not into violent warriors but into persons ourselves of compassion.

Second, justice. As our faith in this world cannot be credible without justice, pertinent to the Bangsamoro, articulate the injustices that have been brought on to the Muslims living with us on this island, bring to your students and the world insight into the reality and shamefulness of these injustices. Cardinal Quevedo has said that the major issue pertinent to the Moros is injustice: injustice pertinent to Moro identity, to Moro political sovereignty, and to Moro integral development.[5]  Say where we have been unjust. At the same time, Muslims may also give voice to occurence in history that have violated their collective conscience before Allah.   Telling the truth for Christians and Muslims can lead to a deeper experience of the God of compassion, on which we all depend. In this truth,through scholarship, teaching, writing, use of media and the social media, we can then act together to rectify injustice..

As we have underscored our obligation in the ADDU in our commitment justice to articulate the demands of social justice, we must contribute to an ever truer articulation of what the common good demands pertinent to the Muslim Community in Mindanao. What shall be the manner in which our different faiths complement and strengthen, and not undermine nor destroy one another? What shall be the manner in which the Bangsamoro and non-Bangsamoro areas recover something of the peace and tolerance that once characterized Tabunawa and Mamalu?

Third, cultures. The Bangsamoro is referred to as a “political entity,” and that is what the BBL defines it to be. But the Bangsamoro is also a bundle of cultural entities. It has been questioned whether the 13 ethno-linguistic groups which comprise the Bangsamoro is really a “bangsa” (a nation);  it has also been questioned whether the pejorative term Moro is the appropriate term to refer to this bundle of cultural entities. While there are Moros who for reasons explained above reject the notion of their being “Filipino,” other “Filipino Muslims” accept this freely. Among these in fact are Muslim communities that pride themselves in the level of their having been indigenized within the Philippine Garden, and distance themselves from a foreign process of homogenization into an Islam of the Arabian desert.[6]   Yet other Islamized Moros – the Sama de Laut are not Filipinos because they are seafarers and belong the sea, which connects to many countries. Finally, recalling Mamalu, we must recall the cultures of the indigenous peoples who have not embraced Islam, and today, the complex cultures of Filipinos who have embraced Christianity.

The question of cultures is among the major mandates of our university mission. Bangsamoro is a “work in progress” – esp. from the viewpoint of its cultures. Perhaps the ADDU can contribute substantially to the discussion on what Bangsamoro means culturally, promoting a new cultural identity yet respecting a rich cultural diversity. This may impact on the conduct of Bangsamoro education – which will promote values consistent with the Islamic faith, rather than those of secularism, materialism and hedonism, which are in fact also inconsistent with true Christian faith.

Fourth, Inter-religious Dialogue. Here, we must begin with a dialogue of life, whenever possible, sharing life between Christians and Muslims. Making friends. This is why I am proposing we support the newly approved JVP-like Volunteer Program between the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP) and the National Association for Bangsamoro Education, Inc. (NABEi). This calls for immersion of CEAP volunteers in Muslim communities for one to two years and their teaching DepEd “content courses” in selected madrasahs. This is the CEAP-NABEi Volunteer Program.   The mission shall be not only to teach subjects but to learn of Muslim life; not to convert others to Christianity, but deepen one’s own Christianity in encountering the faith and devotion of the Muslims.

We can then move on to a shared engagement for the common good.

Finally, the environment. What we certainly share is the environment. We must learn together that our island is one ecosystem, and that the different regions of Mindanao must find in her the means of their sustenance and livelihood, they must preserve it also for future generations. Under no conditions should it be destroyed in favor of foreigners.

Reconciled Diversity

In singling out the Bangsamoro issue, I did not mean to denigrate the importance of our other engagements: our efforts for poverty alleviation, for peace with the NPA, for justice for indigenous peoples, for human rights, for progress against corruption, for the environment. But we are at the historic moment of the Bangsamoro, which involves us specially because of our shared mission to faith, justice, cultures, inter-religious dialogue and the environment. What we can hope for in the Bangsamoro may have to depend on how all may shape it as a true vehicle of peace based especially on justice and on its being a “reconciled diversity.” That I have underscored in this address. May the Bangsamoro – which encompasses all the aspects of our mission – inspire and challenge us all!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] Cf. Salah Jubair, Bangsamoro: A Nation Under Endless Tyranny (Kuala Lumpur: IQ Marin, 3rd Edition, 2014) pg. 14.

[2] This include the Mindanao Conversations, Dec. 26-28, 2014 (cf. http://www.mindanaosj.org), the Catholic Bishops and Educators on Peacebuilding in Mindanao (cf. www.kalinaw.org), and the series of “Peace Lens” Pakighinabi series.

[3] Published by: ADDU University Publications Office, 2014

[4] Cf. Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, #230. “The message of peace is not about a negotiated settlement but rather the conviction that the unity brought by the Spirit can harmonize every diversity. It overcomes every conflict by creating a new and powerful synthesis. Diversity is a beautiful thing when it can constantly enter into a process of reconciliation and seal a sort of cultural covenant resulting in a ‘reconciled diversity.’”

[5] Quevedo, Orlando “Injustice: the Root of the Conflict in Mindanao” in Bangsamoro: Documents and Materials, vol. 1, pp. xiii – xxii.

[6] Oral contributions to CEAP Convocation on Bangsamoro of Dr. Yussuf Morales.

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About Joel Tabora, S.J.

Jesuit. Educator
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