Nothing to fear

The chief government negotiator sought to ease fears that the creation of a new autonomous Muslim homeland in Mindanao could lead to the rise of an Islamic state within the Philippines.

According to Marvic Leonen, head of the government panel negotiating peace with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the creation of Bangsamoro would respect the “separation of Church and State.”

Even President Benigno Aquino announced a preliminary agreement between the government and the MILF to end a decades-long Muslim insurgency in Mindanao with the establishment of Bangsamoro, which would replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

The establishment of Bangsamoro would also mean recognition of the Moro identity, said the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos-Deles.

Following the announcement of the preliminary agreement on Sunday, she said, a group of Bangsamoro proposed a campaign called “Bangsamoro Ako, Filipino.”

“It is a way to promote the Moro identity as part of the Filipino,” Deles said, adding that she had told the group to proceed with the campaign.

The framework agreement signed in Malacañang are for Moros to win recognition of their identity as Bangsamoro.

Under the agreement, considered Bangsamoro are “those who at the time of conquest and colonization were considered natives or original inhabitants of Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago and its adjacent islands, including Palawan, and their descendants, whether of mixed or of full blood.”

The Transition Commission will draft the basic law that would create Bangsamoro. The commission will submit the draft of the basic law to Congress for legislation.

While Sharia, or Islamic law, would cover Muslims in Bangsamoro, any law or regulation to be adopted by the region would respect the basic rights and civil liberties guaranteed by the 1987 Constitution.

Any attempt to impose controversial practices—like stoning to death for adultery or forcing women to wear burkas—similar to those in conservative Islamic countries, could be challenged in the Supreme Court in Manila.

In short, there is separation of Church and State … Based on the Constitution of the Republic, it is the Supreme Court [that] will have the final say if a punishment is cruel or unusual, or if [a rule or policy] violates equal protection under the law, freedom of expression, or the nonestablishment clause.

In short, there are rights guaranteed by the Constitution.

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