(A Statement from the Office of Anak Mindanao Party List Representative Mujiv S. Hataman on the Privilege Speech of Rep. Teddy Boy Locsin)

When the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front caused a wave of protests among different sectors of society, we feared the resurging of anti-Moro discrimination and prejudice.

Though we believed that the said Memorandum of Agreement could have been a major breakthrough in the peace process, we adhered and respected the Temporary Restraining Order issued by the Supreme Court, acknowledging the right to information and consultation raised by the protesters. We welcomed this opportunity for calmness, rationality and objectivity in the discussion and study of the Agreement, thereby easing our aforementioned fear. 

However, today (August 6, 2008) our fear stared right in front of us, right in the front page of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, coming from the least expected person, as we have revered and esteemed him for his eloquence, brilliance and uncorrupted stance in major public controversies in the past.

Exercising utmost prudence, we did not settle for what the news reported. We asked for a copy of the mentioned Privilege Speech of the Honorable Representative Teddy Boy Locsin, and much to our grief, the words in the actual Speech only served to confirm our fears.

We recognize the oppositions against the content of the Agreement, even the process by which it was carried out. But to put forward arguments based on misconceptions about Islam and derogatory statements about the Moro people is uncalled for, especially from a statesman such as the Honorable Representative.

If a highly educated, respected authority like Congressman Locsin thought and felt this way towards the Moro people and Muslims in general, one can only surmise what an ordinary non-Moro, non-Muslim thinks about us.

It is for this consideration, that we are compelled to negate some points raised by the good Congressman, made not in bad faith, we would like to believe, but out of the lack of acquaintance with the Moro People’s History and the dynamics of Islam.

Enumerated in the Speech under Items Four, Five and Six are what the Representative say will result from the MOA – an allusion to the establishment of an anarchic, Afghanistan-style government, “an educational system teaching even undemocratic political values along with intolerant religious ideas,” “without any of the civilized limitations in the Bill of Rights, such as equal protection of the laws, due process, and the prohibition against such cruel and unusual punishments as stoning to death a woman taken in adultery or just suspected. Indeed, it shall possess absolute powers without any prohibition against the discrimination, abuse and enslavement of women, which happens in some Muslim states.”

We do not deny the fact that these occur in countries where Muslims are a majority (there are questions among Muslim authorities on the use of the term “Islamic State” as the claim of some countries to be such is still highly debated upon), but they are also occurrences in many non-Muslim nations. Yes there are Muslims who allege that these are Islamic teachings, but many Muslims believe that these are misrepresentations arising from conservative interpretation of Islam, contrary to the true essence of Islam as established in Qur’anic hermeneutical exegesis. We are not in the position to lecture on Islamic theology and we know that this is not the proper forum. However, allow us to share the following Rights prescribed in Islam:

1. BASIC HUMAN RIGHTS:

  1. The Right to Life
  2. The Right to the Safety of Life
  3. Respect for the Chastity of Women
  4. The Right to a Basic Standard of Life
  5. Individual’s Right to Freedom
  6. The Right to Justice
  7. Equality of Human Beings
  8. The Right to Co-operate and not to Co-operate

2. RIGHTS OF CITIZENS IN AN ISLAMIC STATE:

  1. The Security of Life and Property
  2. The Protection of Honor
  3. The Sanctity and Security of Private Life
  4. The Security of Personal Freedom
  5. The Right to Protest Against Tyranny
  6. Freedom of Expression
  7. Freedom of Association
  8. Freedom of Conscience and Conviction
  9. Protection of Religious Sentiments
  10. Protection from Arbitrary Imprisonment
  11. The Right to Basic Necessities of Life
  12. Equality Before Law
  13. Rulers not above the Law
  14. The Right to Avoid Sin
  15. The Right to Participate in the Affairs of the State

3. RIGHTS OF ENEMIES AT WAR:

  1. The Rights of the Non-Combatants
  2. The Rights of the Combatants
    • Right Against Torture with fire
    • Protection of the Wounded
    • The Prisoner of War should not be Slain
    • No one should be tied to be killed
    • No looting and destruction in the enemy’s country
    • Sanctity of Property
    • Sanctity of a Dead Body
    • Return of Corpses of the Enemy
    • Prohibition of Breach of Treaties
    • Rules about Declaration of War

These Fundamental Rights were laid down by Islam six hundred years before the concept of human rights was said to be introduced in the Magna Carta of Britain. They are Rights due to every single being, regardless of race, sex or religion. Muslims are to uphold these Rights with utmost compliance because in the words of the Muslim scholar, Syed Maududi, “…when we speak of human rights in Islam we really mean that these rights have been granted by God; they have not been granted by any king or by any legislative assembly. The rights granted by the kings or the legislative assemblies, can also be withdrawn in the same manner in which they are conferred. But since in Islam human rights have been conferred by God, no legislative assembly in the world, or any government on earth has the right or authority to make any amendment or change in the rights conferred by God. No one has the right to abrogate them or withdraw them. Nor are they the basic human rights which are conferred on paper for the sake of show and exhibition and denied in actual life when the show is over. Nor are they like philosophical concepts which have no sanctions behind them.”

Furthermore, no less than the Prophet (S.A.W.) said, “On the day of judgment, rights will be given to those to whom they are due (and wrongs will be redressed…)

The violation by some Muslims of this decree does not justify the attribution of cruelty to all Muslims or to Islam in general.

We hope to have shed a speck of light on the issue of Islam, Human Rights and Democracy. Allow us now to clarify some points raised about the Moro People and our Struggle for Right to Self-Determination.

Rep. Locsin started his speech by saying it is easy for one (such as Rep. Dilangalen) to approach the issue calmly, for he stands to gain an entirely new country. May we remind or if indeed he is ignorant of the fact, inform his honor that the Moro’s struggle is not about GAINING a new country, but about REGAINING what was unjustly taken away from us. And in this particular agreement, this opportunity of regaining what is rightfully ours is not even without conditions.

The Moro people is not what he called new-minted citizens. Sir, we have been a civilized people long before the Spaniards came. We were a sovereign nation 448 years before the Philippines even became one. Our government had treaty relations with the Spaniards, the French and the Americans. Long before Magellan discovered the Philippines, Jolo was already serving as one of the international trading ports in the Malayan world, frequented by Arab, Chinese and other Asian traders. We had a defined land territory and we are not solely seafarers as mentioned. Perhaps the good Congressman forgot, Manila started as a Muslim community ruled by Rajah Sulayman.

If we have become the lowly people that we are now, bereft of civility and dignity as many see us to be, we can only point to a stepmother who has forsaken us after forcibly taking us along with our legitimate inheritance into her custody. From the very beginning, the Moro people were not remiss in their resistance against inclusion in the Philippines. But despite pleas, petitions and clamors in every means imaginable, the interest of the Moro people was never sufficiently addressed or at the very least heard. In the drafting of the 1935 Constitution, a group of Moros wrote a letter to the Constitutional Convention, asking for a guarantee of their political, economic and socio-cultural survival as a people. This found no space in the said Constitution. The letter was not even read. It is said that in protest of this injustice, a Christian Filipino delegate from Lanao, Hon. Tomas Cabili did not sign the Constitution.

But despite these, many of us grew up to be loving, respectful and obedient children of this nation. But just like illegitimate children, we are forever challenged to prove our loyalty, to struggle in order to gain respect and acceptance or even just to belong. We are eternally striving to prove our worth and to at least get the attention that we deserve but never had. And in times when we cry, longing for our identity in our own home, we are called insurgents, rebels, traitors and dealt with as such.

The Filipino nation has not and from the recent debacles about the peace process, will never be able to accept us unconditionally for who and what we are. Yet, the Filipino nation denies us, even a glimpse of hope to regain our lives. What can be more cruel than that?

This is not to serve the interest of the peace process, more so push for the contentious Memorandum of Agreement. Public debates on the issue are everywhere. This is a mere attempt to provide an alternative perspective on what has been said, particularly in the subject Privilege Speech, which we know, represents the feelings and insights of many of our Christian Filipino brothers and sisters.

Lastly, the said Speech also questioned the intervention of the Malaysian government. We cannot speak in behalf of Malaysia. But this we can say, the Moro People’s Right to Self-Determination is a universally upheld Right. Between Malaysia, who recognizes this right, and one who is not aware of, much more support this right, who now is bereft of the spirit of human rights, democracy and justice?