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Government of the Philippines (GPH) peace panel chair Miriam Coronel-Ferrer encouraged the traditional leaders of royal houses in the south to come up with a paper on how they envision their roles and further contribute to building peace in the future Bangsamoro region.
“Magandang input kung ano ho ba talaga ang role ninyo na pamumunuan ninyo mismo (It would be good if you give us inputs about the role that you will lead yourselves). Let us make the engagement more positive and constructive,” Coronel-Ferrer addressed the leaders of a royal clan in Maguindanao called the Maharadjah Tabunaway Descendants Council of the Philippines (MTDCP) who organized a peace forum on the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) held February 9 in Cotabato City.
Attended by more than 200 participants, the forum brought together six royal houses and their representatives. These included the Royal Houses of Rajah Buayan; Maguindanao; Dungun in Tawi-Tawi; Sibugay in Zamboanga del Sur; Kapatagan Valley in Lanao del Norte; and Kabuntalan.
Coronel-Ferrer said that she touched base with the royal houses as the panel continues to pursue inclusivity in the peace process. “Traditional leaders and royal houses can play a role in the FAB by participating in the consultations that will be conducted by the Transition Commission in drafting the Bangsamoro Basic Law.”
The FAB, which was signed by the GPH and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front last October 15, 2012, serves as the roadmap for the creation of the Bangsamoro entity that will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). The parties continue peace negotiations on the four annexes to the FAB that will altogether comprise a comprehensive agreement. These annexes are on Power-sharing, Wealth-sharing, Normalization, and Transitional Arrangements and Modalities.
Women leadership was also highlighted in the forum as it was mainly organized by them.
Hadja Bai Putri Marieta Nor-Aisha P. Mindalano, who heads the MTDCP, stressed the importance of the gathering.
“We gathered here to promote peace and accelerate the role of royal house because achieving peace is everyone’s responsibility,” she said.
Traditional leaders of Royal Houses cited the importance of preserving customary laws and enhancing its usage as a source or reference to the administration of justice and promotion of peace and order in the Bangsamoro.
Explaining its significance, Bai Mindanlano said that “Customary law has been part of our Bangsamoro system of life that provided for maintenance of peace and welfare in our communities. It can define how traditional cultural heritage is shared, developed, and appropriately sustained within a community. It can also define rights and responsibilities of every community members on important aspects of their life and culture.”
She underscored that MTDCP recently signed a manifesto and submitted it to the peace panels of GPH and MILF where they expressed “hope that the Bangsamoro Basic Law that will be drafted by the Transition Commission will consider preserving the historic existence and the role of the Royal Houses and the Traditional Leaders in the establishment of the Bangsamoro Government.”
Hadja Bai Cabaybay D. Abubakar, who is also a leader of MTDCP, said that the GPH-MILF peace process, particularly the developments on the FAB, is being followed by the Bangsamoro people.
“The FAB is a manifestation that the parties are committed to end the war. The challenge is for people to come together for the success of the FAB,” she said.
MILF representative Nurudin Salam, on the other hand, expressed his gratitude to President Aquino for his commitment to implement the FAB within his term. “We are very thankful to the FAB which recognized the Bangsamoro.”
On the same note, 6th Infantry Division spokesman Col. Dickson Hermoso, who was also present in the forum, thanked the royal house for its support in pushing for peace in Mindanao, and the Aquino administration for putting the peace process a priority. “We thank President Aquino whose concern is peace and development which can be achieved if we all cooperate,” he stated.
MTDCP is composed of members who belong to the same clan who traced their descent from Radjah Tabunaway and his brother Radjah Mamalu who led the Rajadom or royal leaders in Maguindanao during the pre-colonial period.
According to the organization, Shariff Mohammad Kabunsuan, who was said to be the first Islamic missionary who came to the Philippines, was welcomed by Tabunaway who was the ruler in Maguindanao. With consent, the people converted to Islam and began adopting the Sultanates system of leadership. In the process, Tabunaway conferred Shariff Kabunsuan the honorary title of sultan.
Mamalu, on the other hand, chose to practice indigenous beliefs and moved upland. Non-Muslim indigenous peoples now called the Lumad thus trace their ancestry to Mamalu while the traditional rulers who adopted Islam revere Tabunaway. Both brothers swore to live together in peace and to always help each other, a message that continues to resonate today.