Peoples Rights to Self-determination (Philippines)

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The Philippines, legitimately referred to as the Republic of the Philippines is a us of a with over 7,000 islands categorized into three major geographical divisions. It is situated at the jap verge of Asia between two seas, Philippine Sea and South China Sea. Luzon is the most populous and at the same time the largest in the Philippines. It is also the political as nicely as economic center of the country and domestic to the nation’s capital city. Visayas consists of islands that surround the Visayan Sea such as Panay, Cebu, Samar and many others. Mindanao is a home of various herbal resources and some of great biodiversity in the word (Buendia 12). It has an approximation of 103 million people and an area of 300 thousand square kilometers. Political unrest and poverty raised a need for the people of Philippines to seek the right to self-determination.

Demographics of the Country

The state of the indigenous people in Philippines and their self-determination has always been a concern to many as pointed out by Buendia (15). Islam was introduced in Philippines in 1210 preceding introduction of Catholicism in 1521. Today, only 5% of the Philippine population constitutes Muslims who are concentrated in western Mindanao in five provinces. In terms of health and education, Muslim regions are among the lowest in the country and the poorest as well. They adapted the term Moro as a label for the national identity they represent. In addition to that, they resisted the colonialism of the Americans and the Spanish due to grievances such as discrimination, extreme displacement of the Moro people by the Christians who settled in their areas and poverty among its people.

Commitments, Treaties, Resolutions with the UN

The government of Philippines decided to present its contention to the Human Rights Council for elections which were held by the United Nations General Assembly in 2006 (San 221). The state supported and pledged its commitments to having national and international human rights goals and strategies. The government as such agreed with the UN to include the topic of self-determination of its people in their agendas.

The nation signed treaties that would enable it to actively utilize the various United Nation human rights complaints mechanism in order to support the rights of its people (Buendia 7). So as to realize the UN Millennium development goals, the government committed itself to supporting the rights of people to develop economically and enhance social as well as cultural rights. A resolution to enhance the implementation of the Indigenous People’s Rights Act was established where the government committed itself to ensure it takes leadership roles as well as resolve issues relating to ancestral lands and domains.

Issues Relating to Philippines

The position of the country towards self-determination has always been wavering from time to time (Tuminez 76). Numerous cultural events and historical ones mark a conclusion that the country does not fully support the issue. Events such as war with the indigenous people, for instance the Moro clearly indicate that there have been problems with the issue of self-determination. The country would not be comfortable with this issue because most of the land it now possesses was once property of the indigenous people. Moreover, if the right to self-determination was fully guaranteed, much of the land which is now owned by cooperations and Christians revert back to the indigenous peoples’ ownership.

Groups Opposing the Position of the Government

The history of self-determination primarily lies with the Moro people of Philippines after they were incorporated into the state by the US colonizers together with their Filipino allies from the north at the beginning of the 20th century (Buendia 13). The indigenous people’s lands were henceforth declared property of the Philippine government without their consent. The administration initiated resettlement programs that pushed landless and the impoverished peasants into regions where Moros and the indigenous people occupied. There was therefore laws put in place that victimized the Moros and the ethnic people. For instance, non-Christians could only own four hectares of land, Christians 16 hectares while corporations were permitted to own as much as 1024 hectares.

In accordance to these changes, much of the land in the region was entitled to corporations and few plantation owners (San 196). It is estimated in 1980 that close to half of what the Philippine government exported came from these areas. Notably, the Moros and the indigenous people had become the poorest in the country leaving 80% of them to be landless. As a result, Moros decided to fight back, citing terrorism by militants who gained support from politicians who owned the lands and the government forces.

Over 15 years ago, the government of Philippines and NDFP (National Democratic Front of Philippines) lacked an option and signed a comprehensive agreement with respect to the rights of humans and the international law of Humanitarian in Hague according to Capulong (641). They consented to this out of the people’s concerns and fight over their rights. The agreement comprised of 12 points that were meant to bring national liberation and fairness by providing a basis for unity among all social classes and national freedom that is genuine as well as lasting peace for Philippines.

Tripoli Agreement was negotiated between the officials of Philippine government and MNLF (Moro National Liberation Front) leaders in 1976 (Tuminez 78). It included cease of fire, granting autonomy to thirteen provinces whose majority occupants were Muslims. Nonetheless, the agreement was not fully implemented by the then Marcos regime, a matter which initiated a fresh war. Marcos regime ended in 1985, followed closely in 1986 by a ceasefire negotiated again by the MNLF with President Corazon Aquino in January. This agreement’s goal targeted the independence of the Muslim community. However, the MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) failed to concur, leading to fighting up to the year 1988.

After the war, the government of Philippines carried on with plans for the Moro people’s autonomy without the involvement of MNLF cooperation (Tuminez 89). Afterwards in 1987 constitution, article 10 instructed the Congress to create an Autonomous region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). Only four provinces accepted the autonomy measure of the government and they remain the subnational region with their own judicial, administrative and parliamentary branches after 6th November 1990 inauguration. The indigenous people continued to press the government to give them back their land but there was little that could be done.

Once again, MNLF with the administration of Fidel Ramos signed a peace agreement in 1996 which provided two stages of execution. The first stage followed the establishment of a new Regional Autonomous Government which was to operate from September 1999 for three years. It was to form a period of transition which was succeeded by the second phase. The latter took place on 14th August 2001 where 15 provinces and 10 cities decided whether or not to join the autonomous region. They however faced a challenge as the government failed to implement the agreement fully and on time, leaving the arrangement without funds to develop it. The indigenous people in Philippines were therefore left with no choice but to fight because the government though having promised, would break that vow once again by granting the Moros only limited power so that it (the government) could remain supreme (Buendia 22).

The continuation of the Moro people to seek a land where they could self-determine themselves is still evident. Claim for their ancestral homeland and the independence of Bangsamoro which embraces the whole of Mindanao section, Sulu, besides Palawan continues. However, because this region is now part of a self-governing state (the Republic of Philippines), MILF bargained for a smaller territory where they could be able to exercise self-governance in such a way to later expand it in the opinion of San (226).

Argument to the United Nations on This Issue

Philippines is likely to argue, regarding the issue of the indigenous people that they do not have the right to self-determination because it is unconstitutional. Although the United Nations guarantees the right of the people to self-determination, it also dictates that all the members should refrain from threats or use of force against the territorial independence (Xanthaki vol. 52). It is however not clear whether this law applies between states only or extends to within a state. In this case, the government of Philippines has a basis of argument since the indigenous people within its state have for long been involved in battles with the nation.

Another argument would be that if the minority, in this case the Bangsamoro were given the right to self-determination, they would not only claim political status but also a territory. This would lead to dismemberment of the existing state (Errico 749). A problem arises because Bangsamoro people qualify to be termed to as a people who have a historical tradition in common and also share similar cultural practices. Moreover, the indigenous people were already in the formation of state process before the invasion of the Spanish and had their own government which held diplomatic relations with other societies.

In their arguments, countries such as the United States and Norway would be the natural allies of Philippines in the United Nations. For instance, United States has had strong relations with the Philippines for a long time. As Buendia (20) notes, President Bush once praised Philippines for being its oldest ally in the East. Norway on the other hand has had a long history with Philippines both traditionally and in the corporate sector. They have both flourished their relations to encompass labor migration as well as reconciliation and peace efforts. Both these nations would be expected to be partners with the Philippines in their argument with the United Nations.

Works Cited

Buendia, Rizal G. “Looking into the future of Moro self-determination in the Philippines.” Philippine Political Science Journal 29.52 (2008): 1-24.

Capulong, Eduardo RC. “Mediation and the neocolonial legal order: Access to justice and self-determination in the Philippines.” Ohio St. J. on Disp. Resol. 27 (2012): 641.

Errico, Stefania. “The Draft UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: An Overview.” Human Rights Law Review 7.4 (2007): 741-755.

San Juan Jr, Epifanio. Toward Filipino Self-Determination: Beyond Transnational Globalization. SUNY Press, 2010: 158-234.

Tuminez, Astrid S. “This land is our land: Moro ancestral domain and its implications for peace and development in the Southern Philippines.” SAIS Review of International Affairs 27.2 (2007): 77-91.

Xanthaki, Alexandra. Indigenous rights and United Nations standards: self-determination, culture and land. Vol. 52. Cambridge University Press, 2007.

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