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What is in a Name?


During a consultation held in Iligan last week concerning the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law, some politicians questioned the name of the affected territories.

The main argument is that there were never any Moros in this country before the colonization; that the word Moro was brought in by the Spaniards when the saw the Muslims praying the same way as the Moors of Morocco, their historical enemy from Africa who for some time conquered and occupied some of the southern provinces of that country.

But these politicians may have forgotten the fact that they do not belong to the proposed Bangsamoro territory and that they have no right to choose the identity of the people therein. It can be recalled that the Mindanao problem originated from the pursuit of self-determination of the tribes whose majority have converted to Islam.

Of course it is a matter of fact that for centuries, many people in Mindanao refused to be called Moros. Up to the 1960’s many Muslims in Mindanao refused to be called Moros. It was the people from outside who called them Moros. “Moadto ka sa kamorosan?” (You are going to the land of the Moros?), was a question often heard in those places.

However, it is also now a matter of history that in the beginning of the struggle for self-determination during the early 1970’s majority of the Muslims of Mindanao finally accepted the word “Moro” as their identity. The leaders of the revolution also considered that all the indigenous peoples of Mindanao before colonization shall be known as Moros. Hence, in their version of the proposed GPH-MNLF and GPH-MILF which was finally adopted the Framework Agreement signed by the GPH-MILF panels of the peace negotiations, the word “Bangsamoro” was already defined as “all the indigenous people of Mindanao before colonization.”

Thus, it is just natural that the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law carries the name “Bangsamoro.” And it is not for anybody to decide how the people of the territories involved choose to call themselves and their land.

It must be noted that the agreement reached by the government and MILF panel during the peace negotiations was anchored on the principle of “self-determination.” Hence, choosing a name for the territories is no business for outsiders.

Let the Bangsamoro pursue its own destiny. And if any outsider can help in making it succeed then let him do it.

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