HON. ATTY. ALI PANGALIAN M. BALINDONG
BTA Member / Parliament Speaker
Contact Person: Anna Alia Jasmin A. Balindong
Office Address: BTA Parliament Building, BARMM Compound, Cotabato City
Contact No.: 0921-545-1818
Facebook Account/Name/Page: None
Email Address: [email protected]
ALI PANGALIAN M. BALINDONG
(born January 1, 1940) is a Filipino lawyer and politician. He is the current Speaker of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) Parliament. He is also a former Deputy Speaker of the Philippine House of Representatives and a member of the 1971 Philippine Constitutional Convention.
Born in Pualas, Lanao del Sur on January 1, 1940, Balindong is the eldest son of Sultan Amer Macaorao Balindong, former mayor of the Municipality of Malabang, and Hajjatu Maimona Marohom Balindong. He studied at Malabang Central Elementary School and graduated in 1954. He then went to Our Lady of Peace High School and graduated in 1958. He took up Bachelor of Arts Major in Political Science at the Manuel L. Quezon University and graduated in 1962. He studied law at the same university and graduated in 1966 with a Bachelor of Laws degree (LL.B.). He pursued further studies later and earned his Master of Public Administration degree from Mindanao State University.
Balindong engaged in private legal practice and served as legal counsel for the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) which works for peace initiatives with the government. In 1971, he joined the Philippine Constitutional Convention representing the Lone District of Lanao del Sur. He started his political career when he held the post of Assemblyman from 1990 to 1993 representing the 2nd District of Lanao del Sur and was elected as Speaker of the Regional Legislative Assemblyman of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) between 1991 and 1993.
In 1995, he ran and was elected as the congressional representative of the 2nd District of Lanao del Sur during the 10th Congress. He ran again in 2007 and became a member of the 14th, 15th, and 16th Congresses of the House of Representatives. In 2013, he rose to the Deputy Speaker post of the House of Representatives until 2016.
In 2018, under Executive Order 10, Balindong was appointed by President Rodrigo Duterte as a member of the 25-member Consultative Committee to Review the 1987 Philippine Constitution. A committee composed of former government officials, veteran lawyers, and academicians which were tasked by the President to craft a Federal constitution.
Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL)
For most of his political life, Balindong advocated the age-old quest for self-determination of the Filipino-Muslims in Mindanao. He introduced and authored the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), which was later renamed the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), in the 16th Congress. During a privilege speech, he stated that he has always believed that this is essential in ushering unity in Mindanao and the entire country, where Filipino Muslims, Christians, Lumads, and virtually all sectors of the Filipino society could live in harmony, peace, and inclusive prosperity. This to him will mark the end of the 400-year struggle for independence and at the same guarantee every Muslim’s right to life, property, and prosperity.
Under succeeding president Rodrigo R. Duterte. The BOL was ratified by the Philippine Senate on July 23, 2018, and House of Representatives on July 24, 2018, and signed into law by President Duterte on July 26, 2018, establishing the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region to replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
The Moro History, Culture and Identity Studies Act
House Bill No. 4832 or “The Moro History, Culture and Identity Studies Act” which mandates the teaching of Moro history, culture, and identity in the higher education curriculum in the entire country. This bill has already passed the House of Representatives.
Balindong sees the need to highlight the ethnicity, shared origins or commonalities between Muslims and non-Muslims in order to foster respect and positive relationships between minority and majority groups.
He said, “While Filipino and Muslim cultures may have differences, it is a fact that they are bound by a common heritage, the land they call the Philippines, and they have a lot in common, on top of which, is the clamor for peace.” Though Filipino and Muslim cultures have differences, peace is attainable through understanding, respect, and tolerance for cultural and religious diversities.
National Commission on Muslim Filipinos Act
Another vital legislative initiative Balindong sponsored is the Republic Act No 9997, also known as the “National Commission on Muslim Filipinos Act of 2009” which was enacted into law on February 8, 2010. This act created the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) headed by The Commission, mandated to preserve and develop the culture, tradition, institutions, and well-being of Muslim Filipinos in conformity with the country’s laws and in consonance with national unity and development.
House Bill No. 1447
Balindong filed and lobbied for House Bill No. 1447, which prohibits the use of the words “Muslim” or “Christian” in mass media to describe any person suspected of or convicted for committing criminal or unlawful actions. He argued if the media puts labels on suspects and convicted criminals regarding their nationality, ethnicity, and religious affiliation it fosters negative bias to people who shares their affiliation, affecting the collective image of such groups. He cites that there is negative reception whenever other countries branded a housemaid as Pinay for the simple reason that there are so many Filipino women workers working as maids. “Why then is our media doing the same to our Muslim countrymen? Indeed, our Muslim brothers are a minority among the Filipino majority, but should be treated with the same respect and privileges as any other Batangueño, Visayan or other Filipino citizens.
I dream of a developed and proud Bangsamoro, I dream of an enlightened Philippines. I dream of an enlightened government, national, regional and local governments working together, not one second guessing and imposing on the other. We are now at the troughs of making this dream a reality. Together I am confident we shall get through it, proud and triumphant.
There are obstacles along the way; we have seen it, went through with it and still working our way through it. That is but expected, but the very difficulty we are facing is ourselves, our lack of faith with each other, that the tendency is to trust and consort with other people than your own. We have so much talent in our midst, considerable intelligence and professional training, but sadly, instead of sharing with one another, we use it to break from our own people and elevate ourselves as if we are now above and beyond everyone. We often lose sight of what lies ahead; if we can only act as one and share the same vision of development.
We have to act together now before it’s too late. It has long been late in fact, but we are given another opportunity. Let us not waste it. We should face and build our own future together, and we should be able to tell the rest of the country we are ready, we have learned from history and we now stand prepared to do everything to achieve what we deserve. This should be the message if we are asked if we still need extraordinary measures to ensure peace in the region.
Martial Law has been enforced on the region since 23 May 2017. It was a needed measure and we have seen how it has quelled or (if some of you don’t agree, for I am sure there are some of you who would always disagree and whisper that it’s not), at least tempered or slowed down extremism. We were in transition then from ARMM to BARMM, which may have led some to think it was a good timing to sow confusion and further divide us, and the rest of the country. That was almost 3 years ago. If we haven’t learned enough to understand why it happened and know how to prevent it from happening, then there is no reason for us to be in government. But we are here, and whether we like it or not, it is incumbent on us to know, push and put in place what is best for the region and the whole country. We should by now be in a position to decide what needs to be done moving forward.
No doubt, Martial Law has allowed the region to get back to normal. There is security, but to say it is the same as peace is something else entirely. If we continue to have Martial Law we have to ask ourselves when would be the time that we will really be on our feet and able to secure the region on our own and in the process achieve development. In the first place, who will argue that Martial Law will result to development? Martial Law is needed to get back to normal and arrest lawlessness, but development is achieved only when law and order is in place.
How much investment has come to the region while we are under Martial Law? How much more could we have had if there was no Martial Law? Or better yet, we should ask, how much investment and ultimately development could have already been achieved if there was no need for Martial Law in the first place? If terror groups did not lay waste the beautiful city of Marawi, where could we have been by now? I am sure everyone will just loathe with regret that we lost a beautiful city in Marawi.
It would certainly be difficult to quantify, but I am sure, and this at least many of you must know, there are so many would-be investors in the region, there is so much opportunity and resources that there is so much reason for investors to come and do business with us. Still we are hard pressed for investments. There will always be interest to be in the region, but there will always be hesitation. Not until we are able to secure ourselves, and we will secure ourselves only if we get our acts together and give no reason for lawless elements to thrive.
We are missing so much in tourism alone. The beauty of the region is unparalleled, and this we have heard so much from those who have seen many of our famous tourist spots and came to compare with what we have to offer. Could we not do the same intense promotion? I mean we are already promoting the region as a tourist destination, but could we be as effective enough to generate interest and tourists and in the process promote our culture and therefore understanding among different peoples, promote our good food and craftsmanship.
How could we embark on an aggressive pitch for people to come, see, experience and enjoy our place when they are continuously held back by the thought that Martial Law still stands? Again I can almost hear the usual naysayers saying, even before Martial Law tourism has been a hard draw. But precisely the very reason why we should finally wake up and know that we have to put our place in order. It is only in that way that we can really subdue violence in our midst and vigorously push for development.
I believe, the same thoughts may have come to our dear President when he recently announced that Martial Law will no longer be extended. As has shown time and again he understands the issues in the very region he was born, raised and made a name. He knows it is time for Martial Law to be lifted and allow the region to get back on its own feet.
Again there should already be enough security measures in place as we have learned enough from the debacle that happened 3 years ago and more. We will need assistance no doubt, especially from the national government but not in continuing with Martial Law and or securing the region for us. We have to establish a partnership where security is a close collaboration of the regional government with the assistance of the national government. In the first place, we should know better what has been the cause of security problems and so we are in a better position to act. And there’s no overemphasizing to say we have to act now.
What is needed, and this has been the case ever since, is development. In fact the very reason for the start and continuing unrest in the region is poverty, the utter neglect of the region. But make no mistake; we are all part of this problem. Neglect may have been mainly because of the national government, but we are also to blame for giving them reason to take us for granted, for continuing to impose on us. This precisely is my lamentation at the outset; some of us would rather work with and consort with the others instead of working together as a people. You can very well argue that we are different peoples, but can you not see that we have more reason to be one than be divided and allow ourselves to be used by other people? By other partisan interests?
Given all these, I have to ask, what would be the better, nay, the best way to finally establish order in Marawi? By coming up with another military camp? Would it not be best to finally get down to real work at rebuilding our beloved City and again addressing the long bemoaned problem of underdevelopment? Would development not be enough reason for people to prefer peace than guns and bullets? Would the continued use or even just threat of use of force be enough to sustain security? Again, make no mistake, there’s a whole world of a difference between security and peace.
There can be security without peace, which means rather temporary security, but peace always comes with security and one that is lasting as it is sustained. Let us continue to work with our President in this regard and have him see what we see as he has always had and not allow selfish and narrow interests to dominate and hold sway. The priority should be the rebuilding of Marawi, not another military camp.
What will it take for us to work and act as a people? Every waking hour I ask myself just that. When the then draft Bangsamoro Basic Law did not pass, I cried and ask, “what would I tell my people?” Now that we are here, I have to ask, what can we do in order to realize everything depends on us. What will it take to understand that if we act as one, there is nothing impossible? At least help me understand. That at least could be a good start; then there is no reason why we could not convince everyone, why we could not convince ourselves that we deserve more.
Shukran. Wassalamo Alaikom Wa Rahmatullahi Wa Barakatuh.
(Delivered at the Plenary Session of BTA, 11 December, 2019.)
Speech of Speaker Ali Pangalian M. Balindong
BTA Parliament, SKCC, BARMM Compound,
A Call for the Bangsamoro
When Spain and the then new imperialist United States were selling and buying a county and people some 12 scores and a year ago, Spain sold something it did not own or possess. What was sold was paper, pieces of paper that said that Mindanao, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-tawi were a province of what was then referred to as Filipinas and part of the Spanish Crown.
In fact by the time treaty negotiators were parleying in Paris there was no longer any vestige of Spanish control, possession, or government in Filipinas, which in fact was referring only to the Christian part of the archipelago.
Spain never had control, government, nor possession of the Moro territory. It did not have any “suspended sovereignty” because its sovereignty had been terminated. And so when the United States offered to pay $20,000,000 for the cession of the archipelago in November 1898, Spain accepted (O. D. Corpuz 1989).
There was already a civilization in these Philippine islands before the coming of the Spaniards. A lively trade was already flourishing as a government was already in place as it was in many parts of the early world. Culture was already established so is language that bound the people under an identity. It may not be some kind of unity that was artificially established in the treaty of Westphalia that which we accepted under threat of a gun, but at the least some framework of understanding that basically governed principalities and kingdoms in Europe. We were a proud civilization then and did not accept anyone who would dare second-guess what we have in our hearts and mind.
Mindanao remained, as it was, a proud civilization of its own. Even by 1903, the Philippine Commission then conceded “nothing of importance was done toward bringing the inhabitants of the Moro province under American control”. The military governor of the district of Sulu complained that: “After four years of occupation,” the Americans were no better off than the Spaniards. Luke Edward Wright, William Howard Taft’s successor as governor-general, declared in 1904 that during the life of the Kiram-Bates agreement, Americans were attacked whenever they moved “a step beyond the protection of the garrison,” armed or unarmed. We were a proud people.
We were known to be fierce but what was clear is that we knew who we are as a people. This is the very source of our strength that made us invincible to any would be conquerors. We would not have been able to defend and outwit the more technologically advanced people who came to take over our lands then if we were still unorganized and unaware as a people. Where are this people of the region now? Where is the pride, where is the civilization? We may have retained our tribal identities and proud to declare who we are as distinct peoples, but we stopped being a civilization and sadly have become defined only by parochial interests. We used to be a lot better than any of the western powers that occupied us. Now we have to ask ourselves what it is that we can still claim to be good at.
If we cannot unite as a country, as the whole Philippines, we might want to consider uniting as a region, as a people sharing the same territory, the same house so to speak. That could be a good start, imagine living in a house where everyone smiles to each other but in their minds they hardly could trust each other nor feel proud to be living in the same house.
If we could do that, if we can start to live and act as one people, and there is no reason why we could not do that, then we can be reminded of the self-respect our ancestors had, the pride of being the civilization in this archipelago. If only we could be reminded of the civilization that once was, before the coming of the colonizers, then we will be reminded that there are a lot more reasons that bind us than divide us. In fact it’s quite depressing that the cause of our division is rather petty, in fact, despicable, as we are divided only because we allow ourselves to be used by other people, at what expense? Only our dignity as a people is lost in the process. So yes, we can blame other people all we want for not having what we deserve, but precisely because we have not been acting as one people, we are in fact allowing other people to dictate on us, to decide for us. In the final analysis, we only have ourselves to blame.
We now have this rare chance. Just take a look back at all that we have been through from the very beginning of this young nation. We have seen and shown not only how a colonial power can be defeated by sheer determination. We have led and demonstrated that neither dictator nor political henchmen can break us. We may have our differences, even criticisms of the revolutionary movement but we cannot deny that the struggle has shown us even before how it is to create a de facto autonomous Islamic community within the Philippine territory, with its own army, Sharia courts, prisons, and even educational system (Abinales 2010). This same revolutionary movement produced leaders we have come to respect, the late Hashim Salamat and now our Chief Minister Al-Hadj Murad Ibrahim. If only we can rally behind the Chief Minister and come to a realization that his leadership is one of inclusiveness and participation, we might be able to see that what some of us think is right, is actually just serving particular interests.
Take a look at the many times we have been led astray by the very people we thought lead us. How many times have we encountered different peoples knocking at our doors, introducing themselves as liberators or if not, well-meaning people who are supposedly only after development in the region, after only for our welfare? How many times have we had a President who does not only understand who we are but who is in fact one of us? How many times have we had a kind of government that is not only led by one person who almost always represented more the interest of the leader in manila than our people? How many times have we had a system where the national government has to come to terms to a regional government, that is all the people of the region and not just one person? This is the only time we have this opportunity. Let’s not waste it. We might have to wait another lifetime to have another opportunity, if we can in fact still, have that opportunity.
Just remember that we thought for a while back now that the regional government we have come to belong should have been there earlier, but of course we already know the story. Who could have thought a President can come from Mindanao and a steadfast leader like a Rodrigo Roa Duterte will vigorously drive the creation of a Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Mindanao? His presidency is nearing its end, but we have yet to show how well we have thought of making the most out of the opportunity he provided to us. The point is, we don’t even have to be loyal to him, we only have to note that whether we like it or not, it was during his time, under his watch that our aspiration of this kind of regional government has become a reality. We only have to be mindful of what will become of us as a people if the opportunity we now have is wasted.
Let us come to terms with ourselves and decide finally what we really want before its really too late. If we are already satisfied with what we have now, with the prevailing political and economic framework between the region and the national government, between the regional and local leaders with the national leaders, then by all means lets continue with it. Then again, we should all stop complaining and forever just accept that this is all we deserve, that this is all we are capable of.
Now, if we think that we deserve a lot more, that in fact we are capable of doing a lot more, not only for ourselves, but for this country, then we should now get our acts together and stop undermining ourselves. We can start by being categorical and sincere with one another so that in the process we can really understand each other as we say exactly what we want, what we mean and what we don’t like with one another. We will never really be able to trust one another if we cannot understand each other in the first place. If we can understand and trust each other, then in the process we can finally determine and agree on the right road moving forward. If we can be one people, there is nothing impossible with any and all our aspirations. In fact as we become one people, we shall also unite the country and finally realize not only what really is to be a Maranao, Badjao, a Maguindanaoan, Iranun, Tausug, Sama, or a Yakan, but more than that a Moro, and ultimately a Filipino. There is only strength in diversity, so please, I pray, I implore you let us finally be one people and become real Filipino.