Sen. Chiz Escudero speaking in MSU Marawi

April 6, 2016 marks the visit of vice-presidential candidate Sen. Chiz Escudero and his senatoriable Edu Manzano to the provinces of Lanao. We caught him in his speaking engagement  in Mindanao State University and here's what we learned from Muslim Movement for Genuine Change (MMGC also Muslim Movement for Grace and Chiz):



1. That Grace and Chiz signed a covenant with the national leaders of the MMGC and the covenant says:

Covenant of Senator Grace Poe and Senator Chiz Escudero for the Moros

In this gathering of Muslim Movement for Grace and Chiz National Leaders' Assembly, we reaffirm our principle of Gobyernong May Puso. It is in our vision that peace and real progress must touch all corners of the country. And I quote my speech last September 17, 2015: "To our Moro brothers, your culture and heroism were the inspiration for many of my father's films. After a long and hard history, it is time that you are given equal opportunities and genuine assistance."

We affirm peace in our platform of government as the core policy in the conflict in Mindanao. We reaffirm that education and health play a greater role in peace as well as development and livelihood.

We also pursue policies that will advance Halal industry and Islamic Finance as inclusive initiatives for the economic welfare of the Bangsamoro as we plan to strengthen National Commission on Muslim Filipino to make it more responsive and make greater impact to its constituents.

We believe in equality and equal opportunities as we also push against discrimination of all kinds. Access to justice and rule of law must be upheld as they are the foundation of a cohesive society.

We must likewise promote transparency in the government to make our public officials more accountable. It is the duty of every government o establish conditions wherein peace, development and justice may be realized in order to progress and realize economic growth.

Accordingly, we set the above-goals in our platform of governance under our theme Walang Maiiwan, Sama-sama Tayong Uunlad.

8 February 2016. Aberdeen Court, Quezon City

 

2. That Grace and Chiz adopted the Muslim Agenda of MMGC into their platforms for the Moros which can be summarized as follows:

 

Education

  • technical and financial support for madrasas
  • strengthen political participation of Muslim youth following the SK Reform Bill with the help of National Youth Commission and National Commission on Muslim Filipinos
  • create policies on Countering Violent Extremists
  • cultural exchange programs
Health

  • equal access to health services
  • health services in line with traditions and cultural sensitivity
  • solve reproductive health issues e.g. maternal and infant mortality rates among Muslims
  • deepen and expand studies on health to create policies, projects and programs for Muslims
  • find new and effective system to improve health services
Justice for the Moros

  • increase the budget of NCMF to increase capacity to provide legal programs, trainings for shariah courts employees
  • coordinate CSOs that provide legal services and madrasa to educate Muslim youth
  • Release Care and Rehabilitation Program for victims of illegal arrest and mistaken identity
  • expand Victims' Compensation Act for freed Muslim detainees, include them in the Parole and Probation Administration of DOJ
  • enhance alternative dispute system
  • systematization of customary and traditional laws
  • support for the members of traditional Moro justice systems through mediation training
  • formulate clear policy on informal justice systems
Economy and Livelihood

  • encourage the growth of Islamic Banking 
  • pass HB 5989 that will encourage investors to open Islamic Banks and permit conventiona banks to operate Islamic banking units
  • prioritize ARMM as a market for Islamic banking
  • get support of Moro traders to support Islamic banking
  • strengthen Halal Industry
  • study the passage of HB 2381 that codifies the comprehensive plan for Halal industry in the country
  • enjoin the public, investors, and SMEs to support Halal industry in cooperation with DTI, DOT, Mindanao Development Authority, NCMF, and other private agencies
  • free port zones and tax incentives for Halal industry
  • with the academe, deepen the understanding of Halal industry including cosmetics, drugs, etc.
  • DOT to create Islam-friendly programs like celebration of Eid'l Fitr
Discrimination

  • possible modification of Labor Code to include the permission for the worker to follow their customs according to their religion
  • comprehensive law against discrimination
  • school materials be culturally ad politically-correct especially those referring to the Muslims
Order and Security

  • pass an inclusive, transparent, and accountable Banggsamoro Basic Law based on the CAB and the Constitution
  • make sure the government does not abandon its agreement with MILF
  • review the present coordination mechanisms such as Ad Hoc Joint Action Group and Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities
  • consultation with grassroots groups for inclusive BBL
  • ensure the Armed Forces follow the coordination protocols
  • increase the transparency of the expenditure of Bangsamoro budget
  • BBL should be in accordance with the Constitution that says " public office is a public trust"; reaffirms the right of the public to information; has a provision on anti-dynasty
  • prioritize the building of permanent houses for the Internally Displaced Persons who were victims of war and other calamities
I cannot help but notice that Sen. Chiz Escudero has not addressed the pan de sal issue. In the heat of the MOA-AD debate, Chiz has remarked that “how can Muslims aspire for self-governance when they cannot even make pan de sal (salt bread) and that “the President may have been ill-advised” to have personally met Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) leader Al Haj Murad Ibrahim. Read more here in the OPAPP website where Rep. Pangalian Balindong reacted to Escudero's statements.

I think Chiz would benefit from directly addressing his faux pas. The thing about the Moros is that although they are perceived to be a minority, their numbers is significant enough to make or break a national candidate's dream to snag the seat.

Moreover, the Moros do not forget. Mayor Joseph Estrada won the presidency with an overwhelming support of the Moros. After the all-out war, he lost the Moro vote that contributed to his loss when he ran again for the office. Take Cayetano for instance, after his scathing remarks against Muslims as terrorist, when he tried to ride the heat of the Mamasapano controversy thinking perhaps that it is his opportunity to get media mileage to propel his aspirations for presidency, still cannot get the love of Mindanao although his running mate is the leading Mindanao candidate, Mayor Rody Duterte.

Although he and Grace have drafted platform for the Moros, it is not enough to win the Moros over. Because how can they believe that Chiz will really do what he promised when the impression of Moros is that he is an anti-Muslim. Sweeping the dust under the rug won't make it go away, you have to turn the rug over and beat it hard.

Moreover, I cannot help but notice the recurring reference o constitutionality when talking about the BBL. Is it not something beyond the constitution as the government is talking to a group of people that considers themselves not under the Philippine Laws? Somebody enlighten me on this issue.

And if I am to condense the numerously worded platform, it will boil down to these words: madrasa education, health services tailored to Moros, increase budget, Islamic banking and halal industry, anti-discrimination policies, coordination protocols, and constitutional BBL.

So there you go, what Poe and Escudero plans for the Moros. Are they good enough for you? Do you believe they are doable? Which ones do you think make sense?