Evolving Transitional Justice in the Bangsamoro - Blueboard by Ma. Lourdes Veneracion-Rallonza, Ph.D.

March 03, 2020

It has been four years since the Transitional Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) turned over its Report that sought to study and analyze historical injustice, legitimate grievances, human rights violations, and marginalization through land dispossession in the Bangsamoro and since then, several national and regional initiatives on transitional justice have materialized.

Legislative Front
Foremost, in the national legislative front, Representative Belmonte of Quezon City and Representative Sangcopan of Anak Mindanao, re-filed House Bill 4003 known as "An Act Establishing a Transitional Justice and Reconciliation Program for the Bangsamoro, Creating for the Purpose the National Transitional Justice and Reconciliation Commission for the Bangsamoro, and Appropriating Funds Thereof"  (formerly House Bill 5669), in the 18th Congress. Currently, it is lodged at the Committee of Peace, Reconciliation and Unity. Unfortunately, the bill has not moved at the Committee level possibly because Committee membership has yet to be completed to date. This is quite a saddening state since the original bill passed at the Committee level in the previous Congress. More so, the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA), through Resolution 56, has already called on the national government to create a National Transitional Justice and Reconciliation Commission for the Bangsamoro and the implementation of a Transitional Justice and Reconciliation Program for the Bangsamoro. HB 4003 must be a priority bill.
At their own level, the BTA also adopted  Resolution 58 calling for the "Creation of the Transitional Justice and Reconciliation Commission in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM)." This call has been based on the Bangsamoro Organic Law's (BOL) provision on the creation of a transitional justice mechanism "to address the legitimate grievances of the Bangsamoro people and indigenous peoples such as historical injustices, human rights violations, and marginalization through unjust dispossession of territorial and proprietary rights and customary land tenure." A bill must also be passed in the BTA in order to create this regional commission.
Currently, in the absence of such regional commission, the Bangsamoro Human Rights Commission (BHRC), newly created through the Bangsamoro Autonomy (BA) Act No. 4, was mandated to take on human rights transitional justice initiatives in the interim. According to Art. IX, Sec 52, the BHRC "shall perform the human rights component of the transitional justice mechanism" until such time that a Bangsamoro Transitional Justice Commission has been created. As such, the BHRC "shall document and investigate human rights violations; collect testimonial, object, or documentary evidence; provide information, data, and documents in relation thereto; provide research and technical support; and promote the transitional justice mechanism." The task now is that of operationalization.
Peace Process, Civil Society, and Community Spaces
On the part of the national government, the guidance on transitional justice was integrated in 2019 Executive Order (EO) 79 on "Implementing the Annex on Normalization under the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro" as one of the aspects on normalization. The Inter-Cabinet Cluster Mechanism on Normalization (ICCMN) has a transitional justice sub-cluster formulating a roadmap to be presented to the Government peace implementing panel. For their part, each of the Government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace implementing panels, have their own technical working group that would eventually jointly evolve a road map on transitional justice.
Along side these institutional measures, critical in advancing the pillars of transitional justice --- namely, the right to truth, right to justice, right to reparation, and guarantee of non-recurrence --- is an informed, inclusive, and gender-sensitive civil society entity.
Last 15 February, the Independent Working Group on Transitional Justice and Dealing with the Past (IWG TJDwP) convened the first ever Bangsamoro Civil Society Summit on Transitional Justice in Cotabato City. The Summit was attended by civil society organizations that have been capacitated on transitional justice since 2016. Towards the end of the activity, an ad hoc transitional justice civil society forum,  was established with tri-people and gender-balanced representation. Furthermore, the Summit also came generated a consensus declaration that acknowledged "the important roles of civil society, particularly women's groups and victim communities, in popularizing and advancing transitional justice," among others.
Given current institutional trajectories, this evolving transitional justice civil society platform may consider to engage in the following:
Continue to expand informed constituency on victim-centered transitional justice and dealing with the past;
Cooperate with affected communities on having grassroots transitional justice initiatives such as, but not limited to, community listening process, documentation of narratives, commemorations, and establishment of context-based community markers or museums;
Engage with the BHRC on their human rights-specific transitional justice initiatives with particular emphasis on the principles of inclusion and gender-sensitive considerations; and
Stronger advocacy and lobbying for a law creating both national and regional commissions on transitional justice for the Bangsamoro.
At the end of the day, it should be understood that transitional justice is beyond projectization and programmatic efforts and no single actor --- institutional or civil society; international, national or local --- can lay claim on moving it forward on its own. To be able to realize healing and reconciliation, a whole-of-society/multi-actor/multi-level approach is imperative. Transitional justice in the country, borne out of the dual anchors of peace and human rights, is a frame for transitioning out of violence, impunity, and neglect. Indeed, as the TJRC has declared four years ago, in light of transitional justice and dealing with the past, we have a 'Bangsamoro opportunity' to heal our people.
Ma. Lourdes Veneracion-Rallonza, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor at the Department of Political Science, Ateneo de Manila University. She is also the Director of the Gender and Atrocity Prevention program of the Asia Pacific Centre for the Responsibility to Protect and Co-Convener of the Independent Working Group on Transitional Justice and Dealing with the Past.