The right to self-determination

In a democratic and republican state like ours, Sovereignty resides in the people and all government authority emanates from them. (Sec. 1 Article II, Philippine Constitution). This is the reason why elections are held to seek the mandate of the people, likewise referendum and plebiscite are called to approved laws or issues affecting the lives of the governed. The proposition that every people should freely determine its own political status and freely pursue its economic, social, and cultural development has long been one of which patriots have been ready to lay down their lives

Many of those struggling for identity as a nation belong to the cultural minorities, in many instances, these minorities were oppressed and deprived of their human rights, lack of job opportunity and economic privileges, especially, in a country controlled by a group whose faith is different from the religion of the minority. On the contrary one can trace the international protection of minorities at least to the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648, under the terms of which the parties agreed to respect the rights of certain religious group.

The right to self-determination under international law.

Article 1 (2) – Equal rights and self-determination of peoples. Article 1 (2) establishes that one of the main purposes of the United Nations, and thus the Security Council, is to develop friendly international relations based on respect for the “principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples”. Essentially, the right to self-determination is the right of a people to determine its own destiny. In particular, the principle allows a people to choose its own political status and to determine its own form of economic, cultural and social development. The right to self-determination of peoples is recognized in many other international and regional instruments, including the Declaration of Principles of International Law Concerning Friendly Relations and Co-operation Among States adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1970, the Helsinki Final Act adopted by the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe (CSCE) in 1975, and the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action of 1993. It has been affirmed by the International Court of Justice in the Namibia case, the Western Sahara case and the East Timor case in which its erga omnes character was confirmed. Furthermore, the scope and content of the right to self-determination has been elaborated upon by the UN Human Rights Committee and the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

Can the Maranao nation avail of the right to self-determination?

The answer is a resounding affirmative, the great people of the lake can determine their political status within the political sphere of the United Nations Charter and other international treaties of which the Philippine government was a signatory. Consequently, the Maranao nation can petition the United Nations to hold a referendum within her acknowledge territory and decide what kind of government they wish to govern them, such as Independence, Regional Autonomy or under the present BARMM or the National Government. This right is recognized by international Covenants on Human Rights and in the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, referred to above, emphasizes that self-determination is an integral part of human rights law which has a universal application. After all, the concept of self-determination is a very powerful one. As Wolfgang Danspeckgruber put it: “No other concept is as powerful, visceral, emotional, unruly, as steep in creating aspirations and hopes as self-determination.” It evokes emotions, expectations and fears which often lead to conflict and bloodshed. (Review of: “Wolfgang Danspeckgruber (ed.), The Self-Determination of Peoples: Community, Nation, and State in an Interdependent World.” Boulder, Colorado: Lynne Rienner, 2002. Pp. 467. ISBNs 1 55587 768 0 and 1 55587 793 1)


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Atty. Bayan G. Balt is the former Chapter President of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP Marawi City and Lanao del Sur, 2013-2015) Chairman of the Ranao Federal State Movement (RFSM) and President of the Alliance of Regional Coalitions Against People’s Poverty (ARCAPP).

One thought on “The right to self-determination

  1. Nice topic and elaboration Atty. Its very relevant considering the Bangsamoro Fronts which bannered their struggle starting from Independence and now more confined to “struggle for right to self-determination of the Bangsamoro” in the course 4 decades of peace negotiations being the latter is what had been embodied and allowed in international instruments. But again, it is still a big question whether the Bangsamoro knows what self-determination is? The question is raise as the Bangsamoro already given space to shape their political, economic, social, cultural and traditional being in the past starting from the signing of the Tripoli Agreement of 1976, the 1996 FPA and now BOL. But sad to note, we can hardly pinpoint manifestation of Bangsamoro RSD, why?


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