Yasmin Busran-Lao


by jun asuncion



Yasmin Busran was a good classmate of mine  in college and we both majored in clinical psychology. That was  in the early 80’s in FEU.  There we founded the FEU Psychological Society together with some other classmates, I being the first elected president and Yasmin being the technical adviser. She was very good in organization and in bringing clarity to some complicated issues, especially during our society’s regular meetings.

After graduation, I lost sight of Yasmin but I knew that she went back  to Marawi,  back to her people and ancestors, to serve and fight for the rights of disadvantaged  Filipino Muslim women and children on one side and- on the other side-  to continue with her scholarly interests by teaching at the Marawi University.

We parted ways with the same theories, college memories, friends and professors in our heads.  These figures of  Muslim women and children in her heart and mind  brought her immediately back to Marawi, while  figures like Bleuler, Marx, Freud and Jung brought me to Zürich University and to the C.G. Jung Institute of analytical psychology in Küsnacht.

Looking back, I had already sensed during that time  Yasmin’s strong political mind as I had admired her high sense for justice and human rights and for her belief in the usefulness of communication in resolving conflicting issues; looking back, Yasmin embodied that perfect harmony of sharp intellect and compassionate heart in ways very  feminine in an unassuming, modest character.

Now, she’s a senatorial candidate of  Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino  and Sen. Mar Roxas ticket of the Liberal Party-  presidential and vice-presidential candidates, respectively.

I just wrote her two weeks ago and she said she remembers me and I told her I would help in ways I can to spread her message to the Filipino people, particularly to the Bicolanos at home and abroad.

 I like to help introduce Yasmin to the readers of Bulan Observer not only because she was a good classmate of mine but because I support Article II, Section 26 of our Constitution which says that ” The State shall guarantee equal access to opportunities for public service and prohibit political dynasties as may be defined by law.”

Yasmin is almost unknown outside Marawi City, for she is not a movie star but a Muslim scholar, a political mind yet not coming from a political dynasty. She represents those  lost segments of democracy which have been ignored by the current system and which we have been advocating for. In short, Yasmin represents an essential part of that  social change that we have recently  been talking about. 

I do not say vote Yasmin for that would sound very impolite, rather know her and reflect on the deeper meanings of her message and how they relate to the issues that have always been of interest to us here at BO-  the issues of social justice, human rights, peace and understanding  through dialogue and inclusive governance, political reforms and more democracy, indeed, issues that stand for a brighter Philippines. /

 jun asuncion


By Nixon Kua


Pagbigyan naman natin ang mga kandidatong walang pambayad ng ads o di kaya’y hindi masyadong kilala bagama’t karapat dapat manungkulan kung ibabase sa kanilang track record.

Unahin natin si Yasmin Busran – Lao, isa sa kandidato ni Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino at ni Sen. Mar Roxas ng partido Liberal sa pagka senador.

Ito ho ang liham ni dating Sec. Teresita “Ging” Quintos Deles (kasama ng Hyatt 10 na nagbitiw sa gabinete ni Madam Senyora Donya Gloria dahil hindi nila masikmura ang Hello Garci at kasama ng inyong lingkod sa pakikipaglaban sa mga katiwalian ng kasalukuyang administrasyon) tungkol kay Yasmin.

“I have known Yasmin Busran-Lao for more than a decade. We first met as civil society advocates in the Philippine peace movement. I headed a peace institute and several national-level peace networks with secretariats based in Manila, while she was and continues to be based in Marawi City in Mindanao, heading a Muslim women’s NGO and, I think, initially also serving on the faculty of the Mindanao State University. Almost at the same time that she became engaged in the peace movement, she also joined the national women’s organization PILIPINA, to which I belong and was a co-founder, and she came to head the organization’s chapter in Marawi. In 2000-2005, I joined government as a member of the Cabinet, initially heading the National Anti-Poverty Commission until September, 2003, and then as the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process until my resignation from government in 2005. Throughout this period, Yas and I retained a close working and personal relationship, closely cooperating in advancing the peace and feminist agenda from our respective sides of the governance fence.

I consider Yas a truly outstanding champion for peace and women’s rights, particularly from the perspective of the Bangsamoro. Her work has been extraordinary in that it has combined both grassroots organizing and development work, on the one hand, with a high level of scholarship and public advocacy—both streams of her efforts contributing to both improving the conditions of communities, especially women and children, caught in the middle of armed conflict, and strengthening public awareness of the challenges confronting the search for peace in Mindanao as well as the rights of Filipino women under Islam.

I admire Yasmin for her clarity of vision and her courage in speaking out on issues, not only when they involve external sources of injustice and oppression but even when they reflect internal contradictions and challenge traditional powers and hierarchies within the Bangsamoro. She has demonstrated rigor and passion in advancing the causes of peace and feminism in national discourse, even as she has remained rooted in her community and island of origin. With the Al Mujadillah Development Foundation and the Nisa Ul-Haqq Fi Bangsamoro, which she founded with other Moro women, Yasmin has worked tirelessly and relentlessly, even through periods of personal trial and affliction, to bring about women’s empowerment, improved local and regional governance, civil society consensus-building and conflict mediation, and humanitarian assistance for families displaced by war in Central Mindanao.

She has been steadfast in her commitment to the cause of women, peace for her people, and the national welfare. I think the Philippines is badly in need of having someone like Yasmin Busran-Lao in the Senate.”



Mula sa magigiting na lahi at mabuting angkan

– Kaisa-isang Muslim (Maranaw) na babaeng tumatakbo sa Senado

– Anak ni Justice Mama Busran, ang kauna-unahang Muslim na husgado na naluklok sa Court of Appeals

May kakayahan at kasanayan

– Nagtapos ng Bachelor of Science in Psychology, Magna Cum Laude sa Far Eastern University

– Benigno S. Aquino Jr. Fellowship for Professional Development awardee (2005)

Tumataya para sa kabutihan ng Sambayanan

– Tagasulong ng kapayapaan sa Mindanaw at karapatan ng kababaihan; nagtatag at namumuno ng Al Mujadillah (babaeng sumasamo sa Kor’an) Development Foundation

– Naninindigan para sa tapat na pamahalaan; Regional Coordinator ng Change Politics Movement (CPM) sa Muslim Mindanaw

Boses ng Kapayapaan sa Senado

– Magtatrabaho upang tapusin ang tunggalian/digmaan ng mga armadong grupo tungo sa pangmatagalang kapayapaan sa mga komunidad

– Ipapawalang-bisa ang R.A. 9372 o Human Security Act

– Isusulong ang reporma sa militar at kapulisan upang sila ay mas tunay na makapagsilbi sa taong-bayan

– Babantayan ang Pambansang Badyet, lalong-lalo na ang nakalaan para sa Mindanaw at Gender and Development (GAD)

– Itutulak ang pagtuturo ng madrasah sa mga batang estudyanteng Muslim

– Palalawigin ang kaalaman ng mga kababaihan at kabataang Muslim ukol sa Code of Muslim Personal Laws (CMPL)

– Magpapasa ng batas ukol sa kalusugan ng kababaihan at pagpapaplano ng pamilya.


IN 2005 YASMIN BUSRAN-LAO was granted the Benigno S. Aquino Jr. Fellowship for Professional Development Award given by the American embassy and the Benigno S. Aquino Foundation. The award came as a surprise to the woman who had repeatedly spurned similar nominations by conveniently forgetting to submit her credentials. “I never expected to be publicly recognized for what I do,” she says. “Fighting for the rights of Muslim women and other marginalized groups is something personal for me. I get enough satisfaction helping people gain a certain control over their lives.”

What is not surprising is how this Psychology graduate of Far Eastern University came upon her advocacy. Yasmin recalls how, as an 11-year-old probinsyana, she had to contend with seatmates who would suddenly edge away when she was introduced before the class.

“Muslims were seen as devils, complete with tails and horns,” she recalls of the prejudice and stigma she had to put up with when her family moved to Manila in 1972. Like thousands of other families, they had to flee war-torn Marawi where private armies like the Ilagas and Barracudas had established a reign of terror. Her father, too, had just been appointed as the first Muslim judge in the Court of Appeals, and had to stay in Manila.

The experience, Yasmin says, made her conscious at an early age of the “impact of bigotry and discrimination on human relationships, especially on dignity and communal harmony.” It also made her a thorn in her mother’s side. She recounts: “It was at the Quiapo mosque where I met these women who were abandoned by their Iranian husbands. This was during the time of Khomeini in Iran. The women were disowned by their families and kicked out of their homes, so I decided to bring them with me. I was running some sort of a woman’s crisis center at home, and my mother could only shake her head.”

Soon, she was joining other activists when they visited Muslims in death row. “I just wanted to know what was happening,” says Yasmin. It was an unusual show of spunk for one who was only in her third year high school then.

Such dissonance ushered her into an existentialist phase at 16, when she studied the Qur’an, Buddhism and other religions to find where some oppressive practices were coming from. “They were not in the Qur’an, so why are Muslims embracing them?” she asked.

The questions led her to establish the Al-Mujadilah Development Foundation (AMDF) in 1997, shortly after she attended the 1995 Beijing Conference on Women as a representative of the feminist group PILIPINA. “In Beijing, I was able to interact with Muslim women from other countries,” recounts Yasmin. “I realized that much of the Islamic teachings we adhered to, particularly those pertaining to women, are not really what is in the Qur’an, but rather cultural interpretations of Islam.”

What followed was intensive research on the situation of Muslim women-from their domestic roles to reproductive health and poverty, from politics to the impact of armed conflict. “This we did in response to allegations that gender issues are Western issues that have no resonance in Muslim Moro communities,” says Yasmin.

Main advocacy

The Foundation was inspired by a Qur’anic verse, Al-Mujadilah (Qur’an verse 58), which, depending on one’s source, either means “The Woman who Pleads,” “The Woman who Seeketh (Justice),” or “The Woman who Disputeth.”

The AMDF has been acknowledged by its partner networks for the significant role it plays in Maranao society, the Bangsamoro struggle, and society in general.

As an institutional partner, Oxfam NOVIB, the Dutch organization for international aid, had this to say about AMDF: “(It) has proven its worth in community organizing, convening of civil society organizations, organizing youth clubs for high school students, breaking the barriers with (Muslim) women theologians and other conservative sectors of the community, capacitating local government units (LGUs) in mainstreaming gender and pushing for the implementation of the gender and development (GAD) budget, legal literacy and popularization of the Code of Muslim Personal Laws, and the construction of a grassroots’ women training center. The AMDF has a good opportunity to further develop its distinctive role in the Lanao Sur area as a community-based nongovernment organization (NGO) advocating for women’s rights, peace and governance.

The Gaston Z. Ortigas Peace Institute has been working with the AMDF since its inception and has been supportive of its various initiatives on peace building in the region. The AMDF is a member of civil society third party mediator for the declaration of ceasefire and third party observer to the peace process undertaken by government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front. It has created venues for the diverse civil society organizations to come together, share perspectives and collaborate in addressing the various peace, governance, poverty and other social issues confronting Maranao society. It has also trained LGU officials on conflict resolution, negotiation, counseling and paralegal in selected municipalities and their consequent organization into Barangay Justice Advocates (BJAs).

PILIPINA recognizes AMDF as its affiliate institution in Lanao del Sur. As such, it acknowledges its pioneering and unique contributions in advancing the discourse and praxis of putting gender values and principles in the center of peacebuilding, right to self- determination and governance efforts in the Bangsamoro homeland.

CO Multiversity, on the other hand, as the partner of AMDF in crafting its community-based strategies, acknowledges the remarkable transformative processes the organization has been able to catalyze as breakthroughs in Maranao culture as it makes a difference in governance and electoral politics while taking stock of the challenges it has to face such as (a) sustaining existing initiatives in people’s planning and decision making process; (b) maximizing participation in the barangay development planning and management; (c) participating in the educational processes for electoral reforms; and (d) sustaining initiatives on gender mainstreaming.

In 2007 Yasmin also cofounded the Nisa Ul-Haqq Fi Bangsamoro (Women for Truth and Justice in the Bangsamoro) to respond to the need of Bangsamoro women for a deeper understanding of Islam from a feminist perspective and reclaim the spaces and voices of women in Islamic discourse and praxis. Under her leadership as its current chair, the foundation has initiated the following activities: (a) conduct of study group sessions and round-table discussions on Islam and gender; (b) conduct of evidence-based researches to address the issues of Bangsamoro women such as early and forced marriages, polygamy, divorce, inheritance, reproductive health and rights, political participation, and economic empowerment; (c) engagement with the regional government of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) on gender-responsive governance; and (d) collaborate with the ARMM regional government and the Philippine Commission on Women on the development of a GAD Code for ARMM.


Busran-Lao in Naga City


NAGA CITY – It was a very brief visit, lasting just under seven hours.

But, it was also a memorable visit that left enduring impressions on

Yasmin Busran-Lao.

Busran-Lao was in the Camarines Sur to drop by the johor, a Muslim

religious fellowship attended by thousands of Muslim males from all

over the country. This year’s three-day johor is being held in Naga

upon the invitation of Mayor Jesse Robredo since the city is home to a

significant number of Muslims.

Robredo brought Busran-Lao and Col. Joey Forteza, chief of staff of

fellow LP candidate Alex Lacson, around the grounds of Metro Naga

Sports Complex to meet Muslims who attended the johor. While the two

men were able to go inside the sports complex, religious traditions

prohibited Busran-Lao from going with them. This did not faze her,

however. She held a spontaneous dialogue with the men right on the

grounds of the sports complex. They were all one in saying that it’s

been too long since Muslims were represented in the Senate. That is

why they fully support candidate Busran-Lao for senator.

Aside from meeting with Muslim men, Busran-Lao, together with some

women kagawad, also met with ordinary women from four of Naga’s 27

barangays during their Bayanihan sa Barangay. She saw for herself why

Naga under Robredo is a perfect model of active citizen’s

participation and engagement in governance, a cause that is very dear

to Busran-Lao’s heart since she herself has been advocating for

transformative politics and active citizenship.

Busran-Lao was also interviewed by RMN Naga where she cited the city

as an example of how Christians and Muslims can co-exist in peace and

harmony and work for the community’s progress.

Accompanying Busran-Lao around Naga were barangay kagawads Medith

Bollosa, Lolita Nantes, Regina Alcantara, Janet Ayubo, Wenifreda

Villacruz, Jesus Barcena, Susan Bragais, and punong barangay Elmer



(click image for more)


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