“THE Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is not dead. It is actually just the beginning”.
This was according to Grand Mufti Abu Hurairah Udasan sending the message to the Bangsamoro CSO/NGO youth organizations during our last Bitiala sa Maguindanao conversation series. I agree with him. BBL is not dead, the BLBAR is.
The BBL submitted by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) and the Office of the President (OP) to the legislative branch last September 10, 2014, was compliant to the Comprehensive Agreement of the Bangsamoro (CAB). The proposed BBL bill provides a legal framework for the final peace accord signed by the government and MILF in March 2014 is a product of more than 17 years of negotiations aimed at ending 4 decades of war in Central Mindanao. On the other hand, the Basic Law for the Bangsamoro Area of Responsibility (BLBAR) version of Senator Marcos is unconstitutional.
Based on our series of conversations and study groups of young Moro lawyers, “BLBAR is unconstitutional insofar as it fails to provide what the Constitution mandates in Section 20, Article X. The BLBAR takes away powers and functions already granted to the existing Armm. It reduces the Bangsamoro Government to an entity similar to a local government unit”. (Al Qalam 2015)
The Bangsamoro people must not lose hope. They should understand that the peace process is a process of negotiation and dialogue. It may take us time to materialize our dreams and hopes for peace, however, with our strong commitment to peace and with Allah’s (SWT) blessings, it will happen.
Can Mindanao have peace? Can we stop armed conflict in Mindanao? These questions were raised several times during the peace fora and symposium that I attended since 2013. Thus, I always tell my audience that we should look at “peace”, not as an idea or theory. We need to look at the concrete different realities on the ground. We should believe first that it is possible to happen. It may happen within our lifetime or even beyond our generation. But eventually, it will happen.
As part of the academe, civil society organizations, and peace networks, what do we do then to sustain the peace process in Mindanao? In recent meetings with Friends of Peace (FOP), we tried to answer this question. If BBL is not dead, what do we do now? How can we contribute in peace-building and addressing the historical and social injustices toward the Bangsamoro people? In answering this question, we identified some of the challenges that we, as a nation, must work hand in hand in addressing them: Protection of the CAB: The CAB will continue to face constitutional challenges as well as political critique. In what manner can these challenges and critiques be best addressed? What legal, technical, and political resources can be brought to bear?
Strengthening the relationship between the center and autonomous regions: The debate over the BBL in the Philippines’ Congress has revived a broader discussion over the relationship between Manila and the provinces, and especially autonomous regions. Significant actors have opposed greater autonomy. At the same time, substantive arguments have been put forward, including in the report of the Truth, Justice, and Reconciliation Commission established under the CAB, for a reform in the relationship between Manila and the regions as being central to lasting peace. The course of this debate may very well affect the future of Bangsamoro autonomy.
Inclusion, or widening the “tent”: The political will for the transition, including through more meaningful participation in the peace process by a wider group of political and civic actors, will have to be strengthened and sustained. Particular attention will have to be given to obtaining coherence and convergence among key actors in Bangsamoro around the essential parameters of meaningful autonomy. This convergence will be essential for keeping the executive and legislative branches of the Philippines government fully engaged in the process.
Expanding peace Dividends: More meaningful peace dividends in the form of more effective local government and better access to social and economic assets and services will need to be made available to conflict-affected communities. Across-the-board, this support will have to be provided in a manner that enhances community ownership and participation, especially with regard to the modus operandi for the formulation and delivery of the assistance.
On the part of academe: According to Fr. Joel Tabora, SJ, “we should encourage, organize, support all activities which promote inter-cultural dialogue between the Muslim communities and the non-Muslim majorities. E.g. the Madaris Volunteer Program (a project of the CEAP and the NABEi under which volunteer graduations of CEAP schools – Christian and Muslim! – do ten months of teaching DepED Mandated courses in Madaris) and the Mindanao Peace Games (at least 12 universities using sports to promote peace.) The inter-cultural dialogue – on the ground – is an essential complement to the peace negotiations”.
Fr. Tabora added, we need “re-education of the Philippine people on the history of the Bangsamoro, or the history of the Philippines from the Bangsamoro or Mindanao Perspective.
The legislators after Mamasapano betrayed a woeful ignorance of this, and I am afraid this ignorance persists even in the best of our schools. This must be addressed through better textbooks on this history, and better presentations by such as OPAP on salient aspects of this history”.
Therefore, our work does not end after Pnoy’s term. Our work for peace has begun and we should not stop until we reach our goal. We should not ask the next president of this Republic what to do in addressing the Mindanao problem. We must make our voices be heard by next administration.