(Privilege speech delivered by Maguindanao Rep. Bai Sandra Sinsuat A. Sema on February 1, 2016 at the House of Representatives in Quezon City).
Mr. Speaker, distinguished Colleagues in this August Chamber, good afternoon.
More than twenty-five years ago, an overwhelming majority of the Filipino people trooped to the polls to ratify what is now known as the 1987 Philippine Constitution. Indeed, our Constitution has promised a regime of truth, justice, freedom, love, equality,
and peace. And tomorrow, February 2, 2016 marks the 26th anniversary of these renewed promises.
Before the conquerors came to these islands, there was tranquility in Luzon and in the Visayas, and peace reigned in Mindanao. Although we were not yet under one flag, the Bangsamoro people led by the Sultanates and the Datus put up great defenses and refused to bow down to foreign invaders. Our history books attest to the bravery of Sultan Kudarat, among others. Until today, the Bangsamoro people like those in the Cordilleras, maintain the dignity of being unconquered peoples.
History books may be old and worn out. Some of the pages may have already fallen away; but the grandeur of the past cannot be erased from the hearts of the Bangsamoro people. Our identity – fashioned by Rajah Sulaiman of Manila, Datu Lapu-Lapu of Cebu, and Dagohoy of Bohol, among others, continue to flourish in the malongs of our men and women, in singkil and sagayan of our dances, and in the gandingans and agongs of our public places.
Brothers and sisters of this Archipelago, the Bangsamoro people continue these things until today. The descendants of our race may look a bit different today, but our Constitution guarantees that there shall be an autonomous region in Muslim Mindanao and in the Cordilleras. The creation of these two autonomous regions is a safeguard so that our modern society will continue to respect our indelible identity from the past, so that our children and our children’s children will be reminded of how great and independent we had always been.
The people of the Bangsamoro Homeland looked up to the promises etched in the Fundamental Law of this Archipelago. But, our people now wonder, if the elected officials of these islands are really serious every time they take an oath or affirmation to uphold and defend the Constitution (Section 4, Article IX-B).
The creation of an Autonomous Region entails not only baptizing a territory with a title “autonomous” but seeing to it that it has all that is necessary to comply with what have been agreed upon between the State and a group of people who have accepted the word of the Government in good faith. The Bangsamoro Homeland cannot be considered part of the territory of the Philippines, unless its people are also considered people of this country. If we consider the Bangsamoro people as citizens of this country, they should not be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law. Security of the State must be propelled by the best interests of the country; not the best interest for the bounty. The Bangsamoro people must be given the equal protection of the laws – the blood of the Bangsamoro people are as sacred as the blood of the SAF. They must be presumed innocent unless proven otherwise. They must be given access to quality education. They must be guaranteed their right to practice their religion. They must be given their right to pursue happiness, and to enjoy peace and prosperity in their homeland.
One of the simple joys in life is to dream for peace. Peace is taken for granted by those who have long enjoyed it. But for the Bangsamoro people who have been living in war, peace is a dream of a lifetime. Our people also want to live in peace even as our eagerness for peace may not be fully understood by those who have taken peace for granted.
Some people want to pursue an all-out war. But I talked with those who valiantly fought in war. I asked the AFP, and they said they want to pursue peace. I asked the MILF leadership and they say they will believe in the primacy of peace. The Bangsamoro people would like to uphold the primacy of peace. Are we with them?
Today, the people of the Bangsamoro Homeland wake up to the reality that our dream for a just and lasting peace has crumbled. With the last two days ebbing away in the calendar of this 16th Congress, this Representation can say that the Bangsamoro Basic Law is fast reaching ground zero even as we celebrate Philippine Constitution Day tomorrow. As our dream plummets down to obscurity, we will not shout May-day. As witness to our roller- coaster ride in our road towards real autonomy, I say that the Bangsamoro people will close their eyes and pray to God “Thy will be done.” We will bow down to the majesty of the Almighty God, knowing that He will reward those who have chosen the right path, and will punish those who do not honor their oath.
My dear Colleagues, we don’t owe it to the Bangsamoro people to give them real autonomy. We owe it to the Constitution that we have all sworn or affirm to uphold and defend. At the end of our days, we will be made accountable for what we have promised.
Mabuhay ang Bangsamoro.
Thank you at sana Mabuhay ang Saligang Batas ng Pilipinas.
(Bai Sandra Sinsuat A. Sema represents the 1st district of Maguindanao in the House of Representatives)