PEACETALK: The BBL comprises our greatest legal arsenal for achieving peace

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(Co-sponsorship speech on Senate Bill 1717 or the Bangsamoro Basic Law, delivered by Senator Sonny Angara, chair of the Senate Committee on Local Government, on 28 February 2018)

Because of the violent conflict in Mindanao, too many lives have been lost, too many homes have been destroyed, too many opportunities missed, and too many dreams unrealized.

If the conflict was allowed to continue, who knows how much more damage Mindanao will have to sustain? That’s why the urgency and level of effort that were invested into crafting the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is not only necessary. It is also life-saving, and hopefully life-changing.

The measure we are sponsoring went through a rigorous process that involved at least five public hearings, at least six well-attended public consultations in Marawi, Cotabato, Tawi-Tawi, Basilan, Sulu and Zamboanga City, and at least six technical working group (TWG) meetings.

This wouldn’t have been possible without the very able leadership of Senator Migz Zubiri, the chair of the sub-committee on the BBL, who did a splendid job. We thank him, we thank our colleagues, who journeyed to the ends of the archipelago. Pinakinggan po natin ang saloobin, hinaing at pangarap ng mga taong maapektuhan ng batas na ito. Sinigurado po namin na malawak, malaya at inklusibo ang aming konsultasyon.

At every step of the way, the majority and the minority joined hands in the spirit of bipartisanship to ensure that this measure fulfills the ultimate objective of achieving long-lasting peace and prosperity in Mindanao, through a long-term political solution that resonates and is consistent with our constitution.
Such work has built upon the countless hours devoted by many on all sides in finalizing the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), as well as the work of the Local Government Committee under then Senator Marcos. Masasabing tinuloy lamang namin ang trabahong nasimulan na.

We hope this measure improves upon 1) the Tripoli Agreement of 1976, 2) R.A. 6734 or the Organic Act of the ARMM, and 3) R.A. 9054, which amends it.

Many skeptics have said that the BBL will just give rise to other breakaway groups and will not lead to peace. Their position is understandable for one only needs to look at the past for proof of this. But to them I say, let us look to the future with hope and optimism. I say, we should not stop trying to find the solution for peace and prosperity in Muslim Mindanao.
A well-known Turkish proverb states: “patience [and perseverance] is the key to paradise.” In verse 49 of chapter 11, the Koran states: “be patient; indeed the best outcome is for the righteous.” In Romans 2:6-7, “he will render to each one according to his works; to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life.”

Kaya po tayo tumatayo ngayon, g. Presidente, bilang Chairman ng inyong Local Government Committee, para suportahan ang agarang pagsasabatas nitong BBL.

Deka-dekada na tayong nakaranas ng dahas at nabingi sa putok ng ak-47 at ng Barrett. Pero sa lahat ng sandatang pinasabog sa bakbakan na ito, isa sa hindi pa nakakasa at nagagamit nang maigi ay ang sandata ng batas.  

The BBL comprises our greatest legal arsenal for achieving peace, which will ultimately help unleash the other positives of the peace process.

Nangako na ang mga armadong grupo tulad ng MILF na ibababa na nila ang kanilang armas bilang bahagi ng decommissioning process. Napapanahon na suklian ang “disarmament” na ito sa pamamagitan ng pagpapatupad sa pangako na paiigtingin ang kanilang otonomiya (autonomy) at ang suporta ng pambansang gobyerno para sa kanila.
Sa ganitong paraan, masisigurado na imbis na baril at grenada ang itataas, libro at lapis, araro at binhi, pala at semento na lang ang mga hahawakan nila. As the saying goes, we hope to beat their swords into plowshares. 

Where our armed forces laid siege on Marawi City to stop terrorist-rebels in their tracks, we need to enact this law so that no other armed group could recruit and amass critical support. Never again should any of our beautiful communities, especially those in Mindanao, ever be at risk of being leveled or destroyed by human hands.

 The BBL’s political prescriptions ensure that the covered areas will become fertile ground, no longer for violence or for terrorism, but instead for opportunity and active civic engagement.   The BBL could very well be our most effective means of keeping religious extremism and secessionist tendencies at bay—and hence, of achieving long-lasting peace.

Pero ang kapayapaan ay nakakamit hindi sa pagtigil ng putukan lamang. Umuusbong ang totoong kapayapaan kapag ito’y nakapulupot sa kaunlaran. Walang saysay ang katahimikan sa Mindanao, kung hindi ito hahantong sa mas magandang buhay para sa lahat.  

Bagama’t sagana sa likas yaman ang Mindanao, karamihan ng pinakamahirap na probinsya ng bansa ay nandirito.  One-third ng mga mahihirap na pilipino, ayon sa isang pag-aaral, ay taga-mindanao.

Digmaan raw ang isa sa pinakamalaking dahilan kung bakit mahirap ang Mindanao ngayon.  Kaya anumang hakbang para sa kapayapaan ay isang hakbang patungo sa kasaganaan, papunta sa pag-ahon. Let the sounds of war be replaced by the laughter of active school children, the murmur of loving families, and the buzz of investment and of industry.

Nagsisimula na marahil ang pag-ahon na ito. Ayon sa Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas o BSP, noong 2016, halos sampung porsyento (9.4%) ang paglaki ng ekonomiya ng Davao Region (Region XI)—ang pangatlong pinakamabilis na pag-arangkada sa buong bansa.  Halos 7.6 percent naman daw ang paglaki ng Northern Mindanao (Region X)—the region of the Senate President and of Senator Zubiri — noong 2016, di hamak na mas mabilis sa national average ng 6.9%.

This is happening because so many Mindanaoan voices are now speaking on the national stage on Mindanao’s behalf.  From the President, the Senate President, Senators Zubiri and Pacquiao, the Speaker of the House, several Cabinet members, many in government today have Mindanao in their hearts. All the more should a long-lasting solution for peace be enacted during this singular window of opportunity.

That solution should ultimately rest on giving the Bangsamoro people the freedom to make their own choices — the political and fiscal autonomy to no longer consult with Imperial Manila or the Central Government on matters that are essentially Bangsamoro matters.

With the BBL, the Filipino People will be giving an unprecedented level of trust to the Bangsamoro. In return, we respectfully ask for good governance on their part.

As 1986 constitutional Commissioner Ahmad Domacao Alonto said in a speech: “…[i]n order to have real freedom, real justice and real democracy, each section of our society must be given the chance and freedom to develop the ideals they much prize so much in life.”

Hence, where the Bangsamoro cry out for autonomy and self-rule, so should they be given the opportunity to develop what that autonomy and self-rule ultimately entails. We only ask that they wield such autonomy and self-rule wisely, and ensure that more from Muslim Mindanao actually benefit and lead better lives.
Such freedom of choice is in fact enshrined in the Constitution, and underlines how seemingly separate identities can coexist under the same state—similar to the scots and the Welsh in Britain; or the Muslims, the Chinese and the Malays in Malaysia.

This is how the BBL will correct historical injustices and usher in Mindanao’s renaissance — para magkaroon na ng totoong kapatiran sa pagitan ng bawat Pilipino. This is how the measure will pave the way to what constitutional commissioner bennagen called “a future of prosperity based on the equality of all people.”  

The BBL should be seen as a restorative measure, in its recognition of the long and proud history and heritage of the Bangsamoro people.  As often mentioned, Mindanao is one of the few places in the country that has successfully withstood foreign conquerors.  The Sultanates of Sulu, Maguindanao, and Buayan (Gensan) and the Pangampongs or principalities of the Lanao region already achieved an advanced level of political organization and bureaucracy, while the rest of the country was still organized into separate barangays.

Bago pa man itinayo ng mga Kastila ang Manila at Cebu bilang sentro ng kanilang kapangyarihan sa Asya, nakikipagkalakalan na ang Mindanao sa Java at Moluccas sa kanluran, at sa Tsina sa pamamagitan ng Manila at Mindoro sa hilaga.

Marahil, sa paglipas ng mga siglo, nakalimutan ang makulay na kasaysayan na ito.  At imbis na paghanga ang ibinigay ng bansa para sa mga kapatid nating muslim, pag-aalinlangan at takot na lang ang hinayaang mamayani.

Kapag naisabatas ang BBL, winawasto natin ang dekada-dekadang paghihirap na naranasan ng ating mga kapatid sa Bangsamoro.   Binabalik natin ang hustisya sa mga pamayanan nila na matagal nang lugmok sa kawalan ng katarungan. At higit sa lahat, ibinabahagi natin sa kanila ang kakayanan para maabot ang kani-kanilang mga pangarap, bilang mga kapwa natin pilipino.

This is not the first time the country has embarked on asking the difficult “Bangsamoro question or questions.” But after years of asking the right questions, perhaps now is the time for us to finally provide some answers.  

We’ve attempted to build on the foundations which our predecessors have already laid in place. So many people have helped in the process. Not only have we spent days ensuring the constitutionality of this measure, we’ve also tried to make it more representative of the colorful fabric that weaves the different Bangsamoro peoples together.

And after all the consultations, public hearings and TWGs, we have determined that the answer to the “Bangsamoro Question” should be true autonomy and self-determination.  It should be founded on clearly delineated reserved, concurrent, and exclusive powers between the Central and Bangsamoro governments.  It should be fiscal empowerment and comprehensive representation.  Ultimately, it should be brotherhood. It should be shared nationhood.

Siguradong marami pa pong pagsubok at hamon ang kailangan harapin para totoong makamit ang kapayapaan at kasaganaan sa mindanao.  

But we do hope history will look back on us as a generation who took on the challenge of crafting a lasting and valuable legal solution to the long-festering problem in Mindanao—so that ultimately, peace and prosperity can flourish.  

Panahon na para sila mismong mga taga-Bangsamoro ang magsusulat ng mga susunod na kabanata ng kanilang kasaysayan.

Mabuhay ang Bangsamoro! Mabuhay ang Pilipinas! Maraming salamat!

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