MARAWI CITY (MindaNews/01 September) — In one of the largest crowds ever gathered at Plaza Cabili in Banggolo, thousands of Meranaos on Monday staged a rally dubbed “The Last Stand for Peace,” in support of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) drafted by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC), rejecting the “watered down” versions of the House of Representatives and the Senate.
Rally participants said in their manifesto that the “only acceptable BBL” is what was drafted by the BTC and submitted to Congress on September 10 last year.
“Any substitute bill, let alone the Senate diluted and watered down version because of substantial changes, amendments and deletions thereto shall be met with a resounding NO in the plebiscite for it is truly unacceptable,” said the manifesto signed by sectoral representatives.
Since Monday was also National Heroes Day, the crowd paid tribute to heroes felled under the martial law regime of what they referred to as a “non-hero,” the late President Ferdinand Marcos under whose administration at least 120,000 lives were lost in Mindanao under martial rule.
They stamped with red paint a huge tarpaulin showing the faces of Marcos and his son, Senator Ferdinand Marcos, Jr.. chair of the Senate Committee on Local Government and principal author of SB 2894, the Senate’s substitute bill to the BBL.
“Jabidah Massacre to BBL Massacre,” read the message below their faces.
On a makeshift stage, Sultan of Marawi Hamidullah Atar said, “we are praying and humbly appealing to the members of (Congress) to support the approval of the original (BBL).”
“We are praying to enlighten the hearts of our legislators to grant us the genuine autonomy … We are praying that peace, harmony and reconciliation will prevail for the decision of our legislators and not hatred and prejudice as we experienced in the past decades and centuries,” he said.
Fr. Teresito “Chito” Soganub of the Prelature of Marawi echoed the stand of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines to support the passage of a BBL that is” rooted in social justice and promotes social justice,” a BBL that “concretely achieves the self-determination of the Bangsamoro in an identified area that remains part and parcel of the territorial integrity and under the national sovereignty of the Philippine Republic.”
Soganub has been participating in several conferences and education campaigns on the BBL in the Lanao area
Drieza Lininding of the Alliance of Lake Lanao Movement and Bangsamoro National Movement said the Moros have patiently awaited the results of the 17-year peace negotiations only to be ignored by legislators who are either absentee or not interested in listening to the debates.
Poonabayabao Mayor Lampa Pandi, president of the Mayors League, asserted the need to push the original version of the BBL .
Pandi appeared before Senator Marcos’ Committee on Local Government a few months ago with some 100 mayors of ARMM, in support of the BBL.
Former Lanao del Sur Rep. Benasing Macarambon asked, “why treat the Bangsamoro lesser than a barangay or a municipality which has even more powers under the Local Government Code?”
Macarambon said the substitute bills in Congress – HB 5811 in the House and SB 2894 in the Senate – diminished the powers granted under the BTC-drafted BBL.
The crowd also opposed the creation of the Mindanao Power Corporation, alleging this was contrary to the power of the Bangsamoro government over Lake Lanao. (Samira Ali Gutoc / MindaNews)