COTABATO CITY (MindaNews/08 October) – The biggest roadblock to the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is “the fear of the legislators about the BBL as originally presented,” Mindanao’s lone Cardinal said.
Biases and prejudices that exploded into the public sphere after the January 25 Mamasapano Tragedy also “influenced legislators in their deliberations of the original BBL,” Cardinal Orlando Quevedo, Archbishop of Cotabato and lead convener of the Friends of Peace, told a press conference at the end of the two-day “Conversations Hurdling the Roadblocks to the Bangsamoro Roadmap to peace” on Tuesday.
“They wanted to change the BBL because of these fears and prejudices about not only what happened in Mamasapano but also about what the … Bangsamoro would do if given a lot of authority, if given a lot of power and financial autonomy… There’s a lot of fear also based on prejudice,” he said.
Yolanda Esguerra, National Coordinator of the Philippine Misereor Partnership, Inc. pointed to the understanding of lawmakers on constitutionality. She noted that lawmakers have repeatedly been citing alleged unconstitutionality of the BBL provisions when several legal experts and the Peace Council had carefully studied the BBL and said it is constitutional but “matigas yung position ng mga lawmakers (Lawmakers are firm in their position) maybe because …. of bias and fear,” she said.
Gus Miclat, executive director of the Initiatives for Internatioal Dialogue (IID) said what is more tragic is that “fear sometimes emanates from ignorance.”
He cited an example where they brought a team from the MILF to the Visayas to explain the Bangsamoro peace process and what the future Bangsamoro political entity would be. “Pagkatapos nilang mag-explain, the audience said ‘gusto namin yan, para sa amin din,’” (After they explained, the audience said, ‘we also want that, that’s also for us).
For Dr. Pendatun Pangadil, chair of the Peoples’ CART (Coalition for ARMM Reform and Transformation), “there is really a need to deepen further their (members of the House and Senate) idea of what is really the Bangsamoro.”
He said he hopes legislators find time to know and understand the Bangsamoro identity.
Guiamel Alim of the Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society said the sentiments of residents at the grassroots are mixed because the fate of the BBL is uncertain. He said residents in conflict-affected areas have been hoping peace would be realized by the passage of the BBL so they could live in peace, send their children to school and improve their livelihood.
In his speech earlier in the afternoon, Quevedo said the substitute bills – HB 5811 and SB 2894 – “were crafted in the wake of Mamasapano, which was truly a disastrous blunder.”
“I must confess that I do not see any party that is free of responsibility from the tragedy. But Mamasapano definitely changed the horizon of the peace process and the BBL. For from Mamasapano came the roadblocks to peace.”
Quevedo said mistrust, bias and prejudice, fear, and paranoia against Muslims have “determined the opinion of the Christian majority population, including so called intelligentsia, church people, media pundits, and media networks” and that this “biased attitude is at the heart of their rejection of any BBL, including the versions being prepared by the legislators, despite ignorance of the actual content of the BBL.”
The Cardinal cited five major challenges confronting peace advocates: “the misperceptions of legislators and their revisions to the original BBL; the continuing dissemination of such misperceptions by media; the fundamental attitudes and misperceptions of the great majority of Filipinos; the overweening desire to win the votes of the majority in the 2016 election; and the inexorable constriction of time for the passage of an acceptable BBL.”
He listed eight major roadblocks to the Bangsamoro roadmap to peace. These are:
- The perception of legislators and of several legal and constitutional experts regarding the constitutionality of the Framework Agreement, the Comprehensive Agreement, the BBL and many of its provisions; the expert opinion of other legal and constitutional luminaries are ignored;
- Legislators’ perception that the original BBL was a formula for the establishment of a separate and independent State;
- That it will result in the dismemberment of the Republic;
- Their revisions are therefore the result of these perceptions.
- Therefore, the revisions insist that the powers devolved to the Bangsamoro government should generally be at par with LGUs, thus effectively treating the “autonomous region” as an LGU and less autonomous than the present ARMM.
- Underlying these perceptions and revisions is an attitude of mistrust, bias and prejudice, fear and even paranoia with regard to the MILF and to Muslims in general – an attitude that exploded into the public sphere as a result of Mamasapano.
- But such mistrust, bias and prejudice, fear, and paranoia against Muslims have determined the opinion of the Christian majority population, including so called intelligentsia, church people, media pundits, and media networks. This biased attitude is at the heart of their rejection of any BBL, including the versions being prepared by the legislators, despite ignorance of the actual content of the BBL.
- Already sharing the same attitude as the majority, legislators are driven by public opinion to reject the BBL or support a “watered down” version of it. Revisions and even rejection are in view of the 2016 elections. They want to cater to the votes of the majority. It is not entirely whimsical that three of the most vocal senators against the BBL have announced their candidacy for Vice-President.
Mistrust and Prejudice
Reducing biases and prejudices is a “life-long task of family upbringing, formal and informal education, reinforced by faith-formation by religious denominations,” Quevedo said. He said this requires engaging institutions, declaring schools as zones of peace and harmony through a dialogue of life, and collaboration among religious denominations through Inter-Religious Dialogue.
He urged parishes, mosque communities, Christian worship services to do advocacy work through seminars, workshops, fora, assemblies, to “know the original BBl, read and learn, form your mind and conscience on the basis of your personal in-depth knowledge of the original BBL and not on the basis of bias and prejudice.”
He also urged the public to “engage your local LGU executives; help them know the original BBL, and disengage them from their misperceptions and biases” and engage as well the Representatives in Congress to “let them know the original BBL and disseminate personally to them a comparative analysis of the original BBL and the versions they are supporting,” and to “point out to them the practical consequences of their revisions that make the Bangsamoro less autonomous than the present ARMM.”
Members of both House of Congress, he said must be made “aware that social justice long denied the Bangsamoro is in their hands, and now is the time not to squander the opportunity of laying down the foundations of a just and lasting peace” and to appeal to their sense of the common good of all “especially of peoples’ long deprived of their right to self-determination accorded by the Constitution.”
Corrected by Constitution
Lawyer Christian Monsod, former chair of the Commission on Elections and a member of the 1986 Constitutional Commission explained in the morning session that the creation of an autonomous region in Muslim Mindanao as enshrined in the 1987 Constitution is a social justice issue and was meant precisely to help correct historical injustices committed against the Moro people.
He said when they drafted the 1987 Constitution, “we recognized the shortcomings of the Christian majority and our failure to celebrate the resistance of the Muslim people against foreign colonizers. We were easily coopted but they refused to be subjugated. And that is as should be, a source of pride, as it should be pride for us and we owe it to them to give it to them, what they fought for with blood and we easily acquiesced to.”
Fr. Joel Tabora, SJ, President of the Ateneo de Davao University said, “we have to educate the Christians Christian majority. Our treatment of Philippine history, of the Bangsamoro history, the Mindanao history is very deficient and we need to work on this.’
This includes creating new textbooks, he said, a process that takes time because “you’re undoing many decades of poor teaching and lopsided teaching about the Bangsamoro but that has to be done.”
Samira Gutoc of the Young Muslim Professionals spoke about the need for networking to correct misconceptions and to spread information to a wide range of audiences. She asked participants, “how do you make the BBL bite-sized in this AlDub generation?” (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)