KABACAN, North Cotabato (MindaNews / 31 January) – A female leader of a grassroots organization here challenged peace advocates “to help find ways in peace-building” given that “ignorance of the lawmakers on the real cause of the Bangsamoro struggle killed the BBL” (Bangsamoro Basic Law) under the Aquino administration.
Zaynab Ampatuan, former head of the League of Filipino Students at the University of Southern Mindanao and now executive director of the Moro People’s Core in Kabacan, North Cotabato. Mindanews File Photo by Keith Bacongco
Zaynab Ampatuan, former head of the League of Filipino Students at the University of Southern Mindanao here and now executive director of the Moro People’s Core, said peace advocates must find ways to help end ignorance as it breeds biases and prejudices and prevents Filipinos from uniting.
Ampatuan, whose family was displaced several times in the past due to the conflict, said they cannot expect the Philippine government to just hand over victory to the Moro people, hence the need to continue educating the public about the Bangsamoro struggle for self-determination.
The non-passage of the BBL under the Aquino administration, she said, also poses further challenges to the Bangsamoro people “to internalize community organizing for the realization of self-governance.”
She said communities must be empowered and strengthened so that even if the peace process faces some obstacles, the people can stand up to the challenges.
She urged Moro leaders to “double their commitment in serving the Bangsamoro unconditionally” so that the communities’ issues and concerns can readily be addressed.
Ampatuan was urged by the people she has been serving in the Moro Peoples Core, to run for councilor. She is running as an independent candidate.
She acknowledged that the Mamasapano tragedy of January 25, 2015, was the primary reason the passage of the BBL was stalled but declared it was not the tragedy that killed the BBL but “ignorance of the lawmakers on the real cause of the Bangsamoro struggle.”
For Fr. Roberto Layson, head of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate’s Inter-Religious Dialogue, the Mamasapano tragedy was the turning point for the BBL as it fueled hatred and resurfaced deep-seated biases against the Moro people.
“Mamasapano was the turning point that stalled deliberations on the BBL,” Layson said.
Sixty-six persons were killed in Mamasapano, Maguindanao on January 25, 2015 following a dawn operation launched by the Special Action Force of the Philippine National Police (PNP) to arrest a high-value target, without coordinating with the military and the ceasefire mechanisms of the peace process.
Of the 66 who were killed, 44 were from the SAF, 17 from the Moro Islamic Liberation Font’s Bangsamor Islamic Armed Forces and five civiclians .
Culture of Peace
Before the tragedy, Layson said residents in communities were very supportive of the peace process and the passage of the BBL. Immediately after the tragedy, however, the biases and prejudices against the Moro resurfaced.
Layson said that in their Culture of Peace seminars in the communities, they address the hatred people feel against each other. “Because if your hatred is still there, it would still shoot up when an incident happens.”
He expressed disappointment over Congress’ failure to pass the BBL, which he said, would have been a “win-win” solution to this decades-old conflict.
Layson was former parish priest of Pikit, North Cotabato, a town that witnessed four wars in six years — 1997, 2000, 2001 and 2003 — that displaced thousands of civilians.
“These wars did not solve the problem here in Mindanao. War is not the solution, war is the problem for us here in Mindanao,“ Layson stressed.
The BBL is the enabling law of the peace agreements – Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) – to pave the way for the creation of the Bangsamoro.
The Bangsamoro seeks to replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) with a political entity with broader powers to address the decades-long aspiration of the Moro people for meaningful self-rule over their ancestral homeland
The proposed BBL drafted by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission was replaced by substitute bills HB 5811 and SB 2894, both titled the Basic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region (BLBAR).
The MILF said it could not accept the BLBAR in their present form as it would make the future Bangamoro “less than the ARMM.” (Keith Bacongco / MindaNews)