COTABATO CITY (MindaNews/04 May) – A “People’s Ratification Rally” was held simultaneously Sunday in key areas in Mindanao to push Congress to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).
The crowds appealed to President Benigno Simeon Aquino III to immediately certify the bill as urgent as Congress resumes session on Monday, May 5.
The Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC), the 15-member body tasked to draft the BBL, submitted a partial draft on April 14 and the complete draft on April 21 to the Office of the President.
BTC chair Mohagher Iqbal, concurrent peace panel chair of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) told MindaNews on Saturday, May 3, that the Office of the President is not likely to submit the draft Basic Law to Congress by May 5 because it is still studying the draft.
As early as 6 a.m. participants had started walking from the Grand Mosque in Kalangalan Dos to the Cotabato City Plaza in the downtown area, about 15 kilometers away, for the program. Hundreds also came on board buses, trucks and jeepneys, from various parts of Maguindanao and Cotabato City.
In Pikit, North Cotabato, residents flocked to the town plaza for a similar rally, either on foot or on board trucks, buses and jeepneys.
Several mayors of Maguindanao also attended the Cotabato City plaza – the mayors of Shariff Aguak, Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Rajah Buayan, Upi, Guindulungan, Sultan Kudarat and Sultan Mastura.
In General Santos City, thousands of Moro residents there and parts of South Cotabato, Sarangani and Sultan Kudarat provinces gathered at the Oval Plaza carrying streamers and placards, asking Congress to fast track the deliberations on the BBL and ensure that it would be passed as scheduled before the end of the year.
In Balo-i, Lanao del Norte, streamers read “Congress, Do Not Delay” in reference to the passage of the BBL.
According to the Mindanao Allicance for Peace (MAP) and the Consortium for Bangsamoro Civil Society (CBCS), an umbrella group of around 100 Bangsamoro civil society organizations, rallies were also held in Tacurong City in Sultan Kudarat province, Basilan, and Jolo, Sulu.
Participants called on Congress for a smooth passage of the BBL so that the plebiscite to ratify it can be held in the proposed Bangsamoro territory.
Peace and Development
In Cotabato City Prof. Abdullah Adam, MAP spokesperson, said the rallies show that the Bangsamoro people “are ready to put an end to the problem so that we can have peace and development. We are ready to accept whatever is the result of the plebiscite. “
“Congress pass the BBL for the sake of peace and development in Mindanao,” read one of the streamers during the rally in General Santos City.
Prior to the mobilization, which organizers also described as a prayer rally, around 200 vehicles staged a “peace caravan” from several key areas in South Cotabato, Sarangani and Sultan Kudarat provinces to this city.
Quraish Lancap, a lead member of the organizing secretariat, said the gathering was mainly aimed to highlight the sentiments and aspirations of Bangsamoro residents in the area regarding the BBL.
He said majority of them are fully supportive of the BBL and want it immediately approved and implemented.
“Dapat maipasa ito ng buo, ng walang labis at walang kulang. Dapat walang mangyayaring dagdag-bawas (It should be passed in full and not anything more or less than what was proposed. There should be no padding and shaving of its provisions),” he told MindaNews at the sidelines of the mobilization.
Langcap, project officer for conflict resolution of the CBCS, said House and Senate leaders should safeguard the provisions of the proposed BBL from possible alterations or modifications that would eventually destroy the “principles and true spirit” of the measure.
He said such scenario would only trigger major problems similar to what happened with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).
He was referring to the fallout between government and the MNLF, especially with the faction led by its founder and chair Prof. Nur Misuari, despite signing a peace agreement in 1996.
“The BBL is a product of long and careful negotiations, and that should be considered when Congress starts its deliberations,” he said.
“A better future for our children”
Ustadz Satar Alangan, a leader of the Bangsamoro religious sector here, said Senate and House members should consider the situation and the aspirations of the Bangsamoro people in their deliberations on the BBL.
“By that, they will see that the BBL represents what we really aspire for as a people,” he said.
“They will see that we are even ready to stake our own lives anew just to make sure that our children’s children will have a better future,” Alangan added.
For his part, former Akbayan partylist Rep. Mario Aguja expressed support to the full passage of the BBL, which he described as a “revolutionary measure.”
He said the BBL, which is mainly based on the provisions of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro that was signed by the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front last March, “has no equal” when compared to past related measures and agreements.
“It answers a lot of our problems here in Mindanao,” he said.
The government and MILF had agreed in 2012 that the “status quo is unacceptable” and that they would work for a new autonomous political entity called “Bangsamoro.”
“It will not only benefit the Moro people but us, Christian settlers, and the Lumads as well. So it’s important for us to ensure that it musters enough support from our Senate and House members all the way to its passage,” he said. (Ferdinandh B. Cabrera / MindaNews, with reports)