PEACETALK: BBL affirms the Bangsamoro identity while keeping it attached to Filipino nationhood

(Submitted by Datu Zamzamin, Mayor of Radjah Buayan to the AdHoc Committee on the BBL at its Public Hearing and Consultation and Hearing on House Bill No. 4994 in Cotabato City on 23 October 2014. Ampatuan was former Energy Undersecretary and head of the National Anti-Poverty Commission. He prefers to be called ‘Datu Zamzamin’ but the AHCBBL called him by his given name).

Assalamu Alaykum.

Last Friday, we had a forum on the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) attended by municipal mayors of Maguindanao province led by Governor Toto Mangudadatu. Honorable Miriam Coronel-Ferrer (government peace panel chair) provided clear insights on the proposed BBL. The local government unit leaders of Maguindanao signed a joint manifesto to support the passage of the BBL.

The position I now present is personal and I say it as ordinary citizen residing within the proposed Bangsamoro Territories.

Let me state my position on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law or BBL by highlighting Generic Issues that are attendant to attaining peace in Mindanao and settling a historical grievance hounding this republic.

The problem on Moro Secessionism is a heavy baggage that weighs down the progress of this country. There have been many attempts to finally put to rest the Moro Problem, the recent one being the 1996 Final Peace Agreement with the Moro National Liberation Front.

Probably, this BBL if passed would be the last nail to once and for all fix the loose ends in the formation of the Republic of the Philippines as one nation with diverse cultures and divergent but similar aspirations.

The BBL strikes a balance in the burning desire for a separate Moro Islamic State and the vehement stand that this country should never be dismembered. At the backdrop of this Moro Problem is the global menace of Islamist Extremism which we now see in the form of one of the ugliest ideological monsters of our time, the ISIS or IS, purportedly a modern Islamic Caliphate to eventually dominate the whole world.

The political entity such as proposed in the BBL, namely, the Bangsamoro, indeed capsulizes and allows room for lavishing on the desire for a unique identity apart from our conventional appreciation of a Filipino Identity. BBL affirms the Bangsamoro identity while keeping it attached to Filipino nationhood. Indeed, a Bangsamoro government that is uniquely parliamentary in form allows the imagination that this sizeable and dynamic minority can have a political entity which provides them a sense of ownership. The titles such as provided in the proposed BBL, namely Members of Parliament, Chief Minister, Wali, Minister, Shariah Chief Justice, so on and so forth, even if it appears way out of our Presidential form of national government, are one which carries pride for the Muslim peoples of Mindanao that have struggled hard against colonialism. These are titles that connote quite a good meaning to make the Muslim peoples of Mindanao, bound by one common name, the Bangsamoro, feel that indeed, they have a banner for themselves, albeit, under the Republic of the Philippines. A Bangsamoro Government within the jurisdiction of the Republic of the Philippines is a potent antidote to a dismembered republic and the rise of an of Islamist Extremist State in Southeast Asia. This is what the BBL in its entirety will bring, a United Philippines, within it the Bangsamoro, and an Islamist Extremist ideology that promotes a culture of violence hopefully becoming irrelevant.

While we are optimistic about the BBL, there are details on the outcome of the BBL which should be watched out, the most important of which is the question of disarmament, that bears on the question of how do government, the national and the Bangsamoro for that matter, deal with the whole lot of mujahideen who have fought against the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) all these years, as the Bangsamoro struggle was then raging.

My emphatic proposal is that — all genuine and listed members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) should be accredited as Police Auxiliary as soon as the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) is established or operational. We may call this a conversion of the BIAF into the Bangsamoro Auxiliary Police Force which I refer to as BAPF. All firearms now in the hands of the BIAF members should be declared by MILF and fully accounted.

Firearms that are personally owned by a BIAF member may either be surrendered to the Bangsamoro Government and re-issued to the same person covered by MO (mission order) or the same may be registered in the name of the person and provided with limited PTC (permit to carry).

High powered firearms, such as machine guns, rocket launchers and the like should be surrendered to the National Government and never re-issued to BAPF or to be used by the Bangsamoro Government. The BAPF enlisted men/women should be provided with salaries a little bit higher than those given to CAFGUs (Citizen Armed Forces Geographical Unit) say starting from P5,000 pesos.

BIAF Commanders will also be given commensurate rank as commanders of the BAFP and graded salaries will also be provided. Other benefits will also be provided. The BIAF members now turned into BAFP will be trained for 45 days or so for their new role as auxilliary police, that is to help in law enforcement, deterrence of crime and lawlessness, maintenance of peace and order, assist barangays and municipalities in implementation of ordinances and similar function.

The BAFP will be confined to a specific barangay or cluster of barangays and shall not be allowed to move around beyond their assigned barangay/barangays carrying their firearms. The regular police will supervise the BAPF while the AFP will maintain adequate force to ensure that BAPF shall not move around outside of their assigned areas.

BAPF members may carry personally handguns outside of their assigned area as long as they are licensed and covered with PTC, that is the National Firearms Law should apply to them. The BAFP will be a recruitment ground for those qualified to become regular PNP (Philippine National Police) especially the ones that performs well in helping the barangay/s peaceful and have displayed sterling qualities. Over time, as BAFP membership thins out due to retirement, resignations and other reasons, or it would become irrelevant, thus, the disarmament is accomplished. Some other BIAF may also become CAFGUs but in such case, they are to be supervised by the AFP and the same rules and practice applies for regular CAFGUs.

Other key point I would like to share is on the revenues to be generated by the Bangsamoro Government and not the ones it receives from the National Government. It is good that the Wealth Sharing Scheme adopted by the proposed BBL has allowed substantive returns to the Bangsamoro Government. With all the speculations spread around that the proposed Banngsamoro territories is rich with natural resources, then this new government unit would probably become the richest ever in Philippines. My idea is, the Bangsamoro Internal Revenue or locally generated income should be distributed equitably among the local government units using a scheme which I may partially call Bangsamoro Internal Revenue Allotment, which may follow the same formula used for the national IRA. This way, all local communities within the Bangsamoro shall enjoy the fruit of the envisioned riches of the Bangsamoro. In case corruption pervades, thereafter, then all will be happy from the top Bangsamoro Government officials down to barangay officials… he he he. I wish it does not happen.

Finally, as I am an avid social media user and a person who values my personal freedom and spiritual pursuits, I appraise the BBL in ensuring civil liberties such as those provided for by the constitution such as freedom of belief, religion, speech, assembly and so on and so forth. There is nothing in the BBL that says Facebook or Twitter will be banned or curtailed or that one may not practice one’s religion or belief. All such freedom of course would not be used to fight the state or to blaspheme another person’s faith or belief, otherwise, chaos will ensue and our quest for peace will become elusive again. (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews PeaceTalk is open to anyone who wishes to share his/her thoughts on peace in Mindanao.)