Cardinal Quevedo’s open letter to legislators: After Mamasapano, what?

23 March 2015

After Mamasapano, What?
An Open Letter To Our Honorable Legislators
+Orlando B. Cardinal Quevedo, O.M.I.
Archbishop of Cotabato

Our Beloved Legislators: Greetings of peace in the Lord!

In the depths of our grief for all the fallen combatants and civilians at Mamasapano, the deep historic biases and prejudices that lie in the dark corners of our souls have erupted once again. Truly we must seek the truth and justice. This search for truth and the pursuit of justice must be done with objectivity and without prejudgment. We need to gather all the facts from all sides, from civilian witnesses, from combatants on both sides.

But in our grief the Mamasapano tragedy has derailed the peace process. Questions and objections have been raised against the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law. This is expected and it must be done so that the BBL will pass the criterion of constitutionality and the common good of all.

Yet both peace panels have been demonized. Judgments have been made about the BBL that the BBL itself does not advocate. These judgments have misinformed the public about the nature of the BBL and raised public opinion against a document that is the most significant hope so far of a just and lasting peace in southern Philippines.

As a Catholic religious leader in Maguindanao, I have closely followed the peace negotiations through the years, the drafting of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, and the drafting of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law. I have thoroughly studied the BBL.

I perceive the BBL as articulating three major principles: the preservation of national sovereignty, the safeguarding of national territorial integrity, and the realization of Bangsamoro self-determination within a limited territory.

Contrary to misinformation and misinterpretation the BBL does not advocate the dismemberment of the Republic. It does not lay claim to all of  Mindanao and Palawan. It does not advocate the complete independence of any of the entities of the proposed Bangsamoro government (e.g., police, auditing, accounting, civil courts), such that their national counterparts have no effective role over them.

By all means let the BBL be refined and attuned to the Constitution.

  1. Let legal and constitutional experts have a consensus on what is clearly illegal or unconstitutional in the BBL. Let their wise words guide the rewording of provisions.
  2. Each provision of the BBL has been meticulously discussed by the peace panels through several years at first with mistrust and hostility and then finally in dialogue and trust. They know the whys and the wherefores of each provision. It would be to the interest of the common good for them to explain the meaning and the rationale of provisions that are questioned and objected to.
  3. Let not the BBL be so emasculated that the centuries-old aspiration of the Bangsamoro for self determination be made again a meaningless word.

I pray that the Holy Spirit of God, the Spirit of wisdom, knowledge and counsel guide you in your deliberations.

As the Catholic religious leader of an Archdiocese that is 47% Muslim and 48% Catholic, I continue to grieve profoundly over all the Mamasapano victims, aware that this horrible human tragedy could have been avoided. I pray for all the fallen, the families, the widows and children they left behind. I pray that such terrible human tragedy will not happen again.

The message of the Gospel of Jesus is one of Mercy and Compassion. Pope Francis announced it to us with great force and personal witness. And the words of Micah the prophet come to my mind: “…what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

For me, a refined BBL is about doing the truth and justice, walking in kindness and love, mercy and compassion. This is the way of the heart, the way to a just and lasting peace.