CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/21 April) — The proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is really a step towards reconciliation, the smoothing out of historic grievances, differences, even enmity, of fraternal peoples.
It calls on us to draw a social contract that we never got around to formulating. So it is fitting that we should focus on its contents and its process as Congress goes about its task.
We should view the BBL as the long-overdue platform we needed to effect the paradigm shift long hoped-for in Mindanao.
The noise and dissonant voices heard in the course of its formulation was entirely expected and understandable. Substantive, not cosmetic, change was, is, called for. New arrangements are needed, not just a change in image or form but in essence.
In the course of formulation, the interplay of ideas, ideals, and preferences—not to mention biases and misguided views—necessarily came into play, as did tough questions. Will armed conflict cease? How will the agony, the misery, and the displacement of lives and communities end? Is peace possible without breakup?
Ultimately, all it boils down to is anxiety about change, accepting it, and adjusting to it. Of course there has always been fratricidal war and “rido” and bloodshed.
But change is the hallmark of civilization and development. Nothing new there. So let change begin!
Meanwhile, we keep vigil, watch, and hope for a longer freeze in hostilities and antagonisms until the venom of resentments and distrust melt away. At the same time, we also keep an eye on where personal ambition might lead—the ambition of those who seek to benefit from secession; ambition that admits of no limit in blood, sweat, or tears.
But always we must ask the important questions. On the new relationships for instance: Will relations under the BBL be marked by candor, transparency, and adherence to the rule of law? There’ve been too much deception and skullduggery in the region.
Will democracy and the democratic process be the mode of social action among the peoples of Mindanao; no longer warfare, sabotage, or violence? The credulity of the BBL hangs on the answers to these questions.
Cynicism and distrust we must also worry about; many think the process is just a negotiating strategy, a tactical maneuver on the road to secession or independence.
The hope of course is that this is the road that marks the beginning of the end of armed strife and confrontation—an eventuality which hinges on whether the MILF has abandoned secession as its true objective. We hope at least that it gives up violence and armed struggle—which we shall know when it’s time to disarm and decommission the ranks, the sine qua non for peace.
Lots of words have been uttered already, ample rhetoric employed, to get to this point in the negotiations. When will it go beyond words? When will they walk the talk and back it with deeds, to signify peace at hand? Enough now of posturing!
As for moderating the social temperature, has the MILF initiated confidence-building measures to reassure us (not just counterpart negotiators) that they are into this in earnest? It’s a relevant question still; because many still act and sound like: “If you want peace, prepare for war!”
They haven’t really proffered credible assurances of peace. It’s fair to ask assurances when one is being asked to take a leap of faith, something tangible to latch onto, even an abstract commitment, to give people hope.
In other words, what will make people more confident in embracing the Bangsamoro and celebrate goodwill and solidarity with them so that all Mindanaons will be bound as partners in nation-building, held together at last by a social contract they never had.
Then will the BBL seal a partnership of equals—sovereign citizens of an invigorated Republic.
Manny is former UNESCO regional director for Asia-Pacific; secretary-general, Southeast Asia Publishers Association; director, development academy of Philippines; member, Philippine Mission to the UN; vice chair, Local Government Academy; member, Cory Govt’s Peace Panel; awardee, PPI-UNICEF outstanding columnist. An author of books on governance, he is chairman/convenor ofGising Barangay Movement Inc. [email protected]