MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/27 July) – “To the end of achieving peace, we are also committed to passing the Bangsamoro Basic Law. For far too long, the conflicts in the Bangsamoro have taken on different forms, rooted in passions that feed on discrimination and deprivations that are fuelled by poverty. We must address the longstanding grievances of the Bangsamoro people by empowering them to fully provide for their self-expression and development. But this has to be complemented by clear and decisive legislative language to accommodate and empower not just the new majority of the Muslims in the Bangsamoro, but also for all other groups whose lives, family and work are located in these regionally autonomous areas of the Bangsamoro.
“There is also a sense of new possibility for our country as a whole after Mamasapano. As we work towards achieving real and lasting peace in Mindanao, we must also have the courage to finally come to peace with one another, and with ourselves, by exploring all avenues for peace, including the possibility of reopening peace negotiations with the CPP-NDF.”
This is part of the remarks of Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. at the opening today (July 27) of the 3rd regular and final session of the 16thCongress, hours before President Aquino delivered his last State of the Nation Address. While these are reassuring words it remains doubtful if Congress, the Senate in particular, could or would pass a Bangsamoro Basic Law that is consistent with the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro and its Annexes.
For one, Aquino has entered the lameduck stage of his presidency. From this stage onward, many, if not most, of the lawmakers will focus their energies on other interests, not least of which is finding who to support in 2016. Aquino will no longer have their ears; much of their waking time will be devoted to forging alliances, mapping out strategies and filling the campaign chest. The BBL will be thrown aside in the frenzy of wheeling and dealing in the sleazy corridors of power.
In fact, the ordure of the incoming election season has simply made things worse for the BBL. Its ordeal started after the January 25, 2015 Mamasapano encounter that left 44 police commandos, 17 Moro Islamic Liberation Front guerrillas and five civilians dead. Opportunists as they are, several lawmakers exploited the tragedy to whip up anti-Moro sentiment, hoping to boost their political stock through such ploy. Senators Alan Peter Cayetano, Chiz Escudero and Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Zamboanga City Rep. Celso Lobregat were the most rabid of their kind.
Cayetano and Marcos even said they would file substitute bills for the BBL, ignoring the 17 years of negotiations, and disregarding the efforts to arrive at an agreement that would embody the historical and social underpinnings of the Moro struggle for self-determination. If it’s any consolation, their relative ignorance became clearer as their arrogance got louder.
Yes, Aquino and the officials who were directly involved in Mamasapano – including then suspended PNP Director General Alan Purisima who has been charged for graft – are also to blame for prosecuting that operation without thoroughly weighing the implications if it went wrong. And go wrong it did.
Fortunately for these lawmakers, the public and media weren’t circumspect in looking into the motives of the lawmakers who made things worse by capitalizing on the death of the police commandos. Political ambition rode on the crest of public passion, a lethal combination that to me has dealt the BBL a telling blow.
It doesn’t seem to matter that Marcos, Cayetano and Escudero have 2016 in their minds. It doesn’t seem to matter that Lobregat would never have something good to say about the Moro people even if like the rest he would look everybody straight in the eye and say “who doesn’t want peace?”
In the days to come the battle of narratives will resume. I can see Marcos trying to dictate the flow and tone of the BBL discourse to pull the rug from under Aquino’s feet, if only to redeem the name of his father, the dictator, who brutalized the Moro people. (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. H. Marcos C. Mordeno can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)