MIND DA NEWS: BBL ‘Binobola’ Lang

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 02 August) — In Tagalog (Pilipino) and other Philippine dialects “bola”, adopted from Spanish, means “ball”. The verb form “binobola” has two meanings — literally, “binobola” is “tossing the ball around”; however, it idiomatically means “flattering” – saying nice words not meant exactly as what they mean but to make one feel good – to please or to draw favors. “Bola” is also “flattery” or “deception”.

Ang BBL binobola lang. Good motives have been said about the Bangsamoro Basic Law. Good future has been pictured for the Moros and other inhabitants of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao once the BBL is passed and the Bangsamoro is established to replace the ARMM as the name of the “Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao”. The “good” will not just be for the Bangsamoro but for the rest of Mindanao and the entire Philippines. The “nice words have made the BBL look good and the Moros happy.

With particular reference to the BBL, “bola” can mean “toss” – meaning, mixing food ingredients as in the salad to make the food palatable. The BBL is “being tossed” or “binobola” to make it palatable to the members of the Congress and critics biased and prejudiced against the Moros.

But beyond the “nice words”, nothing else has happened. The draft of the BBL was given by the President to the Senate President and the House Speaker on September 10, 2014. They were reported on first reading as Senate Bill No. 2408 and House Bill No. 4994. BBL would be passed soon,” the two heads of the Congress assured in media reports. Until now the “soon” is still “soon”; the “words” are still “nice” but BBL has remained a “bill”. And, the “bola” has begun causing unease.

When the congressional leaders received Draft BBL, they did not sign a covenant with the President. But, as reported in the media, it was agreed that the BBL must be within the 1987 Constitution and the agreements between the Philippine Government and the MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) principally the FAB (Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro) and the Annexes as consolidated into the CAB (Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro) and that the draft should, as much as possible, remain intact.

Into its eleventh month in the Congress, Draft BBL as HB 4994 – watered down and diluted – is now on second reading in the House as HB 5811. After the debates and more amendments, HB 5811 will be BBL within the 1987 Constitution as the members of the House so desire; it will be alien to the FAB and the CAB. “Nice words” are still being said about the BBL – to be passed “soon”, not later than “next month”.

In the Senate, SB 2408 is still being revised into a “substitute bill” which “the panel (the Senate Committee on Local Government will) finally present … for plenary debates next week”, The Philippine Star reported (August 1, 2015: BBL substitute bill may be ready next week). When will the Senate pass its own BBL version? No assurance has been given; but it must be not later than “soon” after next week.

What do the President and the top congressional leaders say about the BBL very lately?

President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino, III, p. 27 of his State of the Nation Address last July 27:

“Ngayon naman po, may ilang mga batas na nais kong ilapit upang sana’y maipasa sa loob ng kasalukuyang Kongreso:

Pangunahin siyempre po dito: Ang Bangsamoro Basic Law.  [Palakpakan] Sa mga tutol sa batas na ito: Palagay ko, obligasyon ninyong magmungkahi ng mas magandang solusyon. Kung wala kayong alternatibo, ginagarantiya lang ninyong hindi maaabot ang pagbabago. Ilang buhay pa ang kailangang ibuwis para magising ang lahat sa obligasyong baguhin ang sirang status quo sa Muslim Mindanao?” (Bold italics, ours)

Officially translated by The Official Gazette:

“Now, I wish to talk about legislation, which I hope will be passed during the term of this Congress.

“The most important of these: the Bangsamoro Basic Law. [Applause] To those who oppose this measure: I believe that it is incumbent upon you to suggest more meaningful measures. If you do not present an alternative, you are only making sure that progress will never take root in Mindanao. Let me ask you: How many more of our countrymen will have to perish before everyone realizes that the broken status quo of Muslim Mindanao must change?” (Bold italics, ours)

The President earned “kudos” for this brief statement. Major national media developed this into front page stories expanding it with “backgrounders”.

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Deles praised the President as being “resolute in his quest for peace and security for Mindanao and the entire country” – thanking the “Filipino public” and “the leaderships” of the Congress “for their support” of the President’s “endeavor” and hoping “the BBL would be passed soon”s (The Philippine Star, August 2, 2015: Support for BBL to boost pols’ chances in 2016).

In her MindaNews story (July 28, 2015: BBL in PNoy’s SONA: 3 minutes out of 130-minute speech), Editor-in-Chief Carolyn O. Arguillas observed that in his one-paragraph statement the President referred to the BBL bill as “the most important” of the measures he hoped to be passed – but did not impress upon Congress the urgency of the measure. Instead, he challenged those who oppose it to propose a better alternative” supported with video clips of Moro testimonies on the benefits of the peace process.

The statement and the videos all took three minutes of the 130-minute SONA. The challenge was irrelevant. Both the House and the Senate have substitute bills as their “better alternative”. In fact, HB 5811 of the House has his imprimatur since basically that is the version he agreed with the House leaders to be voted upon by the Ad Hoc Committee on the BBL. The video clips only entertained.

If the President had been really that resolute as Deles described him, Draft BBL would not have been severely “watered down and diluted” and it would have been operating already. He has very little time to prove his resoluteness; failing, the “nice words” said about him will just amount to “bola” of him, not of the BBL.

Senate President Franklin Drilon and House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., in their speeches at the opening of the Third Regular Session of the 16th Congress on July 27, showed “no sense of urgency in passing the BBL” – just like in the SONA, Arguillas observed in her same MindaNews July 28 story.

Drilon summarized the measures passed in the past two regular sessions and introduced the urgent bills ahead. In the 33rd of his 45-paragraph speech he matter-of-factly said: “We will continue to promote lasting peace and sustainable development in Mindanao through a Bangsamoro Basic Law that is consistent with our Constitution.”

Belmonte, citing the BBL in the 22nd and 23rd of his 37-paragraph speech, only repeated what he had said a number of times in the past, including the “yes-but” rhetoric so nicely and emphatically said:

First, the “commitment”: 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 fueled by poverty. We must address the longstanding grievances of the Bangsamoro people by empowering them to fully provide for their self-expression and development.” Unlike in other times, he did not commit a “deadline” to pass the BBL.

Second, how to fulfill the commitment: “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.”

Sen. Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr., chair of the Committee on Local Government steering SB 2408, told reporters that he would submit the substitute bill “probably next week”. Later he qualified, “We’re trying it to get it done by next week, baka (maybe) the week after — soon”; and maintained “that the problems the draft BBL are facing now did not come from Congress.” The Congress is not to be blamed for the delays in passing the BBL. (Bold italics, ours)

To correct the flaws in SB 2408, the substitute bill will “fix all the unconstitutional problems [and the] … administrative problems, we are presently grappling with the economic provisions” — referring obviously to the block grant and revenues accruing to Bangsamoro as provided in Draft BBL. He is hinting that the major provisions of Draft BBL will be totally revised or changed. (MindaNews, July 29, 2015:House resumes BBL interpellation on Aug. 4; still no substitute bill at the Senate)

Hindi ni Marcos binobola ang BBL; binobura lang. (Marcos has no flattering words for BBL; he is just deleting and revising the original)

Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, AHCBBL chair, said the President’s brief pitch for the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) would hasten its passage. “We will hit the ground running once floor discussions resume. We are set to continue with the plenary deliberations, which we already started last May. I’d say prospects for the passage of the BBL remain very good.” (The Philippine Star, July 29, 2015: House panel sees BBL passage)

He admitted that Aquino only reiterated his support for the bill. Why has the House to wait for this reiteration to approve the BBL bill and bring successful conclusion to the Bangsamoro peace process? To Rodriguez, “Bola”!

He has another big “Bola” for the President and the BBL: “It’s really helpful that P-Noy is personally pushing for the passage of the bill. We know that the administration is really committed to this peace process, as it is part of its agenda for reform.”

He avowed: “We in the House also want these reforms to happen and you can also see that the draft BBL is high up in Congress’ legislative agenda.” Why then must the “majority of the people” support “Aquino’s peace initiatives in Mindanao” in order to “contribute to the expeditious passage of the proposed law?

The Moros don’t want “Bola”. They have had more than enough of it. They want the BBL to be as provided in the original draft intact – no watering down, no dilution. That is the IMPERATIVE, the TRUTH.

[Author’s Note: Mind da News, the alternate of COMMENT, is a comment on current news. The author may be contacted at patponcediaz@yahoo.com.]