(Delivered during the two-day “Peoples’ Conversations on Hurdling Roadblocks in the Bangsamoro Roadmap to Peace” held at EM Manor Hotel in Cotabato City on October 6, 2015)
The Situation of the BBL
While peace panels are still hopeful, legislators are much less so. Senator Marcos has asserted that the BBL is dead. Everything seems to depend on the commitment, political will and resources of President P-Noy. The earliest possible date of the passage of the BBL is sometime in December.
But we all know that the versions of the BBL in the Legislature are far from acceptable. Several comparative analyses prove that such BBL versions are reflections of a dismal mind set that is hopelessy mired within the structural paradigm of Local Government Units. Such a mind set cannot comprehend the potentials of power granted by the Constitution for an authentic Autonomous Region that is expressedly part and parcel of the Philippine Republic.
These BBL versions were crafted in the wake of Mamasapano, which was truly a disastrous blunder. I must confess that I do not see any party that is free of responsibiity from the tragedy. But Mamasapano definitely changed the horizon of the peace process and the BBL. For from Mamasapano came the roadblocks to peace.
Major Roadblocks to a Just and Lasting Peace
From my personal viewpoint, these are the major roadblocks we need to confront as peace advocates:
- The perception of legislators and of several legal and constitutional experts regarding the constitutionality of the Framework Agreement, the Comprehensive Agreement, the BBL and many of its provisions; the expert opinion of other legal and constitutional luminaries are ignored.
- Legislators’ perception that the original BBL was a formula for the establishment of a separate and independent State;
- That it will result in the dismemberment of the Republic;
- Their revisions are therefore the result of these perceptions.
- Therefore, the revisions insist that the powers devolved to the Bangsamoro government should generally be at par with LGUs, thus effectively treating the “autonomous region” as an LGU and less autonomous than the present ARMM.
- Underlying these perceptions and revisions is an attitude of mistrust, bias and prejudice, fear and even paranoia with regard to the MILF and to Muslims in general – an attitude that exploded into the public sphere as a result of Mamasapano.
- But such mistrust, bias and prejudice, fear, and paranoia against Muslims have determined the opinion of the Christian majority population, including so called intelligentsia, church people, media pundits, and media networks. This biased attitude is at the heart of their rejection of any BBL, including the versions being prepared by the legislators, despite ignorance of the actual content of the BBL.
- Already sharing the same attitude as the majority, legislators are driven by public opinion to reject the BBL or support a “watered down” version of it. Revisions and even rejection are in view of the 2016 elections. They want to cater to the votes of the majority. It is not entirely whimsical that three of the most vocal senators against the BBL have announced their candidacy for Vice-President.
In summary, peace advocates face challenges from several fronts:
- the misperceptions of legislators and their revisions to the original BBL;
- the continuing dissemination of such misperceptions by media;
- the fundamental attitudes and misperceptions of the great majority of Filipinos.
- the overweening desire to win the votes of the majority in the 2016 elections
- The inexorable constriction of time for the passage of an acceptable BBL.
Imperative Courses of Action
Peace advocates have been busy with meeting the challenges in numbers 1, 2, and 5 and have experienced a mixed bag of success and frustration. Still these efforts to influence legislators and media have to continue.
My attention is focused on challenges 3 and 4.
Meeting the Challenge of Mistrust and Prejudice.
- a life-long task of family upbringing, formal and informal education, reinforced by faith-formation by religious denominations.
- Engage the above-mentioned institutions in order to dispel or reduce biases and prejudices.
- Schools as zones of peace and harmony – dialogue of life in schools.
- Collaboration among religious denominations for this task through Inter-Religious Dialogue
- educational and religious institutions (e.g., parishes, mosque communities, Christian worship services) to do advocacy work: seminars, workshops, fora, assemblies – know the original BBl, read and learn, form your mind and conscience on the basis of your personal in-depth knowledge of the original BBL and not on the basis of bias and prejudice.
Meeting the Challenge of Winning Majority Votes in 2016
- Engage your local LGU executives; help them know the original BBL, and disengage them from their misperceptions and biases;
- Engage your local Congresspersons:
- let them know the original BBL and disseminate personally to them a comparative analysis of the original BBL and the versions they are supporting;
- point out to them the practical consequences of their revisions that make the Bangsamoro less autonomous than the present ARMM;
- let them be aware that social justice long denied the Bangsamoro is in their hands, and now is the time not to squander the opportunity of laying down the foundations of a just and lasting peace.
- Appeal to their sense of the common good of all, especially of peoples’ long deprived of their right to self-determination accorded by the Constitution.
Conclusion – Prayer as Imperative Action
Many people believe that prayer is the last resort, “Mag pray na lang tayo.” But to religious believers prayer is a daily imperative, not only in situations of darkness and seeming hopelessness.
Prayer nourishes hope and provides strength in the face of serious roadblocks. Peacemakers have to be men and women of prayer. In the final analysis, it is God who is the ultimate peacemaker and peace giver.
(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Cardinal Orlando B. Quevedo, Mindanao’s lone Cardinal, is the Archbishop of Cotabato and lead convener of Friends of Peace).