PRIVILEGE SPEECH: Pres. Aquino himself sabotaged the passage of the BBL

(Privilege Speech delivered by Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani T. Zarate on the position of the Makabayan Bloc on BL-BAR, delivered at the House of Representatives on 2 February 2016)

Mr. Speaker,

I rise on personal and collective privilege on the matter of the Bangsamoro and our failure to pass a meaningful law to supposedly address the historical injustice committed against them.

This representation and my colleagues with Makabayan bloc recognize the courageous struggle of the Moro people for the right to national self-determination. This struggle is rooted in the centuries-long and on-going oppression and exploitation of the Filipino people including the Bangsamoro and other indigenous peoples by the colonial and neo-colonial powers and the local ruling elite. This struggle forms an important part of the Filipino people’s struggle against foreign and local ruling class domination and enslavement towards genuine independence and democracy.

The Bangsamoro must attain and exercise their right to self-determination — full and genuine autonomy. The socio-economic roots of war must be addressed, and widespread poverty and injustice eradicated. Otherwise, the armed struggle of the Moro people  will continue and grow stronger even if the Moro Islamic Liberation Front places some of its weapons “beyond use.”

In our analysis of the text and, more importantly, in consideration of the prevailing societal context, the Basic Law of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region (BL-BAR) or House Bill No. 5811 falls far short of and does not adequately address the aspirations of the Bangsamoro and indigenous peoples’ struggle because: 1) the BL-BAR grants not full but only limited autonomy; 2) genuine autonomy can never be possible under a neo-colonial, semi-feudal and corrupt state and ruling system; and 3) the BL-BAR does not address the social and economic roots of poverty and injustice.

The prevailing political context has worsened in the aftermath of the January 25, 2015 Mamasapano incident.

What is happening now is that through Congress, the Aquino administration is taking back the proposed additional powers granted to the Bangsamoro in the original BBL draft submitted to Congress and the other concessions negotiated by the MILF.

The interest shown by the US, Japan, and the European Union in the peace talks with the MILF is likewise extremely alarming. Previously, the US took an active role in the drafting of the Government of the Philippines – MILF Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain which was eventually junked by the GPH . We must vigorously oppose the agenda of the imperialists to establish military bases, ruthlessly exploit the mineral and agricultural wealth and cheap labor of the Bangsamoro and Mindanao.

The Proposed BL-BAR grants, not full, but limited autonomy

Full and genuine autonomy  is a possible form of restoring to the Bangsamoro their right to self-determination and  rectifying the historic and continuing injustice against the Bangsamoro.

Full autonomy entails the recognition, at the very least, of their right, capacity and authority to rule over all aspects of political, economic, and cultural life in their region, apart from the reserved powers of the central government – foreign affairs, external defense and security, border control and immigration, and common currency. However, this is not the kind of autonomy  that the Bangsamoro will get through by the proposed BL-BAR.

Compare Republic Act 9054 (the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao or ARMM law) with the BL-BAR.

In ARMM, the regional assembly is given the power to enact laws on all matters except for those pertaining to the reserved powers of the national government. Yet, under the BL-BAR these powers have been retained by the national government or lump under the so-called concurrent powers of the national government and the Bangsamoro Government.

Take the case for example on the provision on control of mineral resources in the Bangsamoro territory.

Section 8, Article XII of the HB 5811 amends what was provided in Section 8, Article XIII of HB 4994 or the original BBL draft.

Instead of just providing for the 3 kinds of fossil fuels—i.e., petroleum, natural gas, coal and uranium as the exception to the exclusive power of the Bangsamoro, the substitute bill now provides that the exception covers “strategic minerals such as uranium, petroleum, and other fossil fuels, mineral oils, and all sources of potential energy”.

The expanded exceptions contradict the provisions of the CAB and FAB, and merely reiterates the problematic provision of RA 9054 on “strategic minerals”.

By expanding the exceptions in the BL-BAR to include not only fossil fuels and uranium, but also “mineral oils” and “all other potential sources of energy”, this means that that even energy generated from solar, wind, ocean, hydropower, biomass, geothermal resources, biofuels and other possible sources of energey will fall under the exception.

Worse, the Bangsamoro’s power over natural resources is even reduced to nothing in the case of excepted “strategic minerals” since its exploration, development and utilization are vested in the nentral government. What is left to the Bangsamoro Government is only the need to be “consulted”, yet, the final decision lie with the national government.

Indeed, the long enumeration in the BL-BAR of supposed exclusive powers of the Bangsamoro government are, in fact, powers that have likewise diluted or have been granted already to the ARMM in as much as these do not fall within the reserved powers of the national government.

Anti-people laws and policies of the GPH will prevail over and delimit the laws that may be enacted and enforced by the Bangsamoro parliament.

Deleterious laws such as the 1995 Mining Act, laws on foreign investment, agreements such as the GATT/WTO, laws on land ownership, Oil Deregulaiton Law, Electric Power Industry Reform Act, and many other exploitative and oppressive GPH laws shall remain in force and dominate in the Bangsamoro. BL-BAR does not invalidate these laws, nor does the Bangsamoro assembly have the power to invalidate, amend, or choose not to implement them.

The Moro people will not, in reality, enjoy their right to self-determination and genuine autonomy even if the BL-BAR is enacted into law. Beyond the text of the BL-BAR , the political and socio-economic context in which the Bangsamoro entity will operate should be considered.

The whole area of the Bangsamoro is not insulated from and in fact will continue to be dominated by the neo-colonial, dynastic, and corrupt state and politics of the big comprador capitalists and landlords that rule the whole country.

The fate that befell the ARMM is clear for all to see – from the hands of Nur Misuari the reins of government fell to the Ampatuans. With the support of Pres. Fidel Ramos and the full resources of the state behind him, Nur Misuari was installed as the governor of ARMM. Before long, landlords and warlords gained control of ARMM, the moment Misuari lost the support of Malacañang. The Arroyo administration had to distance itself from the Ampatuans because of the public outrage over the brutal massacre of journalists.

As it is now, it appears that, as pointed out earlier by our esteemed colleagues who earlier delivered their requiem on the BBL, time has already run out for its passage.

Yet, even if we assume that Congress can still pass a law just so President Aquino can claim it as his legacy, it remains to be seen whether the BL-BAR will gain approval in a plebiscite in all the areas it seeks to cover and whether the MILF, if it accepts the BL-BAR,   can win in elections against contending dynastic landlords and warlords.

Furthermore, the armed rebel groups opposed to the BL-BAR , such as Misuari’s MNLF and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters are still in the picture. True, electoral successes for the BL-BAR is possible, given the backing and support of the US and Malacañang. But can autonomy propped up by US and the GPH President’s patronage still be considered genuine?

The BL-BAR does not even attempt to dismantle the socio-economic roots of the Moro rebellion

Contrary to solving the centuries-old problem in the Bangasamoro, the BL-BAR makes no effort to identify and dismantle the socio-economic roots of the Moro rebellion.

Essentially, the BL-BAR is an agreement on the terms of power-sharing and division of wealth between the GPH and the Bangsamoro government. But there are no provisions in the BL-BAR that address the root of poverty and injustice that are the causes of the Moro rebellion and war.

The BL-BAR glaringly lacks any provision that puts an end to the monopoly control of agricultural lands and mineral resources by foreign corporations and a handful of big compradors and landlords through the free redistribution of land to farmers; nor provisions for the establishment of job-creating industries; nor provisions to lift the Moro, indigenous people, and other inhabitants of the Bangsamoro from poverty. The BBL appears to be saying that resolving the socio-economic roots of rebellion should just be left to whoever takes power in the Bangsamoro.

The ordinary Moro and lumad and others who support the armed struggle in Mindanao are farmers, fisherfolk, youth, women, and other poor people deprived of land, jobs, education, health, and other basic services. If widespread poverty and injustice are not addressed, the societal basis for the Moro armed struggle persists, just as it does for the armed revolution being waged by the Communist Party of the Philippines, the National Democratic Front, and the New People’s Army.

“Bigay-bawi” and deception by government in the peace talks with the MILF

It is becoming increasingly apparent that grand deception and co-optation are the US-Aquino regime’s real objectives in engaging the MILF in peace talks, negotiating the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro and drafting the BBL. This is also part of the regime’s divide-and-rule tactic to neutralize the MILF and concentrate government’s armed force on the CPP-NPA.

The Aquino administration is now taking away, through amendments now incorporated in the BL-BAR by its allies in Congress, the additional powers of the Bangsamoro government that it granted in the negotiations with the MILF on the assurance that these are in accordance with the Constitution.

The government peace panel and Pres. Aquino himself insisted that no amendment of the Constitution was necessary.

Ironically, the process of “bigay-bawi” amendments in Congress, including the arguments on supposed unconstitutionality of some provisions,   is justified by taking the line that “the MILF cannot be trusted after what happened in Mamasapano.”


It was President Aquino himself, together with then-suspended PNP Chief Gen. Purisima and the US government who were primarily accountable for the bungled and bloody War On Terror operation in Mamasapano, which they approved without coordination with the MILF, resulting in the carnage that rocked the administration and derailed the smooth passage of the original BBL draft.

By allowing Oplan Exodus on January 25, 2015 in Mamasapano, President Aquino himself sabotaged the passage of the then BBL draft.

By launching Oplan Exodus, President Aquino himself sabotaged the peace process between the GPH and the MILF!

Malacanang – President Aquino and his allies — have clearly turned their backs on agreements the GPH had signed with the MILF in seeking to take back the many concessions given to the MILF, on the pretext that there are indeed unconstitutional provisions in the original BBL draft that have to be amended or deleted completely.

Hindi lamang kasalanan o kakulangnan ng Kapulungang ito kung bakit hindi naipasa ang BBL.

Huwag nating kalimutan at ipikit ang ating mga mata sa katotohanang matagal ng pinaslang ng Administrasyong Aquino ang orihinal na BBL na nakabatay sa nilagdaang FAB at CAB.

Nagsimula ang pagpaslang na ito ng palabnawin ng Aquino administration ang borador na ipinanukala ng Bangsamoro Transition Commission. Pagkatapos nito, pinayagan ni Presidente Aquino at kayang mga kaalyado na tuluyan ng kitilin ang BBL ng ipinasa ng Adhoc Committee ang BL-BAR.

Sa katunayan, katulad ng “browning automatic rifle” ( o BAR) na ginamit sa pagpaslang sa mga nakikibakang Moro, ang BL-BAR din ang magiging instrumento upang kitilin ang mithiin ng mga mamamayang Moro..

Ang panukalang BL-BAR ay hindi lamang pagtalikod sa pinagkasunduan na sa usaping pangkapayapaan sa pamamagitan ng MILF at GPH, kundi ito ay isang tahasang pagtataksil at pagtatakwil sa aspirasayon at mithiin ng mga mamamayang Moro para sa isang tunay na autonomiya at sa kanilang karapatang ng sariling pagpapasiya at pamamahala.

At the AdHoc Committee level, the Makabayan opposed the amendments that take away or otherwise violate the contents of the agreement entered into by government with the MILF.

We cannot and we will not allow ourselves to be used in the continuing “bigay-bawi” scheme and grand deception of the Aquino administration. We criticize the Aquino government’s violations of  and the reneging on agreements it entered into with the MILF, similar to what is happening in the peace talks with the National Democratic Front.

Even as this Congress continue to fail now in passing a meaningful law, we will continue to support the proposals, demands and struggles that will strengthen the right to self- determination of the Moro people and the lumads.

The socio-economic roots of war must be identified and dismantled and programs for genuine land reform, job creation and industrialization and wealth redistribution should be instituted.

We voted NO before in the committee level where the original BBL draft was emasculated. We also reject the proposed Basic Law of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region (BL-BAR), as it is now worded and written, since it is a clear derogation of the Bangsamoro people’s right to self-determination.

Mabuhay ang pakikibaka ng Mamayang Moro para sa sariling kasarinlan! Mabuhay ang nakikibakang Mamamayang Pilipino!

Salamat Mr. Speaker. (Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani T. Zarate delivered this privilege speech at the House of Representatives on 2 Febrruary 2016)