SPONSORSHIP SPEECH: “The epitome of real autonomy in this country”

(Sponsorship speech ofDeputy Speaker for Mindanao Bai Sandra Sinsuat A. Sema of the Basic Law for the Autonomous Region of the Bangsamoro on May 29, 2018 at the House of Representatives in Quezon City) 

Assalamu’alaikum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuh.

Mr. Speaker, Distinguished Colleagues, I stand before you today not only as the voice of my people – the Bangsamoro – but as a citizen of this country longing for peace in our Homeland.

This is the second time that this Representation is delivering a sponsorship speech on the Bangsamoro Basic Law.  The first time was in the 16thCongress when our proposed measure was hijacked by the Mamasapano incident. But our people never relented in our quest for a just and lasting peace in our Homeland.  We will not stop until peace reigns in the land of promise. No less than our President – His Excellency Rodrigo Roa Duterte – who hails from Mindanao – has promised the passage of this measure in his State of the Nation Address to ensure a Bangsamoro government that truly reflects the aspirations of our Muslim brothers and sisters.

In the pursuit of peace and understanding, the expanded Bangsamoro Transition Commission or BTC, composed of representatives from the two revolutionary fronts – the Moro Islamic Liberation Front or MILF and the Moro National Liberation Front or MNLF, together with representatives from the non-Moro people, the indigenous peoples, and those coming from the National Government had carefully and meticulously poured their diverse and yet collective interests into a document which is known as the BTC version of the BBL.

While this Representation had earlier filed House Bill No. 92 which is reflective of the 16thCongress BBL House version; and former President and now Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo also filed House Bill No. 6121 reflective of the 16thCongress BBL Senate version, we both agreed to give way to the BTC version as such was solemnly crafted by the major stakeholders of peace in Mindanao – especially the MILF and MNLF.

The BTC version was indorsed to Congress by the President of the Philippines as the Administration version in its original state, without addition and without subtraction.  It is principally authored by no less than the Speaker – Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez – and co-authored by both Majority Leader Rudy Farinas and Minority Leader Danny Suarez, along with the Bangsamoro legislators and many more.

While it may be considered as a local bill, it has far-reaching effects that other law-makers outside of the Bangsamoro territory cannot avoid but being part of its crafting.  We welcome the suggestions that are meant to improve rather than destroy the bill. We welcome the ideas that are meant to strengthen rather than weaken the constitutionally guaranteed autonomy. We welcome the opinions that are meant to carry into effect what had been agreed upon in Tripoli and in the grounds of Malacanang between the Government of the Philippines and the Bangsamoro people. We welcome the warm embrace of our colleagues who consider the Bangsamoro people as citizens of this country whose rights must be respected and whose voice must be heard.  And we pray that in the chaos of all these deliberations, ideas, suggestions, and opinions, we do not lose our path towards peace, unity, and prosperity.

Mr. Speaker, Honorable Colleagues, the Joint Committee worked hard not only in the committee conference rooms of this House but also in meetings outside the halls of this August Chamber to listen to those who may be affected by this proposed legislation.  Several amendments were proposed by some of our colleagues to change the tenor of the BTC version which is our working draft.  The number of amendments reached a level that the BTC version looked beyond recognition.  It did not reflect anymore the sentiments of those that the President gathered to craft a document that reflects their aspirations. And so, through an omnibus motion filed by this Representation, the Joint Committee approved to revert the amended version back to the original BTC version.   The Joint Committee now finally reports out a version with minimal changes for the consideration of this August Body.

This proposed measure will be the epitome of real autonomy in this country.  This is the precursor of the regional autonomy or federal states that we may consider in the future.  This will be the proof that when the government negotiates with its people, it is honest, serious, and committed to carry out its promises.

In this Holy Month of Ramadan, the Bangsamoro people await the dawning of peace in the Moroland.  This is the month when the Holy Qur’an was first revealed.  This is the month when the gates of Heaven are open and gates of Hell are closed, and the devils are chained up in Hell.  This month is not a coincidence that we are deliberating this legislative measure with a hallmark of peace.  For it is Allah who guides the destiny of his people.  As we humble ourselves, by abstaining from food and water during daylight for thirty days during this Holy Month of Ramadan, may our brothers and sisters pray with us for peace in our country.

Today, all of us here in this August Chamber begin to make a choice.  Regardless of our place of abode, regardless of culture, regardless of tradition, and regardless of belief, we come together today to chart our destiny as a nation of many nations.  Our destiny is determined by our choices.  Allah (peace be upon him) tells us that those who believe in goodness and choose to do righteous acts, such as being charitable, will have the path to goodness and Paradise made easy for them.  Allah (peace be upon him) also tells us that those who reject belief in goodness and are miserly and arrogant will have the path to misery and Hell made easier for them.

For Moses also said in the Bible that: “This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life.”

This proposed measure is a blessing to all of us for this came at the time when we have a President who comes from Mindanao who knows the situation on the ground.  We choose life rather than death, blessings rather than curses.  This is our opportunity to make things right as our leaders in the past provided a military solution to a non-military problem.  Now, we solve this political problem with a political solution.  And all of us here will go down in history as being part of those who have helped solved the peace and order problem in the Bangsamoro Homeland.

Thank you very much and may peace be with all of us.