COTABATO CITY (MindaNews / 10 June) — Reactions to the treatment of the BTC-BBL (Bangsamoro Transition Commission-drafted Bangsamoro Basic Law) by our legislators have been varied. Most are pessimistic. The BBL is dying, many say. It is totally watered down. It is no longer substantially the BBL crafted by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission. The power and authority of the proposed Bangsamoro government is less than those of the present Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. Thus run the sentiments of many. They are dismayed and feel hopeless. To a certain extent their sentiments are valid.
My own position is more positive.
It is true that many of the provisions have been changed. Some, I believe, for the better in order to avoid constitutional challenge. Other provisions should be the focus of discussion and argumentation at the bicameral sessions of the House of Representatives and of the Senate in July. Further, other provisions could be included.
The bicameral sessions will be the arena in which the BBL versions of the House of Representatives and of the Senate can converge into one, despite wide disparities in several fundamental issues.
More importantly the bicameral sessions will be the venue where various peace-stakeholders can push for a BBL that would truly comply with the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) and with the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB).
Representatives of the Bangsamoro and other stakeholders need to push our legislators into mutually satisfying resolutions of the following crucial issues:
- Shared, Concurrent, and Exclusive Powers;
- Sharing of Resources;
- Finance and Security-Sharing;
- Opt-In and Opt-Out Provisions;
- The non-inclusion of some municipalities and barangays;
- Explicit recognition and non-diminution of Indigenous Peoples’ Rights as enshrined in the IPRA (Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act);
- Explicit recognition of the fundamental human rights of other minorities in the Bangsamoro, such as Christians and peoples of other faiths;
- The provisions on referenda.
My optimism on the results of the bicameral sessions in July is not groundless. It is based, first of all, on the resolve of President Duterte to address the historic injustices against the Bangsamoro. He has the power, the clout, and determination. He is not someone who will renege on his promise to the Bangsamoro.
Moreover our legislators surely have at least four realizations:
- that after many years of negotiations with the MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) we are now in the cusp of peace;
- that the BTC-BBL represents the results of those negotiations;
- that our legislators hold in their hands the key to a just and lasting peace and should not squander such a singular opportunity;
- that the only way to definitive peace is a BBL that the Bangsamoro and the minorities in the Bangsamoro will find acceptable.
I am, therefore, certain that the MILF, the MNLF (Moro National Liberation Front), and the BTC will be active at the bicameral sessions, in support of President Duterte. They are determined to ensure substantial compliance with the FAB/CAB.
They need our positive advocacy, strong support and encouragement and, not the least, our prayers to the Lord.
(Cardinal Orlando B. Quevedo, the Archbishop of Cotabato, sent this piece to MindaNews. It was first published in the Tapatan section of the Mindanao Cross issue of June 9, 2018).