Balindong: “This House of Representatives has collectively failed the Bangsamoro people”

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/27 January) – Deputy Speaker for Mindanao Pangalian Balindong of Lanao del Sur and two other Moro legislators stepped  out of the plenary hall of the House of Representatives Wednesday night after Balindong delivered a privilege speech announcing that with a “grieving heart,” he was going to “close the book of hope for the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law.”

“Today, with a heavy heart and a disturbing sense of foreboding, I close the book of hope for the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic law. Fifty one public hearings, 200 hours of committee level debates and 8 months of consultations are all put to waste — thrown into the abyss of uncertainty and darkness. This is the lowest and saddest day of my legislative work,” Balindong said.

With only three session days left next week before Congress adjourns, passing a basic law for the Bangsamoro will likely remain in the realm of a dream.. The House is still on the period of amendments while the Senate has yet to resume its period of interpellation.

Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez last week said they were going to put to a vote on January 27 HB 5811 or the Basic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region (BLBAR), the substitute bill to the proposed BBL drafted by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC).

The House version and the Senate version of the BLBAR, however, have been criticized for envisioning a Bangsamoro that is “less than the ARMM.: (Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao)

Balindong said not passing the BBL takes away “the hopes of millions of people in the Bangsamoro” for recognition of their distinct identity, protection of what remains of the Bangsamoro homeland, and the opportunity to exercise self-determination through a parliamentary form of government that will be run in accordance with the Moro culture, faith and way of life.”

“BBL will guarantee that as a minority, we stand in parity of esteem with our Filipino brothers and sisters,” Balindong said.

But by the sheer tyranny of the majority, “we have foreclosed all possible peaceful, legal and constitutional avenues for peace,” he said, adding that no matter the debates on the justness of the Bangsamoro cause, “no matter how we stand to legal reasoning, no matter how we shout for our constitutionally guaranteed right to genuine political autonomy, the reality is that there are only ten Moro legislators against the more than 280 members of this house. We are only ten lone voices in the wilderness of bias, prejudice and hatred.”

Mary Ann Arnado of the Mindanao Peoples Caucus told MindaNews that Balindong “was holding back tears while delivering his speech,”

She said Maguindanao Rep. Bai Sandra Sema “was also crying,.”

“As they stepped out with (Sulu Rep) Tupay Loong, others followed them at the lounge. There was long silence at the plenary,” Arnado added.

Colleagues talked to Balindong at the lounge. When the session resumed, Zamboanga City Rep. Celso Lobregat continued Part 3 of his turno en contra on the BBL. Balindong and Loong had returned to the session hall but Balindong left shortly thereafter. Sema did not return to the plenary hall.

“Day of betrayal”

Balindong’s lament was shared by netizens. “Today January 27, should be remembered in history as the ‘Day of Betrayal,’ the Congress once gain failed to deliver its promise; the voting if not passage of a Law (BBL) that is hoped by many to bring Justice, Peace and development in the war torn Bangsamoro in Mindanao,” said Drieza Liningding,” Secretary-General of the Bangsamoro National Movement for Peace and Development (BNMPD) and co-founder of the militant youth organization, Free The Bangsamoro Movement,” said.

In his speech, Balindong recalled they were initially optimistic that “all the pains and sorrows, memories of lost loved ones and endless days of strife and war — all would be erased to give space for a new beginning.”

But the January 25, 2015 Mamasapano Tragedy that left 66 persons dead, was a game changer. Moro people were tagged as terrorists, extremists, enemies, traitors and murderers, he said.

“I have personally witnessed and heard the bashing and lashing against the Moros not only over the media but right in this hall of Congress,” Balindng said.

He noted that “many of those who supported the BBL wittingly or unwittingly punished the Moro people by denying us of the required votes and even the quorum to deliberate on the BBL.”

As a Moro elder who has lived through decades of war and conflict, Balindong said he has never been more afraid of the future of his people than today because what is happening is “a perfect recipe for radicalization, a disaster that extremists can esily exploit.”

“What shall I tell my people when I go back to my homeland? How can I explain to them why we failed to pass the BBL? How can I convince my people to remain steadfast to peace without the BBL? How can the thousands of combatants return to normal life when we did not deliver the basic law that would legalize the establishment of the Bangsamoro?” Balindong asked.

Addressing his colleagues, Balindong said: “I hate to admit that this House of Representatives has collectively failed the Bangsamoro people. You and I failed to fulfill and honor our commitment. I feel sad that we have effectively killed the process that took more than 17 years of hard and painstaking negotiations to finish. We did not only fail the Bangsamoro, but also the expectations of the international community and the supposed legacy of our President.”

But what pains Balindong even more is that “we have failed the next generation who will obviously inherit this vicious cycle of war and conflict. The BBL should have been our vehicle to peace.” (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)