Ateneo Presidents push for immediate passage of BTC-drafted Bangsamoro law

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 17 March) — The Presidents of the five Jesuit-run Ateneo universities in Mindanao, Manila and Naga are calling for the immediate passage of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) drafted by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) to provide a “real and meaningful foundation for countering violent extremism and addressing the many other conflicts in Mindanao.”

The BTC-drafted BBL that will create a new autonomous political entity in the predominantly Muslim Bangsamoro “hews closest to the genuine aspirations of Filipino Muslims and other marginalized sectors in Mindanao for lasting peace based on justice, economic growth, and social equity,” said the Joint Statement of the Presidents of these Catholic institutions — Fr. Joel Tabora of Ateneo de Davao University, Fr. Karel San Juan of Ateneo de Zamboanga, Fr. Roberto Yap of Xavier University-Ateneo de Cagayan,  Fr. Jose Ramon Villarin of Ateneo de Manila University, and Fr. Roberto Exequiel Rivera of Ateneo de Naga University.

“We implore our legislators not to delay such passage any further,” the Ateneo presidents said, noting that “our Catholic faith and Jesuit tradition call us to tread the pathways taken by the Prince of Peace, daring us to embrace multi-cultural openness and inter-religious dialogue.”

The two houses of Congress had earlier assured they would pass a Bangsamoro law before Congress goes on recess from March 24 to May 13.

Recent pronouncement from both houses indicate they will pass the law when sessions resume in May and before President Rodrigo Duterte delivers his third State of the Nation Address on July 23.

The Senate Committee on Local Government has filed its substitute bill which is currently being deliberated. The joint House Committees on Local Government, Muslim Affairs, and  Peace, Reconciliation and Unity held their last public hearing in Marawi City on March 16.

The Congress calendar indicates May 14 as resumption of sessions but this is a holiday due to the barangay and Sangguniang Kabaataan elections. Congress adjourns sine die on June 2, thereby leaving only eight session days (Mondays to Wednesdays) between May 15 and June 1.

Congress under the Aquino administration failed to pass the BBL. While assurances have been made a Bangsamoro law will be passed under the Duterte administration, what kind of BBL will be passed remains a major concern.

The March 16 Joint Statement, the second on the BBL issued by the Ateneo Presidents (the first was on October 5, 2015), reiterated their “moral approval” of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro, the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, and the Expanded BTC version of the Enhanced BBL.”

The university presidents said there is no doubt that the journey to peace and justice “remains long and difficult” but added that “there is light that beckons at the end of the long, dark tunnel for beloved Mindanao.”

It reiterated its Joint Statement on the BBL in October 2015 where they said the establishment of the Bangsamoro that is truly autonomous is mandated by the 1987 Constiuttion “as a social justice imperative.”

In the October 2015 statement, the Ateneo Presidents said the legislators “are not only hewers of laws. They are builders of peace. They are architects of our future.”

“Let this social justice no longer be postponed,” they said in their March 16 statement. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)