Cardinal Quevedo optimistic Duterte won’t renege on vow to Bangsamoro and Congress’ final BBL will be CAB-compliant

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 10 June) — Mindanao’s lone Cardinal is optimistic that President Rodrigo Duterte wont’ renege on his commitment to the Bangsamoro and the 28 legislators comprising the Bicameral Conference Committee (bicam) will pass a final version of the BBL that is compliant with the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB).

The government (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) signed the CAB in March 2014 after 17 years of peace negotiations, and the BBL is supposed to be the enabling law that would pave the way for the creation of a new autonomous political entity that would replace the now 28-year old Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

The House of Representatives and the Senate passed their respective versions on May 30 and 31, respectively but no celebration greeted their passage as the BBL version drafted by the 21-member government-MILF Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) was described to have been “mangled,” “massacred,” “watered down,” “slaughtered.”

MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim said the versions passed were “very diluted” but expressed hopes they can still regain the provisions they lost on the Senate and House floor, during the bicam on July 9 to 13. President Rodrigo Duterte is expected to sign the final version into law on July 23, the same day he delivers his third State of the Nation Address (SONA).

“My optimism on the results of the bicameral sessions in July is not groundless,” Quevedo wrote in an article “On the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL): Tensions and Issues” published in the Tapatan section of the Cotabato City-based Mindanao Cross on June 9.

“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,” said Quevedo, the Archbishop of Cotabato who has consistently supported the Bangsamoro peace process.

He said legislators “surely have at least four realizations” now — that after many years of negotiations with the MILF, “we are now in the cusp of peace; that the BTC-BBL represents the results of those negotiations;” that they “hold in their hands the key to a just and lasting peace and should not squander such a singular opportunity;” and that “the only way to definitive peace is a BBL that the Bangsamoro and the minorities in the Bangsamoro will find acceptable.”

Quevedo acknowledged that the reactions to the passage of the two versions of the BBL have been varied and “msot are pessimistic.”

“They are dismayed and feel hopeless. To a certain extent their sentiments are valid.

My own position is more positive,” he said, as he noted that many provisions have been changed, “some, I believe, for hte better in order to avoid constitutional challenge.”

He said other provisions should be the focus of discussion and argumentation at the  bicam sessions next month and 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),” the Cardinal said.

He said representatives of the Bangsamoro and other stakeholders “need to push our legislators into mutually satisfying resolutions of the following crucial issues.”

He listed these issues as Shared, Concurrent, and Exclusive Powers; Sharing of Resources; Finance and Security-Sharing; Opt-In and Opt-Out Provisions; 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; and the provisions on referenda.

He said he is certain that the MILF, the Moro National Liberation Front, and the BTC
“will be active at the bicameral sessions, in support of President Duterte” and “determined to ensure substantial compliance with the FAB/CAB.”

He asked readers to pray for them. “They need our positive advocacy, strong support and encouragement and, not the least, our prayers to the Lord,” he said. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)