DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 08 January) – The Philippines is “sailing on rough waters… unless we get through with this BOL (Bangsamoro Organic Law).” President Rodrigo Duterte said in two speeches last week, as he expressed hope that the Supreme Court would resolve the petitions questioning its constitutionality,
“in favor of what is really right and just to everybody” otherwise, “we will be fighting an insurgency that would never end.”
At the birthday celebration of former Presidential Adviser on Political Affairs Francis Tolentino in Tagaytay City on January 3, Duterte said the country is “into a typhoon or a — maybe a squall. Mahangin lang (It’s windy) and there are developments which we anticipate with great expectations, lalo na sa (especially in) Mindanao.”
Three days earlier, on December 31, 2018, an improvised explosive device went off outside a mall in downtown Cotabato City, killing two and injuring 34 others. Authorities have yet to pin down who were behind the explosion and if at all, as claimed by some sectors, it has anything to do with the plebiscite on January 21 and February 6 to ratify RA 11054, the Organic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (OLBARMM, also referred to as Bangsamoro Organic Law or BOL).
The country’s 16th President and the first Mindanawon to lead the nation, said he hopes and prays “that something good will come out of the BOL.”
“We have every reason to believe that it would pass the people’s will (during the plebiscite) at sana magkaroon tayo ng kapayapaan (and we hope for peace) because if not mahirapan tayo nito (it will be difficult for us). The last three years of my term may be just to … well dedicate to address violence,” the President said.
RA 11054 is the enabling law of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) that government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) signed in March 2014 to pave the way for the creation of a new autonomous political entity – the Banngsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) — that would replace the 28-year old Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
The ARMM had earlier been criticized as a “failed experiment,” an autonomy only on paper.
RA 11054 is a watered down version of the CAB-based proposed law drafted by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) but officials of the MILF and the BTC claim it is “more than ARMM” and that the future BARMM is an improvement over the ARMM particularly on fiscal autonomy.
Congress leaders argued they had to amend or delete provisions of the draft law to ensure the substitute bills and the final product of the bicameral conference committee would not be declared unconstitutional.
“What is really right and just”
Duterte, whose campaign promises included addressing the historical injustices committed against the Bangsamoro, said “I don’t know what would be the most serious constitutional issue there about the creation of local autonomies. It is provided there (in the Constitution) but it could somehow maybe point to the direction of what we created before, itong ARMM.”
He acknowledged “there could be a serious issue” laid before the Supreme Court as petitions had been filed before the high tribunal questioning the constitutionality of the law “but I just hope that it would be resolved in favor of what is really right and just to everybody. Because kung hindi mo i-address ‘to, we will be fighting an insurgency that would never end.”
Mindanao cannot be developed, he said, if there is no peace.
“If we can have peace in this generation, maybe the next, ‘yung mga anak natin hindi masyado mahirapan” (our children will not suffer much), Duterte added.
“I think we have to really find a solution here. Kasi ‘pag hindi, we cannot develop Mindanao. We cannot develop the source of our food, the food of our children in the years to come. And worst of all, we might be passing the serious problem of violence in this country,” Duterte said.
“Let us ratify this law and give it a chance”
In a videotaped message aired during the December 10 launch in Cotabato City of the campaign for a “yes” vote, Duterte said the peace process in Mindanao is at a crucial stage.
“The threat of terrorism is still high, poverty is a constant reality, and the feeling of neglect is still persistent among Mindanawons,’ he said.
“As your President and a Mindanawon myself, I am witness to the conflict in Mindanao. I am appealing to everyone to take part, active part in promotion of the Bangsamoro Organic Law and in the areas of governance and authority. Let us ratify this law and give it a chance. Mindanao deserves its peace. Help me realize that aspiration. So yes to the Bangsamoro Organic Law,” the President said.
On January 4 in Pili, Camarines Sur, Duterte said “the ship of state of the Republic of the Philippines is sailing on rough waters. I’m not saying that there is a storm but unless we get through with this BOL and what would be the reaction of Misuari,” Duterte said.
“Sabihin niya he’s left behind is something which we have — I have to work over time,” he said of Nur Misuari, founding chair of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).
Duterte has repeatedly said he would talk with Misuari, chair of the then undivided MNLF that signed the Tripoli Agreement of 1976 and the 1996 Final Peace Agreement with the Philippine government. Duterte had in fact met several times with Misuari in his 30-month Presidency.
When the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) was set up in February 2017 to draft what was then referred to as the Bangsamoro Basic Law, the MNLF factions were invited by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process to nominate their representatives. Misuari’s faction did not send its nomination but the Jikiri-Sema faction did. Three of the 21-member MILF-led BTC are from the MNLF under Yusoph Jikiri and Muslimin Sema.
The MNLF representatives in the BTC pushed for the inclusion in the Bangsamoro law the unimplemented provisions of the 1996 peace pact between government and the MNLF. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)