STATEMENT: CSOs in Lanao del Sur on BBL: We cannot afford another ‘failed experiment’

[Statement of the Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in the province of Lanao del Sur and Marawi City on the occasion of the prayer rally held on July 4, 2018]

We, the leaders and members of the Civil Society Organizations in the Province of Lanao del Sur and Marawi City humbly petition the Honorable Members of the Bicameral Conference Committee of the Congress of the Philippines to reconsider the singular wisdom in building a strong autonomy for the Bangsamoro as the only effective and feasible course towards achieving national peace and solidarity.

The strong autonomy envisioned in the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB)-compliant, Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC)-crafted Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) should not be viewed as threatening to the national sovereignty of the Philippines state.

The grant of a strong autonomous Bangsamoro under the constitution is to the advantage of the state. It is a testimony to the national government’s adherence to self-determination; It is the most decent and noble gesture that recognizes the tremendous significance of the settling down of a once sovereign people, the Bangsamoro, to live in a self-governing entity within the sovereignty of the Philippines state.

The BBL crafted by the duly constituted representatives of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Government of the Philippines (GPH), by all means and considerations, serves to harmonize, as no other solution tried out in the past, the delicate balance of the need to afford social justice to the Bangsamoro and to uphold the sovereign power of the Philippines state.

It is worthy to remind ourselves that the Bangsamoro Basic Law is aimed at enhancing the power of the present autonomous government not only to meet its noble objectives to improve the lives of the people, end violence and foster national unity and reconciliation but to vest the new autonomous government with substantive powers capable not only to correct historical injustices but also to effect radical changes in the Bangsamoro.

We view thus with alarm the recent substitution by both Chambers of Congress of the CAB–compliant, BTC–drafted Bangsamoro Basic Law which, combined has drastically reduced the powers of the proposed Bangsamoro.

As known to the Honorable Members of the Bicameral conference, the BTC–drafted BBL that sought to correct the infirmities of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao has been drastically changed, diluting the BTC–drafted bill to such an extent that the proposed strong autonomous government has become almost a weak mirror image of the ARMM.

We note sadly that both houses, should they persist in their revisions, will fail to replace the weak autonomous government with a strong autonomous government. We fear that the resulting autonomy law for the Bangsamoro will lose the essence of meaningful autonomy. By then, all the decades of long drawn out peace process entered into by both the Bangsamoro and the Government of the Philippines will have been for naught.

It is for these reasons that we, the Bangsamoro civil society organizations in the province of Lanao del Sur and Marawi City are appealing to the Honorable Members of the Bicameral Conference to consider restoring those deleted and/or transferred powers of the proposed Bangsamoro autonomous government.

We hereby highlight six (6) items of appeal that applies to the peculiar interests of the Meranaw, people of the lake, as follows:

  1. To make sure that the final version of BBL is CAB-Compliant to avoid the creation of breakaway groups that would capitalize on the non-implementation of CAB which was the jointly approved framework for the BBL and which should be the grounds for resolving issues regarding the BBL unless any issue at hand is clearly against the Constitution of the Philippines;
  2. To restore the BBL original version on INLAND WATERS, such that it must be within the exclusive power of the Bangsamoro;
  3. To restore the original provisions of HB 6475 on the power of the Bangsamoro Government to regulate power generation, transmission and distribution operating exclusively in the Bangsamoro and not connected to the national transmission grid;
  4. To restore the original provision of HB 6475 on the share of Bangsamoro Government in the National taxes collected in the Bangsamoro and its retention of the 25% share of National government within the period of 10 years;
  5. To restore the original version of HB 6475 on the Periodic Plebiscite; and
  6. In the event that it is impossible to restore the original provision of HB 6475 on the Core territory of Bangsamoro, to adopt the version of the Senate on the provision of Core Territory particularly on the Six (6) municipalities of Lanao del Norte so it would no longer require the consent of the whole province.

Lastly, In fervent prayers that the Congress of the Philippines hears and heeds the plea of their Lanao constituents, we respectfully assert that all of us, together, cannot afford another “failed experiment”.

If we do not build/establish a strong autonomy, but merely add or change a thing or two weak provisions to an entity that might as well be the same old ARMM, we will only be courting disaster.

We cannot afford to unjustly frustrate a long-hopeful, long-suffering people and not expect to see them take extreme violent actions. We want peace. We are building peace. We must not replace a weak autonomous government with another weak autonomous government. We must not repeat that bad segment in our history.

In direct contrast, the success of a strengthened autonomous government spells the success of the national government. This strong autonomy, the Bangsamoro, can be the model in the proposed federal form of government and this can only result to national solidarity, unity and peace.

Done this 4th of July 2018 at the Jamiatu Muslim Mindanao (JMM), Matampay Marawi City.

(Names and signatures affixed)