Cardinal Quevedo: any revision in BTC-BBL would add another injustice against Bangsamoro people

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 21 May) – The draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) would correct the historical injustices committed against the Moro people, but any substantial revisions from its current form would result in another grave injustice, Cardinal Orlando Quevedo said.

Cardinal Orlando Quevedo. MIndaNews file photo by GG BUENO

In a statement delivered during the Senate Consultative Committee on May 21, the lone Mindanawon Cardinal who heads the Archdiocese of Cotabato said that the island, which has long suffered from the Bangsamoro rebellion, is now on the cusp of peace with the BTC’s version of BBL, a result of two decades of “persistent, patient, and tortuous negotiations” between the government (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

He said the BTC-BBL is a work of widespread consultation and of the collective professional skills and wisdom of the commission, consisting of representatives of different religious traditions and of various sectors of society.

Composed of 11 members from the MILF and 10 from the government, the BTC submitted the draft BBL on July 17, 2017. It was transmitted to Congress less than a month later.

The passage of the BBL would pave the way for another Bangsamoro entity, which would replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

Quevedo believed that the BTC-BBL fully upholds Philippine territorial integrity and national sovereignty.

He added that it also substantially responds to the deep-seated aspirations of the Bangsamoro to exercise self-determination and genuine, though limited, sovereignty in governing themselves in a distinct and limited territory and respects the identity and fundamental natural human rights of the minorities in Bangsamoro territory, especially of Christians and Indigenous Peoples.

Quevedo added that the BTC version fundamentally reflects the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) and the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) signed by the GPH and the MILF in 2014 and 2012, respectively.

The Cardinal emphasized that the BTC-BBL, at its essential core, fundamentally and politically redresses the historic injustices against the Bangsamoro and any substantial revisions that make it no longer compliant with CAB and FAB “would add yet another grave injustice against the Bangsamoro.”

Quevedo also believed the BTC-BBL should be approved before Congress would start the debates on federalism being pushed by the Duterte administration that “seems to place a Bangsamoro Federal State on an equal footing as other proposed Federal States.”

The Cardinal said his position on the BBL stemmed from his long years of study on Muslim history in the country.

“Two hundred years before Christianity was brought by Spain to the islands we now call the Philippines Islam entered the Visayas and the islands of Mindanao and Sulu through Arab traders and teachers. Many of the indigenous peoples converted from their traditional animist religious traditions and became Muslims,” he added.

Quevedo said that the Bangsamoro people lost their sovereignty, self-determination, and the greater portion of their territory, in the process of successive political democratization and through wave after wave of Christian migrants from Luzon and the Visayas up to the late 1960s.

“We, Christians, Muslims, Indigenous peoples and peoples of other faiths in central and southern Mindanao bore the brunt of Bangsamoro rebellion. We all suffered. Everyone dreamt of a just and lasting peace,” he said. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)