By: Taher G.  Solaiman

CARMEN, NORTH COTABATO/June 7, 2018 – We maintain our strong belief that the dividends of peace in Mindanao will always redound to the benefit not only of the Bangsamoro but even that of the Filipinos as well.  Conversely, war in Mindanao, as our experiences tell us, will adversely affect not only the Bangsamoro but the Filipinos and other inhabitants, too.

We also believe that waging peace is much cheaper than waging war.  In itself, war is costly.

During war, some mothers lose their sons – nay, even their daughters.  Many wives  lose their husbands.  Mothers and wives are left alone in the evacuation centers attending to the needs of their children and other vulnerable members of the family.  Children are forced to leave the schools. Economic activities are interrupted.  Properties are damaged. Relationships are severed.

Rather than being used for social services, meager resources of the government are being used instead for buying bullets, weapons, bombs and other war materiel.

Mind you, the victims are not only the Bangsamoro.

This being so, we call upon everyone – the Bangsamoro, the Christians and the non-Islamized indigenous people – to please unite for peace.  Together, let us do our part.  Crying foul over the approval by both the Upper and Lower Chambers of Congress of an apparently diluted Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is fine.  Yet, doing something collectively anything that will help push the passage of an acceptable BBL is the call of the hour.

Passage of a BBL that does not respond to the legitimate right to self-determination of the Bangsamoro only proves true the suspicions of certain groups that, indeed, the Philippine government is not sincere in solving the Bangsamoro problem.  And, even the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), then, will be hard up in convincing the people to accept such a law.  The possible ensuing scenario is for us to predict.

Our legislators should ever be mindful that what they are legislating is not an ordinary law.  It aims, among others, to correct historical injustices.

Retired Chief Justice Hilario Davide, Jr. told the 6th Senate Public Hearing on the BBL on February 5, 2018, thus:

“The passage of an organic law for the autonomous region is compelled by the imperative of correcting the injustices of the past, the urgency of the socio-economic-political context at present, and the uncertainty of having a similar opportunity in the future. The negotiations for a Bangsamoro peace agreement have dragged on for 20 years. The result is an autonomous law that broadens the original one and more fully complies with our government’s Constitutional promise and duty.”

Further, Davide said:

“The BBL is a product of a peace agreement, forged after decades-old peace negotiations, borne out of the country’s exhaustion with war. The negotiations were done with the participation of international facilitators and observers. The drafting of the BBL underwent an elaborate process, even necessitating the creation of a composite Bangsamoro Transition Commission. Understanding the nature of the BBL will place greater significance on the legislative process and put it in the proper perspective. The legislative process must be seen as an indispensable and final step to complete and implement the agreement. Legislators are not only policy formulators, they become peace-builders.”

Introduction of amendments to the proposed BBL by the legislators is part of the legislative process.  That we accept. The amendments, however, should only for enhancing the provisions of the bill and not for watering it down.

Our legislators should listen to the plaintive voices of our people calling upon them to please pass a BBL that is compliant with the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) that is a product of peace negotiations between the government and the MILF.

Already tired of war for so long, our people now deserve peace more than ever.

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