The Opportunity We Must Seize

This is it. We are at the threshold of history. Are we going forward to peace or shall we again miss the bus of peace and prosperity?

The fate of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is now in the hands of Congress. The BBL will pass if Congress decides to pass it. If they don’t, then it is finished, at least for the present Congress and the Aquino Administration. But for us in the MILF, it is never finished. We will persevere until our just agreements are implemented because that is what honourable and principled people do -- they keep their word.

In the Senate, Senator Juan Ponce Enrile is one of the last senators who have yet to interpellate and ask questions about the BBL. Senator Enrile’s voice is a significant voice because of his experience and stature as a senior senator. We await Senator Enrile’s suggestions and recommendations on how to improve the BBL. Given the shortness of time left to pass the BBL, we ask only that the Senate act swiftly on the proposed BBL.

Let us not delay.  The decision to pass or not to pass the BBL has to be a positive act. The Senate should not allow time to lapse without acting on the BBL. The Senate owes that favour to Filipino people and the Bangsamoro -- that they will make a decision on the BBL before the end of the current session of Congress on February 5.

For the members of the House of Representatives, we ask that they reconsider, for the just and full implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), the return of the provisions that were deleted from the original draft of the BBL as submitted by the Office of the President and the Bangsamoro Transition Commission. Those provisions have a purpose and they are needed to bring about peace and development in the Bangsamoro. In any case, many of those deleted provisions were already granted the Bangsamoro in the present ARMM Law. Why deprive the Bangsamoro of those powers and prerogatives which have already been granted to them by law? The BBL should enhance autonomy, not diminish it. As for issues that may have “constitutional” questions, it is better, in our opinion, to leave those to the wisdom of the Supreme Court which is, ultimately, the final arbiter of all legal issues.

We have a great opportunity to end this sad part of our nation’s history and begin a new age of trust and cooperation. Let not fear divide us. We must seize it and bring peace, not just to the Bangsamoro, but to the whole Philippines as well. Let us not be faint-hearted. Let us not fail to seize this singular opportunity. There might be no more of something like this in the future as the situation may even get worse as we will all be suck into the quagmire of the global conflict and extremist violence.  This opportunity we must seize. 

Let us not miss the bus of peace and prosperity.  For our people. For our children.