Congress makes reconciliation very hard

The Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) has fallen on the wayside. Congress has snuffed its life, citing various, if not shallow, reasons. Lack of time is merely an alibi; other laws including the National Appropriation Bill passed without much hassle. Even if there was no quorum especially in the Lower House, deliberations proceeded. The Mamasapano outcry is expected. We sympathized with the families of all those who have died as a result of the tragic incident.

But did the rest of us do and act rightly and justly?  Most of us showed that we are only ruled by our hatred, biases, and prejudices. In the past, thousands upon thousands of Moros were massacred but this country had never mourned, perchance, only crocodile tears were shed. Only civilians can be massacred, not the like of the Special Action Force (SAF) commandos.  They were in combat, in fact they were entering an “enemy” territory, using the term of former head police director Getulio Napeñas Jr., and therefore, they are ready to kill and be killed.

The is the reason why former military men like Senator Antonio Trillianes and Sen. Gregorio “Gringo” Honasan did not show much enmity or remorse in their faces, because they know that in war death can come any moment.

We abhor to hear the use of the word “massacre”. It was highly misappropriated --- and should not be used at all. Only those who are ignorant of the law of war use it. This is an insult to the integrity of the SAF commandos. They died in the tour of duty. It was only unfortunate that during that precise moment, they were in the wrong time and in the wrong place. Nobody wanted the incident to happen, especially the MILF, but it happened. This is the reason the MILF, without distinction, expressed deep sympathy and condolence to all those who have fallen in Mamasapano on that fateful day of January 2015. 

There are countless exceptions, but generally Filipinos are not ready for reconciliation. Congress had just shown it. They are making it very hard. They are still in the state of denial. Their thinking and what they say are still reminiscent of the bloody days of Spain in this country. They still see the Moro as sub-human, not deserving of equal treatment.

Clearly, justice is only applied fairly for the majority, but not for Moros. Take for instance, the facts of the Mamasapano incident. The SAF commandos, nay their leaders or commanders, especially Napeñas, deliberately violated the provisions of the GPH-MILF ceasefire agreement and the Ad Hoc Action Group (AHJAG) requiring prior coordination in case of movement of troops or police actions. They also tagged a partner in peace, the MILF, as “enemy”, and the 6th Infantry Division of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), a sister military organization, as “unreliable”. After all these have been said and done and the operation to get Marwan, with a bounty of $5 million in his head, blundered or bungled, still the MILF is the villain and Napeñas the hero. What kind of justice is this?

The BBL is not the first agreement set aside by government. It seems it is already systemic. The Tripoli Agreement of 1976 was deliberately violated by President Ferdinand Marcos. The agreement clearly provided, among others, for only one autonomous entity to be organized, instead he set up Region 12 for Central Mindanao and Region 9 for Western Mindanao. When the GRP-MNLF Final Agreement of 1996 was signed, the laws that were enacted by Congress ignored many of the important provisions of the agreement. When the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA-AD) was initialled by the Parties on July 27, 2008, the government did not only refuse to sign it but it was subsequently declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. Now, here comes the BBL falling into the same path. Is this coincidental or part of the pattern, say a conspiracy? We will never know the true answer but just the same, the BBL was not enacted into law.

If the GPH-MILF peace process has reached this point, it was mainly the result of the trust and confidence built over almost six years between the Parties. If the BBL did not pass Congress, we don’t see any role of President Benigno Aquino III in it. It is not to his interest that the legacy of peace through the BBL will not be realized. In fact, he pushed for it vigorously through to the end. Our only question is that the man who was supposed to be the defender of the BBL in the Lower House was the one causing so much confusion, short of an open defiance. Why did the leadership in the House allow the enemies of the BBL to filibuster its passage?

Our only consolation is that all the Moro lawmakers especially Deputy Speaker Pangalian Balindong, Congressman Tupay Loong, and Congresswoman Bai Sandra Sema stood their grounds and proved to be champions of the BBL in the Lower House. They were outnumbered, but they never lost the discourse. Indeed, they are our heroes. We also pay tributes to the contributions of the other congressmen/women, who are Christians, in pushing for the passage of the BBL. Thank you to all of you!