There has been pronouncement lately about the need for inclusivity in the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), as if to say that what was crafted by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) and introduced to Congress as House Bill No. 4994 in the Lower House and Senate Bill No. 2408 in the Upper House was lacking in such quality. This calls for clarification, lest the impression or perception would be accepted as fact. And the quick way to do that is to look at the proposed law.

But before that, what is inclusivity? The Collins English Dictionary defines it as the fact or policy of not excluding members or participants on the grounds of gender, race, class, sexuality, disability, etc.”

Even this definition, when viewed through the lenses of religious, cultural, and social differences of peoples and societies, will pose probably more problems than what it can address.  But we are not in this discourse here.

In general term, the first inclusivity in the BBL is that it is for the Bangsamoro people, with the indigenous people given the freedom of choice and the migrants a special treatment, because they happen to be the minority in the proposed Bangsamoro territory. The second inclusivity is that all its provisions, especially the Basic Rights and all other rights already enjoyed by them granted by the Philippine Constitution, are intended for their general welfare. The third is that when the BBL is passed in Congress and ratified by the people, all the three major groups named above --- as well as the MNLF --- will be represented in the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA). The MILF is not averse to the MNLF brothers being part of the transition body. In fact, we have made this known even to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

In precise term, any unimplemented provision or provisions of the 1996 GRP-MNLF Final Agreement (FPA) that can “improve or enhance” the proposed basic law is very much desired and welcomed. Towards this end, the MNLF under Muslimin Sema and the MILF under Chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim have created a Joint Technical Working Group (JTWG) with the task of “finding common ground between the 1976 Tripoli Agreement/1996 FPA on the one hand, and the 2014 CAB on the other, as a means of harmonizing the two peace tracks”, as stipulated in Resolution No. 2/42-MM on Question of Muslims in Southern Philippines during the 42nd Session of the Council of Foreign Ministers held in Kuwait, State of Kuwait on May 27-28, 2015.

The two leaders also called on the MNLF under Nur Misuari to join their efforts towards a common path of pursuing the Moro right to self-determination for freedom, peace, justice, and development. On the part of the MILF, it even sent a delegation to Sulu to talk to Misuari about this call for brotherly overture and cooperation.

But if this effort proves to be a hoping game for the MILF especially, but to the government it is more enigmatic. In August 2014, Misuari had declared independence and called for the renewal of armed struggle, and therefore, he had literally and unilaterally abrogated the 1996 FPA.  However, with President Rodrigo Duterte now in the helm of power, we think it is not as difficult as before. Duterte and Misuari are personal friends; in fact, the former had already indicated early on that he would visit the latter in Sulu soon.

Back on the issue of inclusivity, we are not saying here that the BBL is a perfect proposed law and there is no more room to “improve or enhance” it. This was clearly stated in Chairman’s Murad letters to Senate President Franklin Drilon and House Speaker Sonny Belmonte in 2015 that while the MILF is pushing for the passage of the original BBL in Congress but it is open to enhancing or improving the proposed law. After all, Congress has plenary power over legislation.

However, pushing for more inclusivity in the proposed law has to be exercised with caution. First, we have to bear in mind that the proposed law shall be compliant to the letter and spirit of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB); second, over-stressing the details will lead to incoherence or bulging of stomach, so to speak; and third, it has to be remembered that a hitch-hiker should not carry more load than those who are more deserving.