Public consultations on BBL already sufficient

In democracy, sovereignty resides in the people, and thus any major decision that affects their lives especially in legislation requires a consultation with them. One such piece of legislation is the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) which will serve, if enacted into law, as the basic law for the Bangsamoro political entity that it seeks to establish.

But consultations for this proposed law have already been virtually over.  All what should be done is to revisit or use the inputs of these consultations or hearings, in the case of Congress, to fast-track the legislative roadmap or process. Or better still, to refine them to ensure the smooth flow of the process and ensure the early passage of the BBL in Congress.

Consultations have been sufficiently done by pushers or stakeholders of peace in Mindanao notably the government and MILF peace panels, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC), non-government organizations (NGOs) or civil society organizations (CSOs), and religious, educational, and business institutions. For instance, the Mindanao Civil Society Organizations for the Peace Process (MCSOPP), in a tie-up with the BTC, had conducted 625 consultations throughout the country especially in Mindanao from 2014 to 2015. There were other CSOs like the Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID) and its allied networks such as the Mindanao Peaceweavers (MPW) which have also conducted similar consultations. This is not to include those undertaken by the BTC or members thereof, which brought them to many parts of Mindanao especially Tawi-Tawi, Sulu, Basilan, Lanao, Maguindanao, and Marawi City, Isabela City, and Cotabato City. Many of the provisions of the BBL were culled from inputs from these consultations. The Senate and Lower House of Congress have also conducted numerous hearings. The BBL had been with them for more than a year when it was formally submitted to them during a ceremony in Malacañang Palace on September 10, 2014.

Any consultation asking the same people or repeating the same issues will only slow down, if not stifle, the legislative process. More seriously, if those to be asked are those who harbour strong anti-Moro prejudices, biases, hatred, the outcome is already predicted.

We are not saying, however, that President-elect Rodrigo Duterte has ever thought of this thing, or by any member of his inner circle especially OPAPP Secretary-nominee, Jesus Dureza. None of it is in our mind. Duterte had solemnly pledged during the presidential campaign in May this year that he would solve the “legitimate grievances” of the Bangsamoro people; and “nothing,” he said further, “can satisfy them except by passing the BBL.”

We hold on to this promise, as sacred, and we believe in him! All his close friends for years whom we talked to attested to his loyalty to friendship and once he commits he fulfils.

If ever we want this said, it is because of our earnest desire to remind all and sundry that if we are to proceed to solve the Bangsamoro Question or Problem, the single-point agenda of the GPH-MILF peace process, agreed by the Parties when they agreed to talk peace in 1997, then they have to start from where they stopped. In this case, they should commence or proceed immediately to implementation mode, because the CAB which contains the political solution to the Bangsamoro Question or Problem had already been signed as early as March 2014. The implementation mode has two tracks, but linked with each other: the refiling or passage of the BBL and the normalization process, which encompasses many tracks. For one, decommissioning of MILF weapons and combatants will not move if the BBL does not move in the legislature. This is the agreement of the Parties.

Finally, to re-stress, consultations on ways to craft the best BBL compliant to the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) will still happen, but the purpose is to hasten and enrich the process and not to forestall it.