BBL: Instrument of peace and national unity

The people of Mindanao, not just the Bangsamoro, are looking forward that the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) submitted to the President will ultimately pass and become a law. The signal is very positive and encouraging now that the President has announced his certification of the proposed bill to Congress as an urgent measure. 

It must be noted that the first Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC), which drafted the original BBL, proceeded with legal and meticulous care to conform to the mandate of the 1987 Constitution.

Specifically, on the issue of the Bangsamoro government to be organized under the proposed law, the draft BBL was based on Article 10, Sections 15 and 18, which states that the autonomous Bangsamoro entity may define the basic structure of government, provided it is democratic, and consonant with its distinctive historical and cultural heritage.

To clear doubts on this, the BTC tapped the opinions of the 18 living members of the original framers of the Constitution. Luminaries such as Father Joaquin Bernas, SJ, leading authority on Constitutional law, former Chief Justice Hilarion Davide, former COMELEC Chairman Christian Monsod, SC Justice Adolfo Azcuna, among others, all stated that the draft BBL is constitutional and can stand charter challenge. Who else have the better understanding and grasp of the Constitution than they who do not only know the meaning of every letter of it but also the spirit?

Furthermore, it must be emphasized that the BBL is not an ordinary bill that should be subjected to the plain letter of the Constitution, but it is an organic act to create a Bangsamoro entity which would reach far beyond the wisdom of our framers when they drafted Article 10 of our present Constitution—the wise men who were desirous and had the vision to solve the centuries of nagging problems that caused enormous suffering and death, as well as, to support the proposed measures for lasting peace and comprehensive development throughout the whole region and ultimately the nation at large.

Never has a piece of legislation been proposed to the two Houses of Congress that has been consulted so extensively throughout Mindanao, Visayas and Luzon to ensure that our people are properly apprised of the significance and importance of the proposed bill.

More than 600 dialogues, symposia, open forums have been conducted by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) and the committees of the House of Representatives and the Senate, together with the involvement of non-government organizations. All these invariably resulted in and aimed at for general support of BBL passage, because of its meritorious implications on peace, solidarity and security to the region and to the country.

The second BBL likewise went through a series of consultations, modifications and refinements to address various recommendations to ensure it would be accepted within Constitutional parameters. Moreover, in no instance in the past that the MNLF ever actively participated in the drafting of this new proposed law than the new BBL. We are referring to the faction of the MNLF chaired by Yusoph Jikiri. The other faction chaired by Nur Misuari, while it did not opt to participate in the BBL drafting, decided not to make any proposal to be included in the proposed law and instead concentrated on helping the Duterte administration in its effort to change the system of government from unitary to federalism.

With the current rise of extremism in Mindanao in recent days, there is a most urgent need to constrain its escalation and tragic effects. The BBL can be a potent and substantive demonstration of the cooperation and collaboration between the national government and the Bangsamoro people to forge a lasting peace, to ensure the progress on political, social, cultural and economic development, and the preservation of national integrity.

The BBL can and will be an instrument of peace and national unity, and a landmark legislation to arrest the rising tide of violent extremism and radicalism not only in Mindanao but in this country, as well.