Historic day!

It was a historic day for the Bangsamoro people when both versions of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), House Bill 6475 and Senate Bill 1717, were passed in the Lower House and Upper House on May 30, the last day of session of Congress. The most difficult part of the legislative process is already behind us.

In general, the credit for this feat goes to the leaderships of both chambers. But in particular, we have champions in both chambers. In the House, we have Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, Majority Floor Leader Rodolfo Farinas, Deputy Speaker Bai Sandra Sema, Congresswoman Ruby Sahali, and Congressman Pedro Acharon, Jr. We also have in the supporting role the likes of Congresswoman Anihilda Sangcupan,

Congressman Wilter “Sharky” Palma II, and Congressman Mauyag Papandayan. Of them all, however, the most passionate movers were Bai Sandra Sema and Ruby Sahali. In the Senate, all the Senators, irrespective of party affiliations, expressed support for the passage of the bill. But since the degree of support and commitment cannot be equal, then in our list we have former Senate President Koko Pimentel, current Senate President Tito Sotto, Majority Floor Leader Miguel Zubiri, Senators Sonny Angara, Win Gatchalian, and Risa Hontiveros. But the most passionate were Senator Miguel Zubiri, the main sponsor of SN 1717, and Senator Risa Hontiveros.

But on top of it all, and without saying, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte caused this feat to happen. Aside from all his consistent positive statements in support of the BBL, his certification of it as urgent administration bill spelled the difference that led to its passage especially in the Senate. Without the certification, we don’t think the bill will make it in the Senate. Take for instance, the amendments proposed by Minority Floor Leader Frank Drilon and Senator Ralph Recto. They were enough to filibuster the entire proceeding even without the former ever thinking of it. To our estimate, around 85% of amendments were introduced by Drilon and Recto, with the former having the most number.

To our view, the Senate and House versions are not bad. We repeat, they are not bad. However, much are to be desired when the final version comes after the bicameral conference on July 9-13. We hope the best in the Senate and House versions will appear in the consolidated and final version of the bill, which President Duterte will sign during the state-of-the-nation address on July 23.

In the meantime, the social media is full of negative comments. Many of the comments are below the belt. They accused MILF leaders of selling the Moro aspirations in exchange for watered BBL.

Despite all these bashing, the MILF is not hitting back. We persevere and we continue to be patient. We will get nothing in engaging them in a tit-for-tat. In fact, they will find happiness if we respond to them frontally.

What is unusual, however, is that some of these bashers or critics are former comrades in the struggle who chose the radical viewpoints although they always stayed in the comfort of air-conditioned rooms. They distanced themselves from us because they wanted a perfect agreement, which only dwells in their minds, because such agreement will never happen.  

The surprising of all is that many of these bashers have never involved themselves in the struggle, or tasted the horrors of war. Either they worked with government or are with non-government organizations. In times of crisis and dangers, they either run to Manila or abroad. On the contrary, leaders of the MILF have been with the struggle since 1972 through thick and thin – and they are still around. They will either swim or drown with their people.