Ratified at last!

After a tense and emotion-filled moments that lasted almost a day, the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) was finally ratified by the House of Representatives: unanimously, no negative votes and no abstentions. It was one of its kind, fast, and without hassle.

However, the sad part is that the big happening did not take place during the leadership of the one who babied it through to the end. In a sudden twist of luck (or power play), another person instantly assumed the speakership, thereby effectively but oddly stealing the limelight from where it belonged, and worse, it also hijacked the day solely reserved to President Rodrigo Roa Duterte alone. He was supposedly talking directly to members of Congress in a joint session and to the whole nation, who are waiting anxiously for what he is going to say. This did not happen precisely as it was fashioned out.

More seriously, the President, according reports, almost walked out of the SONA if the issue was not sorted out. He told those involved to fix it immediately. This was the reason why his address was delayed for more than one hour.

In consequence, many people almost lost hope, others were already jittery, especially those in the provinces in Mindanao. They waited in baited breadth whether or not the House would ever ratify it. Playing in their mind was the ghost of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) in March 2008 which was abandoned by the government during the presidency of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. “We cannot sign it in the present form or in any other form,” said then Solicitor General Agnes Divinadera.

Be this as it may, what is good is that Congress ratified it under the new House leadership. In one way or the other, setting aside the internal bickering, nay House dynamics, Speaker Arroyo and allies should also deserve our expression of thanks and gratitude. Without any hesitation, they ratified the BOL. This is the main thing. After all, here we are not playing politics. We are not trying to right one group and wrong another or wrong one group and right another.  

For now, we feel great relief in our chest; it is indeed an immense fulfillment. No doubt, the road remains bumpy and tortuous. Challenges ahead are still great. Will someone go to the Supreme Court and challenge the constitutionality of the BOL, and similarly during the plebiscite, will the people in the affected provinces, cities, and barangays ratify or reject it?

These are some of the hard questions. We have no ready answers now. We will cross the bridge, so to speak, once we are there. Our view is to proceed and face every challenge head-on. “There is no rocky hill for an iron will,” runs another cliché.

As a guide and lesson, when we started our struggle in 1970s we did not know we will ever reach this point. Our only weapon is that we believed in the correctness of our cause and in pursuit thereof, we believed in the power of struggle or jihad. “God helps those who help themselves,” says the Holy Qur’an. Similarly, when we agreed to engage government in negotiation, dubbed by critics as “very local negotiations” we did not know whether we reached or achieved what we have now. Faith and perseverance change the world.