Mindanao lawmakers: ‘A vote for Bangsamoro is a vote for Filipinos’

Mara Cepeda
Mindanao lawmakers: ‘A vote for Bangsamoro is a vote for Filipinos’
(UPDATED) The sponsors of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law at the House urge their colleagues to remember the historical injustices suffered by the Bangsamoro people – injustices the BBL would help resolve

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Legislators are now debating over the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) at the plenary, as the bill enters the period of interpellations before its 2nd reading approval. 

On Tuesday, May 29, 5 Mindanaoan lawmakers delivered their sponsorship speeches for House Bill (HB) No. 6475, which seeks to abolish the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and create in its place a new Bangsamoro region. (READ: Lawmakers contest opt-in clause, fiscal autonomy, autonomous uniformed services in BBL)

The proposed BBL’s sponsors at the House are the following:

  • Maguindanao 1st District Representative Bai Sandra Sema, deputy speaker
  • Tawi-Tawi Representative Ruby Sahali, special committee on peace, reconciliation, and unity chairperson
  • Lanao del Sur 2nd District Representative Mauyag Papandayan Jr, Muslim affairs committee chairperson
  • Anak Mindanao Representative Amihilda Sangcopan
  • South Cotabato 1st District Representative Pedro Acharon Jr, local government committee chairperson

After being sponsored at the plenary floor, HB 6475 will go through a period of amendments or when lawmakers will interpellate the bill sponsors. Lawmakers will then vote on the measure on 2nd reading.

President Rodrigo Duterte already certified the bill as urgent, which means the House and the Senate can approve the proposed BBL on 3rd and final reading on the same day they approve it on 2nd reading.

Both chambers are targeting to approve their versions of the bill on 3rd and final reading by Wednesday, May 30. 

Read below selected paragraphs from the House sponsorship speeches on the BBL:

FIRST SPONSOR. Maguindanao 1st District Representative Bai Sandra Sema delivers her sponsorship speech. Screenshot from the House of Representatives

Maguindanao 1st District Representative Bai Sandra Sema

“This proposed measure is a blessing for all of us for this came at [a] time when we have a president who comes from Mindanao who knows the situation on the ground. We choose life rather than death, blessings rather than curses. This is our opportunity to make things right as our leaders in the past provided a military solution to a non-military problem. Now, we solve this political problem with a political solution. And all of us here will go down in history as being part of those who have helped solved the peace and order problem in the Bangsamoro homeland.”

SECOND SPONSOR. Tawi-Tawi Representative Ruby Sahali delivers her sponsorship speech. Screenshot from the House of Representatives

Tawi-Tawi Representative Ruby Sahali

“I am confident that when history will come to judge us for what we are doing now, we will be long remembered for taking a valiant stand to fight for the legacy of our forebears, and the future of our children. 

“Now, we are at the crossroads of our legislative journey, as the proposed bill is now in the hands of Congress. Before you make your final stance, let me appeal to you to remember the historical injustices that the Bangsamoro people have endured throughout the century. Injustices which have subjugated our religion and culture. Injustices which have stunted our economic and social growth. Injustices which have cost countless innocent lives… and injustices which have obviously fueled the rise of a new breed of radicalism.

“My dear colleagues, a vote for the Bangsamoro bill is not only a vote for the Bangsamoro people. It is a vote for the entire nation, a vote for the Filipino people, regardless of religion, culture, and political persuasion. In passing this bill, it will be an affirmative action to correct centuries of neglect and injustice on our people in Mindanao.”

THIRD SPONSOR. Lanao del Sur 2nd District Representative Mauyag Papandayan Jr delivers his sponsorship speech. Screenshot from the House of Representatives

Lanao del Sur 2nd District Representative Mauyag Papandayan Jr

“It is certain that we shall not have peace through war. It is certain that there is a historical injustice to the Muslim people that we in government are bound to correct. It is certain that the time to do this is now, or the consequences of inaction will weigh heavily on us, who are duty-bound to steer the course of our country to the road of peace and prosperity.

“We have continued what the 16th Congress began but was not able to finish. With government and people’s support, it is now time to come together and make this piece of proposed legislation a reality.”

FOURTH SPONSOR. Anak Mindanao Representative Amihilda Sangcopan delivers her sponsorship speech. Screenshot from House of Representatives

Anak Mindanao Representative Amihilda Sangcopan 

“We pray for the opportunity to address the historical injustices against the Bangsamoro people, to change the narrative of oppression that is one of the most visible threads that run throughout our history. We seek to weave in narratives of social justice, respect, and recognition from hereon.

“It is time that the rest of the Philippines learn what we have been taught as the history and narrative of the Bangsamoro, and to acknowledge it as part of their own. This is our contribution to this diverse and colorful country we are all part of. It would be so good to know that we, too, have a place alongside all of you. 

“May our Ramadan prayers for peace be answered with the good news of the passage of the BBL into law, in sha Allah.”

FIFTH SPONSOR. South Cotabato 1st District Representative Pedro Acharon Jr delivers his sponsorship speech. Screenshot from the House of Representatives

South Cotabato 1st District Representative Pedro Acharon Jr

“Philippine law and jurisprudence, including agreements by the government of the Philippines with the MNL and MILF, recognize the indigenous Muslim communities of Mindanao, Basilan, and Tawi-Tawi as the Bangsamoro people.

“Their culture, religion, history, and civilization appears distinctly unique from the rest of the country colonized and homogenized by Spain, and later by America; however, this uniqueness does not make them separate from us Filipinos.

“This distinction does not make them separate from or protagonists of the rest of all other Filipinos or the Philippine state, but as ‘equal historic communities’ that must co-exist and work together to strengthen a common sovereign state.”

– Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.