Ateneo presidents urge lawmakers to 'immediately' pass BBL

MANILA, Philippines – Ateneo presidents across the country called for the "immediate" passage of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

In a statement on Friday, March 16, Ateneo presidents said the current version of the BBL drafted by the Bangsamoro Transition Committee (BTC) is the "closest to genuine aspirations" of Filipino Muslims and other sectors for lasting peace.

"The law’s passage would provide a real and meaningful foundation for countering violent extremism and addressing the many other conflicts in Mindanao. We implore our legislators not to delay such passage any further," the statement said.

The statement was signed by Fr Karel San Juan SJ of Ateneo de Zamboanga University; Fr Joel Tabora SJ, Ateneo de Davao University; Fr Jose Ramon Villarin SJ, Ateneo de Manila University; Fr Roberto Rivera SJ, Ateneo de Naga University; and Fr Roberto Yap SJ, Xavier University - Ateneo de Cagayan.

The Ateneo leaders also called for the approval of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro.

"No doubt, the journey to peace and justice remains long and difficult. But there is light that beckons at the end of the long, dark tunnel for beloved Mindanao," they said.

They reiterated their earlier stance on the BBL in 2015, saying that the establishment of a Muslim region in Mindanao is "mandated by the Constitution as a social justice imperative."

"Let this social justice no longer be postponed," it said.

On Tuesday, March 13, Senate and House leaders told President Rodrigo Duterte that they aim to pass the BBL by the end of May this year. Duterte earlier promised to certify BBL as "urgent" but has not yet done so. (READ: Duterte to MILF: BBL still a priority)

In December 2017, however, Duterte said he was not confident that the BBL is allowed by the 1987 Constitution. The Consultative Committee asked BTC members to submit a draft BBL based on a possible federal system of government in the country.

The efforts of the Aquino administration to pass the BBL – the culmination of the government-MILF peace deal – were dashed by public outrage over the  Mamasapano clash in Maguiindanao in January 2015. –

Aika Rey

Aika Rey covers the Philippine Senate for Rappler. Before writing about politicians, she covered budget, labor, and transportation issues.