Bangsamoro Basic Law is not yet dead
"It isn’t enough to talk about peace. One must believe in it. And it isn’t enough to believe in it. One must work at it." – Eleanor Roosevelt
We may have lost one track of the Bangsamoro peace process that is the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), but combating violent extremism and holding on to peace remains to be the better option to attaining right to self-determination.
The privilege speech of Representative Pangalian Balindong lamenting the death of BBL in Congress did not come as a surprise, but it was heartbreaking. I felt like it was another betrayal of the hopes and aspirations of the Moro people in Mindanao. It was an outburst of emotion. I felt bad.
The next day, I discussed the matter in my classes at Mindanao State University - Iligan Institute of Technology (MSU-IIT). It was an engaging discussion with the students, distilling the possible worst consequences of the apparent setback in the Mindanao peace process.
An inquiry on the possibility of war solicited more questions than answers. It is a complex issue hardly answered by an oversimplified peace-war dichotomy analysis.
To begin with, the enactment of the BBL is among the major tracks of the Mindanao peace process. It is not sufficient but it is a necessary track. It is a means towards an end— national reconciliation, justice, and genuine political autonomy.
The 17 years of negotiations between the government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) was anchored on 3 pillars: socio-economic, political, and community peacebuilding. The BBL was just among the political tracks.
Notably, what was supposedly subject to voting in the House of Representatives was HB 5811 (Basic Law on the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region), the amended version of the BTC draft HB 4994 (Bangsamoro Basic Law).
The amended version was quite contentious. The MILF has been vocal about its members' opposition to what they called the “diluted version” of the BBL.
I may sound paradoxical here, but perhaps the wisdom behind the current impasse of the BBL version in Congress was that it was not the one we asked for.
Aquino administration's duplicity
Significantly, there is no denying that the duplicity of this current administration caused great damage to the peace process between the government and the MILF. I hate to admit that the Philippine government never learned its lesson, as if the 67 lives lost in the bloody Mamasapano incident were not enough to pay for the cost of incompetence and greed.
This is the reality. The upcoming national and local elections are a great opportunity for the thinking public to elect leaders who are also peace builders and nation builders.
Moreover, the Muslim Filipino electorate could make a great deal in choosing their leaders who walk the talk – the ones who will care both for the majority of the Muslim population in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and the cultural minorities of the region. After all, peacebuilding is a collective endeavor.
Reflecting on my ongoing research on the Bangsamoro struggle, I also feel like the Moro people have had enough. The Bangsamoro people were once proud warriors, traders, adventurers, and believers. We have been tested through time. We never give up.
Peace is a partnership. Thus, we need to continue the diplomatic track if we are to make amends to the bitter mistakes of the government of the Philippines- Moro National Liberation Front (GPH-MNLF) peace talks.
We have to continuously engage our fellow Filipinos in Luzon and the Visayas about the real struggle and the common aspiration of the Moro people in Mindanao, Palawan, and the Sulu archipelago. We are Moros of yesterday who refused to be subjugated under foreign rule. Today, we are still tied up to that identity with the continuing quest for autonomous governance. (READ: Bangsamoro basic law: Forgotten battle?)
Blood and sacrifices
Our identity started from a social construction but it was nurtured by the blood and sacrifices of the martyrs in the name of self-determination. It was once an imagined community just like the “Filipino” nation, but today, it is a real struggle of the Moro people. Nation building in the Philippines is a work in progress. (ANIMATION: War came to Mindanao)
I may no longer be optimistic about the political will of this current administration but we ought to support good governance through socio-civic participation and volunteerism. Peace education, for example, must start at home. Teaching our children the value of nonviolent communication and cultural tolerance is a fundamental step towards making peace a way of life. As an advocate, I draw lessons from the life of Prophet Muhammad on how he was able to practice Islam as a way of life, thus a religion of peace.
Here’s the rub. I have always been vocal about my support for the BBL because of the institutional reforms it will bring to the impoverished region in Muslim Mindanao. With the BBL in the abyss, community peacebuilding and socioeconomic rehabilitation component of the Bangsamoro peace deal must continue, with the hope that the revolutionary leadership of the MILF will transition into a social movement, and open up its community to the larger Philippine society.
Finally, while the BBL was derailed, may the support of the international community and civil society breathe life into the peace process. Public acceptance and recognition of the Bangsamoro aspiration may lead to the enactment of a better version of the BBL that is acceptable and a genuine response to the Bangsamoro question. In so doing, the principle of subsidiarity could boost the socioeconomic resources of the Mindanao region so it can rise up and be competitive amid the ASEAN’s rising challenges and opportunities. – Rappler.com
Yasmira P. Moner is an instructor at the Political Science Department of MSU-Iligan Institute of Technology. She is a member of the Young Moro Professional Network (YMPN) and is currently finishing her Masteral thesis on the Political Dynamics of the Bangsamoro Liberation Movement at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City.