Friday, December 15, 2017
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As I See It

Don’t hurry passage of BBL

The passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law should not be hurried just because President Aquino is pushing it so he can boast about it in his last State of the Nation Address in July. Only he and the peace negotiators do not see the many infirmities, constitutional and otherwise, of the draft bill. They have closed their eyes and mind to its many defects in their desire to have a new and autonomous Bangsamoro state before P-Noy’s term ends.

Why? He wants that to be his legacy?

Alas, P-Noy would be excoriated years from now when the BBL takes its toll not only on the Bangamoro homeland but also on the other populations of Mindanao.

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The President wants to talk to the senators, obviously to twist their arm into passing the BBL quickly. He wants to put up another “railroad” in the Senate, the same way he did in the House of Representatives. Funds that should go to the rehabilitation of the Philippine National Railways (PNR) are probably being spent for the new “railroads” in Congress.

There are rumors that a new pork barrel fund has been set up in the House to persuade its members to pass the BBL. And the way the Rufus Rodriguez “railroad” passed its version of the BBL makes many Filipinos believe that it is true. Why not appoint him to the PNR?

Haste now will only result in wasted time. If the BBL in its present form is passed now, somebody will surely question its constitutionality at the Supreme Court. And with its many infirmities, the high court will have no choice but to strike it down as unconstitutional, the same way it did the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain. We would be back to where we started.

There are suggestions to amend the Constitution just to accommodate the BBL. What, amend the Constitution just to accommodate an unconstitutional bill? What did the Moro Islamic Liberation Front do to our peace negotiators? Did the MILF negotiators and their Malaysian sponsors hypnotize them?

Malaysian fingerprints are all over the place. Sabah, the big island owned by the Philippines and which Malaysia annexed to its federation more quickly than China is trying to annex Philippine islets in the West Philippine Sea, is not mentioned at all in the BBL. In fact, the Sultanate of Sulu, which owns Sabah, is not represented, nor was it ever consulted, in the peace talks.

The Sultanate of Sulu and other sultanates in Mindanao, as well as the tribes in Mindanao that would be swallowed up by the new Bangsamoro, the lumad, and the Christians, have not been consulted, much less represented in the peace talks. What is that? It is not only the members of the MILF who reside in Mindanao. Worse, the new Bangsamoro would swallow up territories populated by other tribes and Christians without their consent.

The BBL even has a provision that would allow a creeping encroachment by the Bangsamoro on certain territories. That provision allows a mere 10 percent of the voters (not the population) of a territory to petition for inclusion into the Bangsamoro. Never mind if the other 90 percent is against it.

No, the BBL passed by the Rodriguez “railroad” will not bring lasting peace in Mindanao. It would make the Maguindanao, the tribe that makes up the MILF, lord it over the other tribes in Bangsamoro. It is these oppressed tribes that would next take up arms to protect themselves.

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Unlike the PNR, which lacks funds to sustain itself, the Rodriguez railroad may have enough funds to make it so efficient that amendments proposed and accepted by the committee to replace objectionable provisions, disappeared and the objectionable ones restored in the versions of the committee chair and vice chair. How did that happen?

Lucky for us, we have a Senate that would not let such things pass.

For one, Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano pointed out that Malaysia, which is contesting our claim to Sabah, is an MILF sponsor.

“Is there any guarantee,” he asked, “that the sultanate’s claim to Sabah will be pursued if the MILF becomes the leader of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission?” Alas, there is no such guarantee in the BBL.

During a four-hour hearing in the Senate the other day, Abraham Idjirani, secretary general of the Sultanate of Sulu, said that in 2010, the sultanate wrote a letter to Malacañang requesting that it be included in the peace talks with the MILF. He said the sultanate was told in 2013 that its letter had been lost in the Palace files.

Representatives of other sultanates and indigenous tribes likewise complained that they have been excluded in the negotiations. How can you bring peace in Mindanao with omissions like that?

For one, there should be a provision in the BBL that representatives of all tribes and the Christians in Mindanao should be included in the Bangsamoro parliament to give them a voice in the government.

President Aquino, the peace panels and Malaysia should open their eyes to the realities on the ground. Don’t hurry too much. Haste makes waste.

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TAGS: Bangsamoro, BBL, China, Malaysia, MOA-AD, P-Noy, Rufus Rodriguez, Sabah, Sona, Sultanate of Sulu, territorial disputes, West Philippine Sea
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