Being taken for a ride again?
Moros are perplexed by President Duterte’s statements on the Bangsamoro Basic Law or BBL. He now says that Charter change preparatory to a shift to federalism should precede its passage. Moros have opposed this idea, fearing they will be “lumped in one basket with the other regional substates” in a federal form of government.
Earlier, to show his all-out support, the President was quoted as sternly warning lawmakers to pass the BBL “to save the Republic” or face war in Mindanao. Moros welcomed this pronouncement and advised lawmakers to take to heart what the President said, because he knows whereof he speaks, having cultivated a special bond with the secessionists (now autonomists) as far back as when he was mayor of Davao City.
Last December, the media quoted the President as saying that the BBL was “unlikely to hurdle constitutional barriers [and] wouldn’t be easily approved by lawmakers.” But Moros asserted that on many occasions, the Supreme Court adopted a basic principle of constitutional law regarding the flexibility of the Constitution, being a living document that can adopt to the problems and vicissitudes of the times. To all these, we say: What gives? Ano ba talaga, Kuya?
Malacañang has to make up its mind on what it really wants about the BBL. We thought there was already a marching order to pass the measure ahead of the proposed amendment of the Constitution, with the Senate starting its public hearings on the measure in the cities of Marawi and Cotabato, with Jolo as its next stop.
Under these circumstances, Moros are pessimistic about the passage of the peace measure. In addition to the President’s unclear statements, consider these observations which I raised in earlier commentaries:
There was inordinate delay in the refiling of the BBL because no brave soul in Congress would touch it lest it provoke a backlash from their constituents. Even with the then ruling Liberal Party pushing it, just like the saga of the Moro, the path is strewn with thorns.
The statement of retired chief justice Reynato Puno last year that Charter change should precede the passage of the BBL “as a safer course” is worrisome. Puno is now chair of the Constitutional Consultative Commission that will draft the new charter to be transmitted to Congress acting as constituent assembly. His stand echoes the President’s.
The promising political career of Rep. Rufus Rodriguez that was cut short is a lesson for lawmakers. Rodriguez was the rising political star of Mindanao until he courageously sponsored the BBL in the last Congress. He lost in his bid for reelection principally because of his identification with the Moro measure.
When the first draft of the BBL was filed in the Senate, most of the senators signed as authors. But toward the eve of the election, Alan Peter Cayetano and others withdrew sponsorship and, worse, campaigned against it to save their political career. Their turnaround came after the Mamasapano debacle which generated strong antagonism against the measure.
Then we have several versions of the BBL different from the one drafted by the new Transition Commission which will further muddle the document.
Finally, there are the predators in the House ready to slay the perceived BBL dragon on sight. Are Moros being taken for a ride again?
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Macabangkit B. Lanto ([email protected] yahoo.com), UP Law 1967, was a Fulbright fellow in New York University for his postgraduate studies. He has served the government as congressman, ambassador, and undersecretary, among other positions.
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