The BBL mirage
From the way national attention is riveted on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), one would think it is the be-all and end-all of the Moro cause. In fact, proponents are marketing it as the sum total of the decades-old aspirations of Moros, a panacea to what ails them.
Its passage is a done deal. The bicameral conference committee, touted as the “third house,” will meet to reconcile differences in the conflicting versions of the Senate and the House of Representatives. It is in the last stage of the gauntlet, but make no mistake about it, it will be passed in time for presentation as a trophy by the President in his June 30 State of the Nation Address. The mojo of the President has apparently worked wonders again.
But wait, why are the target beneficiaries, the Moros, not in a celebratory mood? Why are the “kulintang” ensembles not being played in Morolandia?
The precise shape of the proposed law is still uncertain. It all depends on the kind of product that will come out of the bicameral mill, and Moros wait with bated breath. They have a well-grounded fear that the draft they painstakingly worked on to reflect the terms of their peace pact with the government will be watered down, if not emasculated, to become a mere ghost of their original proposal.
Their greatest fear is that it might not hurdle the constitutional test, as House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez had warned. Sen. Franklin Drilon also explained that while he supports the bill, his interpellations will help cleanse it of its constitutional infirmities and prevent giving false hope to the Moros. He recalled the bloody siege of the town of Kapatagan, Lanao del Norte, by Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) mujahideens in 2008, after the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain was struck down as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.
But Drilon forgets the recent batting record of Malacañang at the Supreme Court when it comes to executive policies brought before the tribunal—martial law, the Marcos burial, etc.
Pessimism over the effectiveness of the BBL on the Moro problem is growing.
Firstly, notice the deafening silence of Nur Misuari of the mainstream Moro National Liberation Front. The present Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) is a product of his peace pact with the government; he has his own formula on how to solve the Moro problem, and that is not through the BBL as framed by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC).
Because of the expected dominance of one tribe in the governance envisioned by the BBL, other tribes are mutely protesting. They cite the transition provision of the bill identifying the members of the BTC, mostly MILF, as the interim governing body that will “unlevel” the playing field once elections ensue.
Secondly, the autonomous power to legislate on areas enumerated in the law is curtailed by Section 20, Article X of the Constitution, which provides, inter alia, that such regional legislative power is subject to the Constitution and national laws. This was invoked by the Supreme Court in the case of Sema vs Comelec in declaring as unconstitutional a regional law creating a legislative district in ARMM. This provision is a magnet for any enterprising media-grabbing maniac to question every act that may be passed by a Bangsamoro parliament.
Thirdly, all things considered, the extent of autonomous power that the new political entity can wield still depends on who sits in Malacañang. This is the sad reality and dynamics of politics.
Bias and emotions are cousins of politics. If the president is one who empathizes with the historical injustices suffered by the Moros, the Bangsamoro government might have a chance of succeeding. But if he is a bigot masquerading as a statesman, the BBL’s promise of autonomy will only be a mirage.
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Macabangkit B. Lanto (email@example.com), UP Law 1967, was a Fulbright fellow at New York University for his postgraduate studies. He has served the government in various capacities — as congressman, ambassador, undersecretary of justice and of tourism, etc.
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