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The BBL: what needs to be done

/ 12:07 AM September 12, 2014

“We should have a weeklong holiday!” rejoiced Beth Yang, the national coordinator of the women’s group Pilipina, announcing the submission to Congress of the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

Certainly cause for optimism are the supportive comments of members of the minority bloc in Congress, with Senators Bongbong Marcos, Nancy Binay and Vicente Sotto expressing their commitment to work for the passage of the draft law.

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“This is an opportunity for us to find a true and lasting peace and nobody will want to squander such an opportunity,” Marcos said in a media interview.

Binay acknowledged that the submission of the draft measure is a “significant step towards our pursuit of lasting peace in Mindanao.” Sotto, for his part, described the proposed law as “very promising.”

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An even more “promising” development is the support expressed by civil society groups in Mindanao who said they are ready to engage in “educational debates” to help along the passage of the BBL in Congress.

“Thank God it is already out,” said Claretian priest Fr. Angel Calvo, president of Peace Advocates Zamboanga and a long-time worker in the peace movement in Mindanao. Perhaps Father Calvo was simply expressing the collective sentiment of people who were initially dismayed when the draft BBL met with delay following disputes over key passages.

“We must be grateful and at the same time vigilant against spoilers,” warned Samira Gutoc of the People Development Initiative for the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro. “May we ask the Muslim, Christian and indigenous people to engage in spirited discussion and debates.”

Datu Alexander Mama-O, president of the Filipino Alliance for Integrity and Reform (Fair Movement-Philippines), declared that “amid our diversity, the Filipino people should be in one alliance for the success of the Bangsamoro accord which will benefit all through the basic law. We look forward to reading the BBL and participate in its success.”

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ONCE passed into law, the BBL will formally create the Bangsamoro that will replace the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, to be run by a ministerial form of government with additional powers and financial autonomy compared to the existing authority of the ARMM.

Addressing previous concerns aired regarding the draft measure, Secretary Yasmin Busran-Lao of the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos said: “We have to view and appreciate with objectivity the efforts of the two panels (MILF and the government) and the delay attendant to the submission and/or transmission to Congress of the BBL as part of the dynamics of democracy, and [the] same should not be a bar to our quest for lasting peace in Muslim Mindanao and the other

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conflict-affected areas of the country.”

She also expressed concern that “in applying and/or using specific provisions of the Constitution as they relate to the contents of the draft BBL, a degree of liberality has to be observed, keeping in mind that too restrictive application and/or interpretation of the fundamental law would frustrate our quest and aspirations for peace.”

Busran-Lao took part in the drafting of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, on which the BBL is based. She was part of the government panel.

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INDEED, every Filipino, in Mindanao and elsewhere, in the country or even abroad, should do everything to facilitate the passage of the BBL.

We cannot leave the debates and discussions to legislators alone. We must watch and make sure that our concerns are addressed on the floors of both the House and Senate, and ensure that our views are heard and made known to our legislators.

This early, citizens’ groups in Mindanao have vowed to spread the word and to inform as many people as possible about the possible changes and reforms to be brought about by the application of the BBL.

And if any of us still have lingering concerns about the implications of this new regime of law in the Bangsamoro, we should strive to make these heard now so that they may be addressed before the draft measure is passed into law.

* * *

MANY thanks to Mayor Edna Tabanda of La Trinidad, Benguet, for hosting my husband and me at a workshop on “Strengthening Anti-VAWC Services Towards Effective Implementation.”

I was quite impressed by the attendance at the workshop of key officials of the municipality and of civil society figures, as well as that of Mayor Tabanda. It was obvious that everyone was not just concerned with the problem of violence committed against women and children in their locality, but also committed to doing all they could to reduce, if not bring an end to, all forms of violence in the home,

communities and streets of La Trinidad.

Mayor Tabanda lamented that “La Trinidad has changed,” citing the way family and social relations have shifted with development (the town is rapidly urbanizing), and with the breakdown of parental authority and

oversight over their young.

Educators wanted to know what their legal rights were when confronted with stories told by their students of parental abuse and neglect, even if so-called “third party” reporting is allowed under the “Violence against Women and their Children” law.

In a workshop after my talk, the participants cited as among the more serious problems faced by children and women in their localities were malnutrition, neglect, poverty and lack of opportunities for women, and rising levels of drug abuse among young people.

But as Mayor Tabanda asserted, awareness of the situation is just the beginning of planning and action, the better to address social problems that could threaten the fabric of society of even an idyllic setting of a town like La Trinidad.

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TAGS: Bangsamoro Basic Law, BBL, Mindanao peace process
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