The incorrect approach to the BBL | Inquirer Opinion
Kris-Crossing Mindanao

The incorrect approach to the BBL

A CHANCE encounter with a Maranao leader at a Manila airport lounge provided quite astounding insights. That is always the dilemma with stereotypes. Stereotypes are not real representations of flesh and blood. If one gets the drift from the glut of anti-Moro sentiments (outdated by colonial light years) that at times border on Islamophobia, one would easily conclude that every Filipino

Moro is for the Bangsamoro Basic Law and the rest of the Philippines are not.


But the perceived favorable opinion is not monolithic among the Moro. There have been no uniform voices even from within the Moro communities. That fact alone must be enough to astonish government so as not to escape its attention. That includes stigmatizing, if need be, a “peace council” that has the makings of a school varsity cheering squad, given the futility to appeal to Malacañang and its greenhorn peace negotiators.

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation has taken note of that. The OIC is the world’s second largest intergovernmental body next only to the United Nations. With a membership of 57 states, it is the collective voice of the Islamic world,


“ensuring to safeguard and protect the interests of the Muslim world in the spirit of promoting international peace and harmony among various peoples of the world.”

OIC Secretary General Iyad Bin Amin Madani suggested to legislators to include other Moro sectors, other Moro armed groups, specifically the Moro National Liberation Front, in the peace process.

Why have we been harping on stakeholders? It should not take a rocket scientist to figure that out. It is only through inclusion that a comprehensive peace agreement can be reached. All Filipinos desire Mindanao peace. After the birth of the Bangsamoro, it will certainly not bode well to go back to peace negotiations. Once there is a Bangsamoro, all Filipinos, Moro or not, would want to see the final end to centuries of antipathy and enmity.

Pro-BBL advocates moonlighting as doomsayers say that if the BBL in its “unadulterated form” will not pass, there will be war in Mindanao. One even predicted jihad. Take note that Mohagher Iqbal himself does not even advocate that threat and has said the very opposite: “We will renegotiate.” The man must be given credit for that. Only an honorable man can say that.

That absence of a uniform Moro voice was articulated so well in that chance airport encounter. It was a good opportunity meeting Dean Macacuna Moslem, dean of the college of law of Mindanao State University. He is a trustee for Mindanao of the Philippine Association of Law Schools. He was educated in universities abroad. When I asked him about the BBL, my mind was playing on the context that here was a Moro and I was expecting from him avowed support of the BBL.

To my surprise, it was otherwise. The dean immediately qualified his stand as that of a lawyer and law educator. He enumerated the constitutional infirmities of the present version of the BBL. He continued that he was in fact supportive of the amendments introduced by the House committee chaired by Rep. Rufus Rodriguez.

Of late, even Rodriguez has had his share of brickbats from some Moro sectors in social media. But a significant point is missed: Shouldn’t Rodriguez be hailed instead as championing the passage of the BBL? By fine-tuning the BBL to pass constitutional standards, isn’t he instead ensuring its safe passage? Dean Moslem shares the same ultimate fear: Of what good is it to pass the present BBL only for it to be eventually shot down by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional? “We will be going back to first base,” he said.


Government’s greatest error in the BBL is its stance to strike down any intellectual exchange of ideas on the issue. Even the peace council was designed to persuade, not to stimulate dialogue. Some support the BBL out of partisan scales for a president who has not exactly been behaving in a matuwid way.

On the contrary, those against the BBL must be allowed to voice their critical opinions, provided these are not based on outdated ethnic biases against the Moro. The time of ethnic biases should now be of the past. Those who continue to uphold these biases belong only to the caves of the medieval era, and that was eons ago. For Christians, it is not even the way to holiness. The “them and us” belong only to hatemongers who are destined to burn in hell.

But that should apply as well to the pro-BBL Moro angry at opposing perspectives. Threats of jihad are not Islamic. The openness of Moro ancestors to the arrival of the first settlers on the banks of the Pulangi River in Cotabato in 1914 a hundred years ago should serve us in good stead. The enemy is not the infidel of the Islamic faith. Today’s enemy in fact is the sweeping liberal thought slowly gnawing at Europe that all religions must be obliterated from the face of this earth.

Even in the debates on the BBL, dialogue and mutual respect are still the supreme values. To say that the BBL must be passed now lock, stock and barrel is anathema to a nation whose citizens in fact need to learn how to think critically. That is the most incorrect approach to the BBL. It instantly disparages any capacity of the Filipino to make critical choices. To demand “pass now or else” is the same as asking the Filipino to sell his/her vote during elections. It disenfranchises. Making an intelligent choice on a political issue is a right, not a moral mandate.

But to stop the free exercise of that right is a moral infirmity.

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