Let’s study the draft BBL
A summary of two SWS surveys on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) and the peace process was presented, in cooperation with The Asia Foundation (TAF) and the Institute of Islamic Studies of the University of the Philippines (UPIIS), at the Balay Kalinaw Conference Hall in UP Diliman last May 15.
One survey was done together with the regular Social Weather Survey for the first quarter, done on March 23-25, 2015, on a national sample of 1,200 adults. The other was a special survey of the so-called Core Territories of the proposed Bangsamoro, done on Feb. 22-March 1, 2015, on 1,500 adults, 800 in the Sulu Archipelago and 700 in Central Mindanao. Both surveys were sponsored by TAF on the understanding that the results would be made public.
- The Jan. 25 Mamasapano Incident lessened satisfaction with the national administration and slowed down congressional consideration of the BBL.
- Filipinos still prefer peaceful negotiations over military means of dealing with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
- More than two years since the signing of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB), awareness of the agreement has not risen.
- On specific aspects of the FAB—such as replacing the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) by an expanded autonomous region called Bangsamoro, extending Shari’ah law beyond divorce and inheritance cases, and having a new police force in Bangsamoro—national opinion turned negative after Mamasapano; yet they are positive throughout the Core Territories.
- In the nation as a whole, hope that the new Bangsamoro government will bring peace and development in its area is negative. In the Core Territories, however, it ranges from slightly positive to highly positive, except in Sulu where it is slightly negative.
- The balance of national opinion, on balance, thinks that peace talks with the MILF do not benefit Filipinos. Opinion in the Core Territories, however, sees the peace talks as beneficial—with Sulu and Isabela City fairly positive, Tawi-Tawi and Basilan very positive, and the mainland Mindanao areas extremely positive.
- Despite the Mamasapano Incident, residents of the Core Territories are optimistic that Congress can pass a BBL. The optimism is greater in the areas that are more approving of the BBL and more certain that peace talks with the MILF will benefit Filipinos.
- Those surveyed were asked if their knowledge about the proposed BBL was extensive (malawak), partial but sufficient (bahagya ngunit sapat), only a little (kaunti lamang), or almost nothing (halos wala). In the March 2015 national survey, the sum of the first two answers, i.e., having sufficient knowledge, was merely 17 percent.
- Those saying they have sufficient knowledge of the BBL were only 13 percent of Catholics, compared to 27 percent of Iglesia ni Cristos, 29 percent of Protestants and Aglipayans, and a majority 59 percent of Muslims. Thus, Muslims have taken more interest in the BBL than those of other religions. (This breakdown by religion had not yet been done as of May 15.)
- In the national survey, the net approval of the proposed BBL is -24 in March 2015, or a fall from the positive approval rates of the FAB in four national surveys from December 2012 to June 2014 (when it was net +16).
- The national average of -24 reflects a favorable +28 among those with extensive knowledge, a neutral -2 among those with partial knowledge, an unfavorable -27 among those with a little knowledge, and a worse -35 among those with no knowledge about the BBL. (This tabulation had not yet been done as of May 15.) The lesson is: Familiarity breeds appreciation.
- In the Core Territories, the percentages with sufficient knowledge of the BBL were: 26 in Sulu, 41 in Basilan, 34 in Isabela City, 37 in Tawi-Tawi, 52 in Lanao del Sur, 29 in Maguindanao, 34 in Cotabato City, 36 in Lanao del Norte near ARMM, and 54 in Cotabato near ARMM. The net approval of the proposed BBL was positive in all the Core Territories: +18 in Sulu, +48 in Basilan, +18 in Isabela City, +30 in Tawi-Tawi, +86 in Lanao del Sur, +80 in Maguindanao, +71 in Cotabato City, +77 in Lanao del Norte near ARMM, and +91 in Cotabato near ARMM.
The May 15 presentation was made by Steven Rood, resident representative of TAF (a member of the International Contact Group on the peace process) and a survey expert in his own right. The reactors were government peace panel chair Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal, UP Asian Center professor Eduardo Tadem, UP political science professor Jorge Tigno, and former dean Carmen Abubakar of the UPIIS. None of them were overly pessimistic about the passage of the BBL through Congress.
In my closing remarks, I stressed that SWS applies its research capability in the service of democracy and peace, without taking any partisan side. We urge Muslims and indigenous people to undertake their own surveys, too. Statistical visibility always benefits disadvantaged groups.
I also recalled that many opinion polls showed public approval of the treaty to extend the stay of the US military bases beyond the end of their term in 1991. Thus, most were surprised by the Senate decision not to ratify the treaty. But only a year later, in 1992, four out of five Filipinos agreed with the Senate’s decision.
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For the PowerPoint of the May 15 presentation, see www.sws.org.ph. The new tabulations on knowledge about the BBL used here were done by Michael Laxamana of SWS. All figures will be in a TAF publication forthcoming in July.
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