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Unsettled sentiments on the BBL

Still smarting from allegations that in exchange for the passage in his committee of the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), “P51 million is now in my pocket,” Rep. Rufus Rodriguez declared that “no amount was offered or given, and none was received.”

What took place in the course of two meetings in Malacañang attended by some members of Congress and P-Noy, said Rodriguez, was that his vice chairs worked on revisions in the eight suggested deletions in his (Rodriguez’s) draft and these revisions resulted in six amended provisions and two remaining deletions.

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At a roundtable discussion hosted by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, Rodriguez said the changes had mainly to do with transforming the proposed Bangsamoro counterparts of independent constitutional bodies like the Office of the Ombudsman and the Commission on Audit into regional offices under the authority of the national central offices. The same holds true for the Bangsamoro police, which now, in the amended version, “will be organized, staffed and utilized under the supervision of the Philippine National Police.”

Still, despite the reasonable sounding compromises, Rep. Rodolfo Biazon, who is not only a congressman from Muntinlupa and a former senator but also a battle-scarred Mindanao Marine, reports that some people are not happy with the passage of the BBL through the committee. He himself, he said, voted for the bill’s passage through committee with “serious reservations,” promising to bring up these concerns when the BBL is taken up at the plenary.

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But that hasn’t stopped some folks from confronting him in public about the BBL’s passage through committee. At a restaurant, he had a rather loud confrontation with “a group of matrons and their husbands.” And after a round of golf with former generals and military men, Biazon said, he “nearly came to blows” with some critics, bristling that “the phrase ‘30 pieces of silver’ was thrown at me.”

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Obviously, sentiments regarding the BBL are far from settled and resolved.

At the House of Representatives, joining a group of women from Pilipina and the Gaston Z. Ortigas Peace Institute, many of them from the proposed Bangsamoro areas, we met congressmen (from outside the Bangsamoro area) expressing unease and discomfort with the proposed BBL. One congressman from Iloilo said he felt some pressure from his Ilonggo constituents “because there is a large population of people with Ilonggo roots in Mindanao, particularly in Cotabato, and they don’t agree with the BBL.” We got word that in fact the Visayan members of the House will be voting as a bloc when the plenary vote is taken.

At the Senate, there was no discussion on the BBL but senators approached individually showed that sentiments on the proposed law, which still has to make it out of committee, are clearly divided on partisan lines. Indeed, word has it that the Senate, whose members are far more vulnerable to public opinion than their counterparts in the House, will not tackle the BBL on the floor until after the long break, perhaps to dissipate media attention and criticism.

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Still, the women, especially those from Mindanao, remained hopeful, and guardedly optimistic, about the prospects for passage of the BBL. They spoke with pain of the “demonization” of Muslims in the media, especially in the immediate wake of Mamasapano, and the sense they get of continuing hostility from the majority Christian Filipinos.

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But it seems obvious that Christian and Muslim women in the Philippines confront much the same issues of patriarchy and inequality, bias and discrimination, and ignorance and poverty. These are issues we need to confront as a nation, and as women, with faith and belief providing the specific context of our grievances and hopes.

Of course, the BBL will not solve all the problems of Mindanao or of Muslims. King Abdullah II of Jordan, speaking before the European Parliament, touched on the rising problem of Islamist terrorism and noted that it is “a Muslim problem that should be addressed primarily by other Muslims.”

At the end of the day, the problems of Muslim Mindanao and of the Bangsamoro will have to be resolved by our Muslim brothers and sisters themselves.

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Awareness and early detection are key to improving the survival rates of women at risk of breast cancer.

One of the positive developments in this front is the availability of new machines that can detect breast tumors at an early stage, early enough to be treated before they prove fatal.

One of these is the molecular breast imaging device that is, according to visiting expert Debbie Thomas, “sensitive enough to detect tiny tumors even in patients with dense breasts not normally detected in mammography.” Thomas noted that the global incidence of breast cancer has risen by 256 percent in the last 30 years, with the incidence in Southeast Asia rising 479 percent in the same period.

At a recent forum, Harry Dy of S&S Enterprises, sole distributor in the country of the molecular breast imaging device, spoke of plans by his company of launching a breast cancer awareness campaign together with medical institutions. Studies show, he said, that one of every 13 Filipino women would develop breast cancer in a lifetime. Certainly, early detection would help considerably in improving women’s chances of survival.

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TAGS: BBL, Breast cancer, Mamasapano, Rufus Rodriguez
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