BBL will lay groundwork for peace | Inquirer Opinion
At Large

BBL will lay groundwork for peace

You’d think, given the importance of the bill he was introducing on the floor of the House, that Rep. Rufus Rodriguez would try to “sell” it with overblown promises and profuse praise.

But the Cagayan de Oro congressman chose to be more realistic, taking a more sober assessment of the situation, and yet not stinting on the implications of the passage of the bill.


In his sponsorship speech on the substitute bill on the passage of the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), Rodriguez acknowledged that “peace in Mindanao will not be achieved if we pass this measure today. Peace may not even be achieved a month, or even a year after this bill becomes law.” But, he assured, “this bill will provide the groundwork on which the foundations for peace and development in Mindanao shall be laid.”

This is because, he said, the bill “will address centuries of inherited disadvantages suffered by our Muslim brothers and sisters, will erase the accretions of antipathies against Muslim brothers and sisters; and will be an affirmative action to correct centuries of neglect and injustice [against] our Muslim brothers and sisters.”


“I am from Mindanao,” Rodriguez added, giving context to his sentiments and belief in the BBL. “I wish to see the day that children of Muslims and indigenous peoples will have the same opportunities of the Christian children of Christian families to have good education, health and employment opportunities. And that they will not be judged because of culture and religion but [be seen] as human beings with human dignity.

“I wish to see the day that no one will be left behind; no Muslim will be left behind in enjoying the blessings and fruits of development in our beautiful island of Mindanao.”

“Be on the right side of history!” he exhorted his colleagues.

* * *

In the same speech, Rodriguez sought to debunk accusations that the House has “railroaded” the passage through committee of the BBL. In all, he noted, 24 public hearings were conducted throughout the country, 19 regular meetings and eight executive sessions, for a total of 51 meetings conducted by the committee in the eight months it took to parse the proposed measure.

“It is the most inclusive and most comprehensive consultation for a piece of legislation in the entire history of our nation,” declared Rodriguez.

“The process that the BBL … has gone through is unprecedented in the history of the legislative branch of our government,” he added. But the arduous work and the controversies that continue to hound the proposed law and its adherents may well be worth it if we consider the scope of the problem the law seeks to alleviate.


Not least of the problems has been the human cost: 120,000 lives lost from 1970 to 2001, when the “all-out war” policy was adopted. Since then until 2012 when the ceasefire with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front took effect, 2,599 more were killed, over half of them MILF forces, 491 military and police, and 841 civilians.

Aside from the dead and wounded, about one-and-a-half million people were displaced because of the conflict, many fleeing as far away as Luzon and the Visayas, and perhaps even driving the overseas migration of young Muslim Filipinos to work as laborers and domestics. We aren’t even counting the costs in terms of cutting short the education of refugee children, the emotional trauma they undergo, the sense of “otherness” they continue to nurse in their hearts.

* * *

Reckoning the actual economic and financial consequences of the Mindanao conflict, Rodriguez noted that since 1970, “the Philippines has already suffered at least P640 billion in economic losses in terms of damages to businesses and properties and loss of potential investments and businesses in the region.” Add to this the estimated P73 billion already spent on combat expenses.

“I agree with the dissenters of this Basic Law that this 91-page document is not a miraculous pill that would somehow end all hostilities in Mindanao and usher in a golden era of peace in the region,” Rodriguez said. “Centuries of violence, injustice, discrimination, and misunderstanding among our brothers and sisters in Mindanao will not be magically swept away once we pass this bill on third and final reading and hopefully, enacted into law.” But he asserted that what the measure provides is “the chance to achieve peace by addressing all these issues and thrusting them into the public consciousness, as what has been done from the time the bill was referred by the plenary to the ad hoc committee.”

Well, thrust the issues to the forefront of public consciousness and public debate the BBL has certainly done. Even with his impassioned sponsorship speech, Rodriguez knows that, as a news item in this paper yesterday reported: “Hopes appear to have dimmed on the prospect of it being enacted before Congress adjourns in two weeks.”

* * *

The number of House members expressing doubt or concerns about the BBL has risen in recent days, acknowledged Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales. And if each of these “doubters” eat up precious time debating the merits of the bill, then Gonzales doubts if the House leadership could meet its self-imposed deadline of June 11 for the passage of the law. (Note that the Senate has yet to pass the BBL at committee level.)

The problem is that many of the House members and the senators see their political fates tied to how they vote on the BBL. The measure has been linked to the fate of the SAF 44 (but why only the SAF 44?) in Mamasapano, with many seeing the BBL passage as a slap on the face of the “martyrs” of this confrontation. Fair or unfair?

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.

Subscribe to our daily newsletter

By providing an email address. I agree to the Terms of Use and acknowledge that I have read the Privacy Policy.

Read Next
Don't miss out on the latest news and information.

Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.

TAGS: Bangsamoro, BBL, Mamasapano, Mindanao, peace, Rufus Rodriguez, SAF 44
For feedback, complaints, or inquiries, contact us.
Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.

Fearless views on the news

By providing an email address. I agree to the Terms of Use and acknowledge that I have read the Privacy Policy.

© Copyright 1997-2023 | All Rights Reserved

We use cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By continuing, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. To find out more, please click this link.