Anti-Moro sentiment in 16th Congress killed the BBL, peace group says

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“Anti-Moro sentiment of varying degrees killed the Bangsamoro law in the 16th Congress. With festering bigotry, hatred and prejudices against the Bangsamoro people, the lawmakers chose political grandstanding and filibustering over a just cause for peace in the Moro land and the whole country. The 16th Congress hammered the final nail in the BBL coffin.”

This was how Gus Miclat, Executive Director of the Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID), a Mindanao-based regional peacebuilding institution, summed up their group’s disgust on the recent failure of the 16th Congress to pass the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

Miclat who is also one the conveners of the All-Out Peace movement added, “With the non-passage of the BBL, the future of peace in the entire country became the biggest casualty.”

“Congress was provided an opportunity to develop a law that could end the decades of antipathy and hostility in Mindanao. But they chose regress over progress by not coming up with a Bangsamoro law consistent with the vision of the official agreement – one crafted over more than 17 years– between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front ( MILF),”he said.

“Worse, the BBL was first mutilated beyond recognition then was dragged by Congress’ failure to muster a quorum in the Lower House during plenary sessions coupled with unproductive interpellations and grandstanding of some lawmakers when there was one; and the persistent absence of the bill’s supposed principal sponsor in the Senate,“ Miclat explained.

Since Malacanang transmitted to the Senate and House of Representatives the original BBL draft in 2014, both chambers had already conducted separate public hearings and eventually produced a substitute bill known as the Basic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Regions (BLBAR) that heavily diluted the original BBL.

The BBL, a major component of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), which was signed by the Aquino administration and the MILF, failed to pass in both the House of Representatives and Senate until their final session on Wednesday.

IID scored the chronic absenteeism by a large number of lawmakers during sessions in both chambers when the BBL was the agenda. “They abandoned their sworn duty as lawmakers. We did not even feel a sense of urgency – or empathy– among them in passing the bill. As if nobody cared to answer the Bangsamoro question and Congress, until the last moment, seemed unwilling and hesitant to once and for all find a peaceful resolution to the Bangsamoro problem,” Miclat stressed.

“Yes we are hurting. The peoples of Mindanao are grieving. The BBL is not just about fostering genuine peace, reconciliation and healing the wounds of the Mindanao conflict. The BBL is about recognizing and celebrating our diversity as peoples of this nation by providing broader democratic spaces for self-determining peoples,” he pointed out.

IID explained that despite the setback in the peace process, it will continue their peace-building efforts and vowed to intensify their advocacy for genuine peace and social justice to finally reign in Mindanao.

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