Peace group lauds new BBL but rejects plan to extend Martial Law

The All-Out Peace (AOP) movement, a broad network of peace advocates and civil society groups, welcomes the submission by the 21-member Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) of the new draft of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) to President Rodrigo Duterte on July 17 and lauds the commitment by the President to certify the proposed measure as urgent and “husband” the same before both houses of Congress.

We reiterate our resolve that granting the Bangsamoro greater autonomy to exercise its inherent right to self-determination through this BBL is a major step to genuinely recognize the justness and legitimacy of the cause of the Bangsamoro people and other inhabitants of Mindanao. If enacted into law according to its purpose and intent, the BBL could serve as a social justice instrument that must finally address the historical injustices committed against the Bangsamoro and other oppressed and marginalized inhabitants of Mindanao. The AOP was one of the first groups that met with then presidential candidate Duterte in July 2015 to convince him to support the BBL and consider it as a “pilot” for his federalism project should he win the elections.

At this particular juncture, while the BBL is being touted as a solution to the ongoing crisis in Marawi and obtaining peace therein and some parts of the island, we hope that the new BBL will spark an end to the decades of armed conflict in the south, which resulted to nothing but the loss of thousands of lives as well as socio-economic deterioration—which in turn have provided the conditions that breed violent extremism. We see this positive development for the new BBL as a fresh opportunity and a significant step to end our long and exhaustive search for a just and enduring peace in Mindanao.

However, while we applaud this monumental initiative by the present government on the Bangsamoro peace process, AOP is gravely concerned over the continuing crisis in Marawi including the plan by the government to extend the implementation of Martial Law in the whole of Mindanao. With more than a month of armed skirmishes since Martial Law was declared on May 23, the conflict in Marawi has left scores dead, the number of internally displaced persons have soared to hundreds of thousands and a significant part of the city literally pulverized into rubble due to sustained aerial strikes that have also deeply traumatized its citizens.

We believe that extending the implementation of Martial Law is fundamentally incoherent with the government’s strong support for the peace process. While we condemn in the strongest terms the terror and violence committed by the so-called Maute Group and their cohorts against the people and defenseless communities of Marawi and its spillover effect to the entire island and country, we do not see a prolonged Martial Law or a mere military solution as a viable and sustainable formula to address armed insurgency in Mindanao. The government and the armed forces have both affirmed this and have enough power in their hands to address this peace and order situation without resorting to this draconian step.

More concretely, we are worried that the extension or possible expansion of Martial Law might have some serious implications not only to human rights but to the whole peace process itself. AOP asserts that if the government is indeed sincere in bringing real peace to Mindanao—and the entire country for that matter, it must do so by addressing the fundamental issues that cause rebellion and insurgency. These are seriously addressing poverty, inequality, injustice, discrimination, and corruption among others. And it should do so by involving the main stakeholders—the citizens, the conflict-affected, the people—in developing solutions to these problems.

With a sense of accountability, we urge the present government to walk its peacetalk towards the path of ending the war and insurgency in Mindanao by giving primacy to the peace process—a peace process that is founded on the principles of genuine peace, human rights and social justice.