“The BBL embodies the aspiration of the Moro people for self-determination,” Abdul K. Silongan, President of Young Moro Professionals Council (YMPC) said.
“Yes, the Moro people are minority in our country, but it doesn’t mean that our right to govern ourselves with laws appropriate for us as Muslims with distinct belief, culture and tradition should be ignored by the non-Muslim majority Filipinos,” he explained.
Silongan said the BBL drafted by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) should be passed because the “17 years of peace negotiation between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the government is quite long.”
The BTC is a 15-man special body created by the Aquino administration to draft the Bangsamoro Basic Law in accordance with the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) signed by Government of the Philippines (GPH) and MILF on March 27, 2014.
The CAB is a peace truce between the GPH and MILF that gives leeway for the establishment of a new autonomous political entity called “Bangsamoro” that will replace the current Autonomous Region on Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
President Aquino described the region as “failed experiment.” The ARMM is noted for high poverty incidence and corruption.
“Being Moro and residents of Mindanao themselves, the BTC members knew very well how the BBL should be crafted. For sure they made the proposed law based on aspiration of the Moro people and the kind of governance that is desired,” Silongan pointed out.
Silongan said it is justice if the government will allow the practice of Shari’ah (Islamic jurisprudence) for the Moro people as Muslims.
“Prior to the creation of Philippine Republic, we existed as free nations with own customary and Islamic laws,” he related.
Before the coming of Spaniards in 1521, the Sultanates of Sulu, Maguindanao, Buayan, Kabuntalan and the four principalities of Lanao existed with Islam as their religion.
“Our forefathers fought against the aggression of Spaniards to defend our religion, territory and people,” Silongan related.
Injustice and Oppression
YMPC member Soraida Macadatar who grew up in the ARMM related the suffering of their family and relatives in Lanao during the height of the martial law in the 70s. “We lost some of our kin, our houses were burned and our belongings were taken away,” she said.
To quell rebellion, then President Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law in 1972 putting the entire nation under military rule.
The Moro rebellion led by Moro National Liberation (MNLF) Front Chairman Prof. Nur Misuari sparked after the Jabidah Massacre in 1968.
Lone survivor Jibin Arula related more than twenty young Moro recruits trained to become soldiers were executed at the Corregidor by their trainers after the latter discovered their plan to leave the training because of complaint for dwindling logistics support.
The incident rekindled the Moro people’s desire for independence. With the facilitation of the Organization of Islamic Conference, the MNLF signed the Tripoli Agreement in 1976 with the government and settled for autonomy instead of independence.
“We do not want a repetition of war,” said Mohalikin Piang, Regional Manager of the Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA) in Southern Mindanao, a survivor of Malisbong massacre where more than a thousand of his male relatives and neighbors were stocked by military inside Takbil mosque in 1974, the height of Martial law era.
“I never saw again alive those who were taken away by the soldiers,” he disclosed. Piang’s story reflected the experiences of other Moros in other parts of Mindanao.
Cost of War
The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process disclosed in a report by Manila Bulletin that “The Mindanao war cost the Philippine government a staggering P2.013 trillion during the 31-year period from 1970 to 2001.”
The fighting between the MNLF combatants and government troops ended with the signing of the 1996 GRP-MNLF Final Peace Agreement.
The MILF, an MNLF breakaway group, signed ceasefire accord with the government in 1997 but this was disrupted when President Estrada ordered and all-out-war against the group. President Arroyo resumed peace talks with the MILF in 2004.
OPAPP further divulged that the years of fighting between the Moro rebels and the government forces claimed more than 120,000 lives including civilians.
The agency also said that the fighting after Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 2008 displaced around 600,000 people.
The administration of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo did not sign the proposed agreement which dismayed some MILF fighters.
All are losers
Jocelyn L. Kanda, YMPC vice president, said the Bangsamoro government must be put in place so that conflict will end stressing that all are losers in war.
“Women and children suffer most in conflict,” she said.” “They live in miserable conditions in evacuation centers but they don’t deserve that kind of life,” Kanda underscored.
She said most of those who call for an all-out-war against the MILF are those who never experienced being in the battle field or stayed in evacuation camps.
Kanda said war is costly, divisive, destructive and causes sluggish development.
Prepared to govern
Kanda said the Moro people are prepared to govern themselves having thousands of professionals in the country working in government and private entities and those working abroad.
Should be given the chance to govern, Kanda believes that the MILF which will lead the Bangsamoro Transition Authority once the BBL is approved thru a plebiscite will do its best to implement good governance in the Bangsamoro.
The YMPC envisages a Bangsamoro government that is inclusive, functional, and corrupt-free.
The MILF has already established the Bangsamoro Development Agency, the economic arm of the revolutionary organization, which leads and manages the rehabilitation and development of conflict-affected areas with the support of international communities.
The BDA also crafted the Bangsamoro Development Plan, a blueprint for the comprehensive development of the Moro people within and outside the core territory, the current ARMM areas.
Support to BBL
Various peace advocates groups, Muslims and Christians, have been calling the lawmakers to pass the BBL in the spirit of the CAB.
"Killing the BBL is tantamount to killing the hopes and aspirations of the entire nation for peace. Killing the BBL is to repeat the Mamasapano incident a thousand fold with the whole nation as the unfortunate victim," said Gus Miclat, Executive Director of Initiatives for International Dialogue.
Senator Marcos said recently his plan to come up with a new version of BBL because for them the draft BBL has unconstitutional provisions which might be contested in the Supreme Court.
No to diluted BBL
Ustadza Aniza Taha, chairperson of Nurus-Salam, a group of woman peace advocates, related that BBL was written “from the blood of thousands of martyrs who fought for the cause of Bangsamoro.” Taha said that a diluted BBL is completely unacceptable.
Macadatar said a diluted BBL may come out as a measure that ”will not serve its purpose.”
Study the BBL
Silongan urges the public to study the BBL before judging if it is injurious or not to the whole country in general.
The BBL is a legal translation of the GPH-MILF peace agreement which aim to put up an autonomous government for the Bangsamoro people with more powers.
“The BBL, once realized will create an atmosphere of peace and will usher development of the region,” he added. Silongan said investments will pour in once the region is peaceful.
“Isn’t it that the whole country will benefit if the troubled region will eventually become peaceful and prosperous?” he asked.
“Do the Muslims of this country have the right to live happily and progressively like the Christian majority,” he further asked.