Iqbal: “Choose Hope Over Fear”

  • Friday, Sep 26 2014
  • Written by  Abdullah Cusain

This was the appeal of BTC Chairman Mohagher Iqbal to 66 congressmen who were present for the first hearing conducted Wednesday (September 24) by the House of Representatives AdHoc Committee on the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

Before a powerpoint presentation was made, Iqbal said in his opening statement that the Filipino nation should not be afraid of the Bangsamoro and instead choose hope.

He called on fear-mongers, indigenous peoples, non-Muslims in and out of the core territories, and the Filipino people in general to “be not afraid” of the Bangsamoro. 

To those who want “to sow fear instead of hope,” Iqbal told them that “instead of dismemberment of the Republic, the Bangsamoro will further unite our peoples” since there shall be” no state within the state.”

As for the indigenous peoples in the Bangsamoro, Iqbal stated that “just as we fought for our right to self-determination, so shall we protect yours … we are brothers and sisters.”

“We shall not impose our beliefs on you,” was Iqbal’s message to the non-Muslims in the Bangsamoro.

In what could be a reference to areas contiguous to the Bangsamoro, Iqbal made an appeal to their leaders to be not afraid likewise. “We only ask that the Bangsamoro people be asked directly, without fear or intimidation, whether or not they want to be part of the Bangsamoro.”

Six-and-a-Half-Hour Meeting

With almost twenty congressmen availing of the 5-minute privilege of questioning, the meeting lasted from 9am to 4pm without break.

Congressman Tupay Loong of Sulu was the first to ask about the asymmetric relationship and the future status of ARMM workers. 

Cong. Celso Lobregat of Zamboanga City, who was the second to speak, manifested that he is not “anti-peace” and that they just want the BBL to be “fair, just, acceptable, feasible and consistent with the Constitution.”

An early vote was made, with affirmative winning, when Cong. Lobregat moved that the original draft submitted by BTC to the Office of the President on April 22 this year be provided to the members of the Adhoc Committee.

Iqbal, OPAPP Sec. Teresita Deles, GPH Peace Panel Chairman Prof. Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, Panel Member Senen Bacani and legal teams of BTC and OPAPP, as well as BTC Commissioners Akmad Sakkam, Abdula Camlian and Ibrahim Ali served as resource persons.

NGOs such as Mindanao Peaceweavers and Mindanao Civil Society Organizations Platform for Peace were also allowed to answer some queries from the committee members.

Even actor Robin Padilla was present from the early start of the meeting until it ended. The actor was also allowed to address the committee where he appealed for the early passage of the proposed law. 

Series of Meetings

Cong. Rufus B. Rodriguez of Cagayan de Oro City, chairperson of the AdHoc Committee on the Bangsamoro Basic Law, stressed in his opening remarks that due to the great importance of the draft BBL, his committee was allowed to conduct the meeting even if budget hearings are being held also.

Ordinarily, he said, that while budget sessions are conducted, no other committee hearings are allowed by the rules of the House.

He also announced that even during the congressional recess from September 27 to October 19, his committee will hold meetings.

Public hearings will also be done in three provincial clusters in Mindanao and one in the Visayas.

The next meeting of the committee is scheduled on October 7 to 8. Invitees are from the security sector. ####

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