ALL OUT PEACE: Mindanao CSOs Ask Congress to Pass an Enhanced BBL

Zamboanga CityTwo of Zamboanga City’s peace-building civil society groups have joined the All Out Peace (AOP) movement organized mostly by Mindanao civil society networks in an appeal to Congress to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) in its undiluted and enhanced version.

        The executive committee of the Interreligious Solidarity for Peace (ISP) and its secretariat Peace Advocates Zamboanga (PAZ) met on Thursday,  August 13 to review and subsequently approve the policy agenda paper of the AOP, thereby signifying the two group’s endorsement of the petition. The appeal is addressed to the congressmen of the Lower House, who are amid a process to pass draft organic law to set up a new autonomous government in Mindanao to resolve the region’s 40-year old armed conflict. The Ad Hoc Committee on the BBL, though, has made various changes in the original BBL draft docketed as HB 4998 and which will be further deliberated in the ongoing plenary sessions. The committee version is now labeled as HB 5811.

        The AOP policy paper said: “While we appreciate the work of the Ad Hoc Committee– including its secretariat– to come up with a suitable draft and recognize the 50 lawmakers who voted in favor of the draft bill, we at ALL-OUTPEACE believe that House Bill 5811 otherwise known as the draft Basic Law of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region as a substitute to the initially proposed House Bill 4994 will NOT ‘sufficiently’ realize the call for a real, sustainable and meaningful autonomy in the Bangsamoro as some of the crucial and relevant provisions of the original draft bill submitted to Congress were either deleted or diluted.”

          The AOP paper contained 16 points composed of re-instatements of deleted provisions as well as enhancements to the original  draft.  Earlier, the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC), author of the BBL, rejected 28 modifications and deletions that was made by the Ad Hoc committee.

The paper asked Congress to restore the original title of the bill to simply  “Bangsamoro Basic Law” instead of “Basic Law on the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region”.  It reasoned that  “This proposition is anchored on a more encompassing nomenclature defining “Bangsamoro” in the (Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro) that altogether refers to the people, territory and the incipient government. The original title of the bill is reflective of the whole intent and purpose of the proposed BBL which is the recognition of the legitimacy of the struggle of the Bangsamoro people not just for the creation of an Autonomous Region”.

It also asked Congress to include the phrase “parity of esteem” in the Preamble” and restore  it in Section 2, Article 6 of HB 4994 on ‘Intergovernmental Relations’. “This includes reverting back to its original title ‘Parity of Esteem’ instead of ‘Respect of Competencies’. Section 2, Article 6,  to state that ‘The National Government and the Bangsamoro Government shall be guided by the principles of parity of esteem and accepted norms of good governance. The National Government shall respect the exercise of competencies and exclusive powers of the Bangsamoro Government. The Bangsamoro Government shall respect the exercise of the competencies and reserved powers of the National Government’”.

It said  “the phrase Parity of esteem is used in political philosophy to explain a theory to overcome intercommunal conflict, which is what the Bangsamoro conflict is about. (It) offers a language for negotiation that recognizes that the only way to move forward to realize the interest of the two parties in conflict is to negotiate a peaceful coexistence in a shared physical space despite cultural differences rather than continue trying to out-do each other.”

          It further asked Congress to harmonize the two original and its modified bills on the question of contiguous territory, particularly on the opt-in process.  The paper asked for a longer 10-year period before any local government unit may petition for inclusion in the Bangsamoro territory after the initial plebiscite to ratify the BBL. It asked to “Set a longer ‘opt-in’ period (10 years after the Bangsamoro is established) to facilitate political processes and development in the core territory” and to “Guarantee clarity in details as to coverage, timeline and parameters when it comes to contiguity, political and economic stability of the region – giving also fair chance for other areas to decide to radiate towards a thriving autonomous region.”

          The Ad Hoc committee inserted the opt-in provision that was not present in the BBL to reinforce the means to incorporate earlier peace agreements particularly with the Moro National Liberation Front and the Tripoli Agreement especially in regard to geographical coverage.

          The AOP movers said it will formally submit its policy paper to Congress very shortly.

          “Passing a version of a BBL that genuinely reflects and recognizes the fundamental rights and freedoms of the Bangsamoro, the indigenous peoples, marginalized and vulnerable sectors and all other inhabitants of Mindanao is the most logical step towards achieving sustainable peace, social justice and progress not only for Mindanao but for the entire nation,” it says.

AOP convenors include “Friends of the Bangsamoro, Generation Peace Youth Network, MINCODE/ CODE-NGO,  Mindanao CSO Peace Platform, Mindanao Peaceweavers, Philippine Misereor Partnership Inc., Waging Peace Philippines, Women Engaged in Action on 1325,  Initiatives for International Dialogue (National Secretariat), Balay Rehabilitation Inc., Binhi ng Kapayaapaan, Center for Peace Education-Miriam College, GZO Peace Institute, Lanao Peace Partnership, Pax Christi-Pilipinas, PILIPINA, SUCCEED Global , Women Peace Table.

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