IN THE past few weeks, I have been writing about my work at Al Qalam Institute. Today, I would like to share my work as a Member of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC).
I started working as a member of the BTC since January 2017. Although we did not have our official oath taking and signing our appointment letters from Malacañang, we have been assisting the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process in various capacities.
Our main task officially started in February and March last year. We were guided by Executive Order 08 signed by President Duterte last November 7, 2016.
EO 08 expanded the previous Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) of President Noynoy Aquino from 15 to 21 members. The objective was to make the process more "inclusive" of other interest groups. The MILF has eleven (11) members while the government has ten (10) other members.
In summary, the tasks of the BTC includes: to prepare the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law; to work on proposals to amend the Philippine Constitution for the purpose of accommodating and entrenching in the constitution the agreements of the GPH and the MILF whenever necessary without derogating from any prior peace agreements; to assist in identifying development programs in Bangsamoro communities; to coordinate and conduct dialogues and consultations with the National Government and various stakeholders in furtherance of its functions.
My contribution to the Bangsamoro peace building process is in line with my work with Al Qalam Institute. It is a work that combines research, community engagements, and teaching Islamic values and principles on muamalat. The word Muamalat is part of Islamic teachings that deals with relations between people, community, government, and environment.
My work in the BTC is not easy. It is full of challenges of managing expectations of our people and connecting our communities to our government to help address the rise of violent extremism.
In drafting the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), we had a hard time in defining words and terms that should be compliant not only with the existing peace documents like the Comprehensive Agreement of the Bangsamoro, RA 9054, Tripoli Agreement, and all other documents signed by the Moro National Liberation Front, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, and government, but also mindful of the 1987 Philippine Constitution.
My family and friends often ask me if I get tired or desolated by the work I do and with the people I meet. Honestly, yes. There are times that I wish life can just be so simple. I wish people can be tolerant, more accepting of other opinions, and be honest to serve our people.
In almost every day work in the BTC, I see how politics work at different levels. I understand that we cannot ignore this reality. Politics influences much of the things that are happening in our world today.
The Bangsamoro peace process is a political solution that aims to address social injustice and oppression of the Bangsamoro people.
When I was young, I wanted to help our people. I wanted to make a difference by giving more opportunities for our people to have access in basic social services and for the youth to have a good education. Back then, I do not have any idea how to do it. And today, given the opportunity working in Al Qalam Institute and BTC, I struggle to manage my neutrality as part of the academe and being a government worker.
It is a struggle or a challenge because our country can be so divided on a lot of political issues. As far as I can remember, Filipino people are very political. We politicize almost all issues and concerns in our country. This cripples our ways and line of thinking about the choices we have to make.
In working with the BTC, we cannot let politics define the future of the Bangsamoro people. The global threat of violent extremism is luring the hearts and minds of our youth today. Passing the Bangsamoro Basic Law can help us address this problem.
Every day of my work, I hope and pray that in the next succeeding days, Congress and Senate, our lawmakers, decide on the future of the Bangsamoro Basic Law not only based on politics but based on what is just and acceptable to all Filipinos. I understand that the peace process requires a political solution. However, this political solution must promote good policies, virtue, and the common good.