ILIGAN CITY -- Several members of the House of Representatives have asked colleagues to help ensure the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) that will eventually be passed in Congress is reflective of the hopes for lasting peace in Mindanao.
“We are legislators of the 16th Congress who call for a BBL that is reflective of the hopes and dreams of the Moro people, which in turn, represent the aspirations of all Filipinos. We desire a BBL that is responsive to the needs and issues of all inhabitants of the proposed Bangsamoro Region,” read a statement issued by some 19 House members.
“We want a BBL that will truly correct the historical and present-day injustices that will ultimately lead us toward peace in Mindanao and in the entire country,” the lawmakers added.
A copy of the signed “Statement of Legislators on the Bangsamoro Basic Law” was posted in the Facebook page of Camarines Sur Representative Leni Robredo.
“Now, as we inch closer to the deadline of passing this important measure, we call on our colleagues to join us in ensuring that we have a BBL that will stand firm and steadfast; a BBL that will fulfill the promise of change in Mindanao in the form of a just and lasting peace,” the legislators urged.
Apart from Robredo, those who signed the statement are Representatives Henry Oaminal of the Second District of Misamis Occidental; Arthur Defensor Jr. of the Iloilo third district; Anthony del Rosario of Davao del Norte first district; Kaka Bag-ao of Dinagat Island; Barry Gutierrez of the Akbayan Party-List; Bolet Banal of Quezon City third district; Jesus Sacdalan of North Cotabato first district; Kit Belmonte of Quezon City sixth district; Bai Sandra Sema of Maguindanao first district, including Cotabato City; Zajid Mangudadatu of Maguindanao second district; Sherwin Tugna of Cibac Partylist; Jorge Almonte of Misamis Occidental first district; Tupay Loong of Sulu first district; Silvestre Bello III of 1-BAP Partylist; Jim Hataman-Salliman of Basilan; Imelda Quibranza-Dimaporo of Lanao del Norte first district; Deputy Speakers Henedina Abad of the Lone District of Batanes; and Pangalian Balindong of Lanao del Sur second district.
On her Facebook post, Robredo also mentioned that three other legislators -- Representatives Teddy Brawner Baguilat of Ifugao, Cheryl Deloso Montalla of Zambales, and Malou Acosta-Alba of Bukidnon -- “expressed intention to sign” the joint statement.
Some 14 of the 22 lawmakers are from Mindanao.
The 75-member House ad hoc committee on the BBL chaired by Cagayan de Oro Representative Rufus Rodriguez has reset its section by section voting on the measure to May 18 from its original schedule of May 11.
As drafted, the BBL consists of some 244 sections contained in 18 articles.
There have been reservations expressed by a number of lawmakers about the constitutionality of several BBL provisions although these have been later doused by the explanations of members of the Citizens Peace Council formed by President Benigno Aquino III to do an independent review of the proposed legislative measure.
The BBL seeks to establish a new autonomous entity named Bangsamoro that will replace and will have far greater powers than the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (Armm).
When enacted and eventually ratified by voters in the affected localities, it is expected to carry out a big portion of the political consensus between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) that was forged throughout 17 years of peace negotiations.
The statement by the legislators also gave strong assurances that they were putting sufficient effort to hammer out a BBL version consistent with popular expectations.
“... We have taken the initiative to carefully and critically study the draft BBL pending in the House of Representatives. We have undertaken thorough discussions beyond formal congressional hearings.... (and) ... devoted time outside the regular working hours of the House in order to come up with amendments to the BBL that are still consistent with the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro,” their statement read.
“This was done together with the consideration of various opinions that seek to refine the current proposal to turn it into one that will sincerely represent the interests of all Filipinos, especially our Moro brothers and sisters,” the group added.
In the past few days, supporters of the BBL have been cranking up efforts to have the measure passed within the remaining legislative time of Congress before it adjourns sine die on June 11.
On Monday, an estimated 6,000 Christian and Muslim peace advocates trooped to the House of Representatives to demand the passage of a BBL containing provisions that are consistent with the spirit of the peace pact forged between the government and the MILF.
Apart from the march in Manila, other forms of solidarity actions were also held in various cities of Mindanao in what is dubbed as a nationwide Citizens Action for the Bangsamoro CAB.
In Cagayan de Oro, Rodriguez’s hometown, Archbishop Antonio Ledesma led local peace activists in demanding for the BBL’s passage while Ateneo de Davao University President Fr. Joel Tabora led a "Boodle for the BBL" in Davao City to signify the multi-sectoral and multi-religious support for the measure.