We, Muslim and Christian religious and sectoral leaders from various parts of Mindanao, gathered in Cagayan de Oro City on August 29, 2015 to consider the fate of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) currently pending before Congress.
The BBL—one that is meaningful—is a key ingredient of the peace process between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) that aims to give closure to the armed conflict that began in 1968. The decades-long rebellion has claimed the life of at least 120,000 people and led about a million to permanently flee their homes and communities to restart a new life away from strife.
A meaningful BBL is one that includes the spirit of social justice articulated in the Constitution, addresses the historical grievances of Muslims, faithful to the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), and respects the human rights of every one.
Therefore, as advocates of peace, we are hoping that Congress will enact a meaningful BBL. Congress should match the gains already achieved by communities and grassroots peoples in Mindanao in maintaining the peace through the long and arduous years of establishing a civilian-led ceasefire monitoring mechanism and advocacy for peaceful and nonviolent means to resolve the Moro conflict.
We are saddened that prejudice, bias, and deep-seated bigotry still dominate public discourse and opinion-forming about the BBL, to which many legislators pander on in order to advance their interests in electoral politics. This is not healthy for a legislative exercise aimed to shape a new reality for a people and region long mired in conflict and underdevelopment.
The peace process transcends electoral politics. We therefore call on the members of Congress to rise above themselves in the interest of social justice.
We are worried over the persistent delays suffered by the proposed BBL in the legislative mill. We are also concerned that the current versions that came out of the committee-level considerations in the House of Representatives and the Senate do not measure to the minimum requirements for genuine autonomy. Hence, there is growing perception among the Moro communities the government is not serious in making true its commitments enshrined in the CAB.
Among others, the history of the peace process with Moro rebels is littered with examples that act to strengthen this perception: the 1976 Tripoli Agreement of Peace that was not implemented; the 1996 Final Peace Agreement to implement the 1976 agreement but was not thoroughly carried out; the 2008 Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain that was aborted due to legal questions.
We ask Congress to optimize its legislative calendar in an effort to churn out a meaningful BBL, soonest.
We have listened and reflected upon the obtaining dynamics of our communities. We are concerned that a failure to have a meaningful BBL would only favor the interests of traditional politicians and lead to the growth of adherents to extremist approaches and ways.
On our part, we will continue the work of helping foster tolerance for religions and cultures to lessen or take away biases and prejudices. We will reach out to like-minded peace advocates to widen and sustain this long-term effort.
The road towards a peaceful and progressive Mindanao is still long, and probably winding and thorny. Even then, we will continue treading this road for as long as it takes.
We unified on this call on 29 August 2015 at the Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro during the RELIGIOUS LEADERS – LEGISLATORS MEETING hosted by H.E. Archbishop Antonio J. Ledesma, S.J., Convenor – Tulay Kalinaw Mindanaw
The Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro
The Archdiocese of Cotabato
Mindanao Peace Weavers
YMPN, Lanao del Norte
Religious Sisters of Mercy
Friends of Peace
YMPN – MN
Institute for Peace and Development
Catholic – IRD
One People Mindanao
Balulang Muslim Association