BBL and the Parable of the Good Samaritan PDF Print E-mail
Sunday, 06 December 2015 15:06

The southerner

Rey-Luis Banagudos

Last week, the Armed Forces of the Philippines airlifted a full-size Army battalion newly trained in counter-insurgency from Bicol to Zamboanga City. What new or growing threats have compelled this augmentation of military forces in the Zamboanga peninsula at this time?  Election related violence, or recent clashes with extremist groups said to be affiliated with the ISIS?

Last week, too, more than 20 despairing civil society organizations of Mindanao in a letter of last resort urged the Ombudsman to compel congressmen and senators to observe quorum to enable their plenary deliberation on the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) to proceed in respectful regard to its proponents and stakeholders – and not let their arrogance or fear let it die an unnatural death to besmirch their otherwise sacred halls.

Again last week, too, Institute for Autonomy and Governance executive director Atty. BenedictoBacani in a forum in Zamboanga City cautioned CSOs from clamoring to Congress to pass an undiluted BBL as that raises “false hopes”and “unrealistic expectations” among the Bangsamoros since by his analysis the “politically unpopular” BBL will not be enacted by the present Congress.  But, the Moros are not the only stakeholders as also the CSOs composed of Christians and indigenous peoples have a valid equity in the Mindanao peace. It is bad enough that by the history and nature of national struggles, war is more visceral and real rather than peace being quixotic and transcendent. The spoilers need not rub it in.

The intrinsic character of the history of Mindanao – a land  to be exploited at any cost - has also fostered a perverse contemporary belief among non-Mindanao Filipinos that war is its birthright, that Mindanao will never deserve or be ready for peace.  This also accounts for the ambivalence or cynicism of Congress being beholden to vested interests or patronage politics towards BBL. Jesus warned against  the devil reciting verses from the Bible (nota bene you ISIS, too) – or lawmakers waving the Constitution for that matter.And who will take Mindanao seriously when a native presidential candidate by the name of Rodrigo Duterte is reinforcing that image of Mindanaoans as barbarians by his uncivilized and anarchist remarks and irrationalpolitical clowning?

Bacani blames President Aquino for derailing the BBL out of his tragic Mamasapano operation, which turned the BBL into an “issue of trust” and henceforth the object for long and messy debate in the public arena – right into the next administration after the May elections. The BBL lost out when the President lost his political capital from Mamasapano, Bacani said. But Mamasapano was only a case of bad timing since its poisonous roots – historical misjustice, poverty and religious fundamentalism – had always been there and will continue to fester if nothing as game-changing as the BBL is applied. According to the latest report of the Philippine Statistics Authority, the five poorest towns of the nation are found in central Mindanao, the restive ancestral territory of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

The other week, women community leaders from Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi learned the ropes of peaceful political activism in a 2-day training in Zamboanga City initiated by the MILF.  In the past so many months and unknown to many Filipinos, there is not a week when the MILF was not conducting such social and political mobilization training in many Moro-dominated areas.  This means that the MILF has been laying the groundwork for its transition from years old armed struggle to one that is democratic and peaceful, from the power of the barrel of the gun to the power of the ballots and rule of law no matter how alien that system of law may be to them or their basic ideology. In that light, one might say that MohagherIqbal is the Moro Nelson Mandela.

And so President Aquino is being called upon by history to do a De Klerk – wrest history by its own horns.  His mother Cory wrestled with the Moro problem when in 1987 she personally went to Jolo and engaged NurMisuari. She offered him all of the 22 provinces and cities listed in the Tripoli Agreement, but subject to democratic process being laid down in that year’s being-written Constitution. With his bitter experience with Marcos, Misuari turned Cory down. So Cory went it alone to form the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao – and one of the immediate consequences was the birth of Abu Sayaff.

The BBL may be “politically unpopular”, but PNoy still has enough political capital to turn the tide around.  Moral  courage has stopped many lynching mobs on their tracks before. From the cornfields of Mamasapano, from all the battlefields of Mindanao, the fallen are calling for peace. The President need not worry overmuch:  Mar Roxas and Rodrigo Duterte had their own fates sealed long ago.Not so for the man robbed and lying wounded along the road, until a good Samaritan came along.