The BBL is alive and well PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 18 February 2016 14:00

The southerner

Rey-Luis Banagudos

In the course of her ongoing campaign for a senatorial seat, Liberal Party candidate Nariman “Ina” Ambolodto has elevated the Mindanao peace process to a national election issue when she pledged to re-file the Congress-defaulted Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) if and when she gets elected to the Senate. Being a Maguindanaoan and an internally displaced person of the Moro conflict when she was very young, she has a personal motive to be passionate about Mindanao peace. But her courage to pick up the cudgels of this controversial – indeed, unpopular – cause bespeaks not only of her correct reading of the way ahead for the BBL but also of the need to sustain its trajectory or momentum as the bill awaits the tender mercies  of the next government administration.

That President Aquino will discuss the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) as legally enshrined in the BBL during the US-ASEAN meeting this week in California, USAagain underscores its  strategic international value and importance, which continues to grow amid escalating security threats.  The President thus refutes the bedazzling excuse spun by some seating senators that the reason why they dragged their feet on the BBL enactment is because it was no more than a legislation of local government application anyway – no more important than creating a national high school in a remote rural barangay.As if peace can waitfor Congress forever.

This is an occasion” – that is, the campaign period – “to prove to naysayers to the peace process that we in Bangsamoro really want an end to the years of war and poverty. This opens the door to the eventual passage in the next Congress of the BBL. If elected, the BBL will be the first measure I will file,” Ambolodto said.

In what form will the proof referred to by senatoriableAmbolodto come? In his California departure speech, President Aquino said: “In our meeting, we will outline concrete steps that we will implement despite the non-passage of the BBL,” by  which he must have meant he will present in the US-ASEAN summit the CAB implementation roadmap lying ahead. Though shot in the foot by Mamasapano, the peace deal will continue to leap forward by force of geopolitical circumstances.

In a special  meeting held by the GPH and MILF panels in Malaysia last February 11-12, the unhappy peace negotiators in a joint communiqué said: “The Parties expressed their disappointment over the non-passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law. They reaffirmed their commitment to the peace process, and to preserve the gains of more than 17 years of negotiations and the implementation of the CAB, believing that it continues to provide a viable roadmap and comprehensive approach towards resolving armed conflict in Mindanao.”

They consequently agreed to renew the respective mandate of the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG) and of the International Monitoring Team until March, 2017 to preserve the ceasefire and to interdict criminality and terrorism that could compromise the cessation of hostilities. Moreover, “The Parties received the Transitional Justice and Reconciliation Commission’s report and thanked its members for their hard work. A discussion on operationalizing the report’s recommendations is ongoing.” Furthermore, they signed the “Terms of Reference for the Joint Task Forces on Camps Transformation” and created “a working group to recommend to the Panels a set of interventions for vulnerable sectors, including widows, orphans, people with disabilities, detainees and their families.” They also agreed to continue the socio-economic rehabilitation of the 145 decommissioned MNLF rebels. The forthcoming creation of the Bangsamoro Development Assistance Fund (BDAF) and the Tripartite Implementation Monitoring Committee (TIMC) with the organic participation of the Organization of Islamic Conference will also involve the tactical collaboration of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in the CAB implementation gameplan.

Going back to and tying up with Ambolodto’s pledge, the peace panels in the communiqué also “agreed that the means forward is the early passage of this legislation in the next Administration and Congress . .. Towards this end, the Parties shall exert further efforts to promote understanding and greater acceptability of the proposed basic law.” Hence, Ambolodto’s need not be a lonely quest. The MILF though it is not fielding candidates under its Comelec-accredited United Bangsamoro Justice Party  can mass-mobilize its constituents to vote only for candidates for whatever position they are running who pledge support – or encourage such support – for the CAB and the BBL. By doing so, the MILF will show to the world that it subscribes to and believes in democracy and its fundamentally-important electoral exercise and thus acquire even more political bargaining leverage that is so indispensable to get a gamechanging BBL passed by the next Congress – or otherwise in another forum of last resort if the Congress will continue to drag their feet of clay.