The Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) will return to the arena of public debate front and center when the Lower House resumes its plenary deliberations and Senate as expected will start its own all by this week.
The bill’s sponsors led by Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez are optimistic it will gain final House approval within their just-opened 3rd and final session. However, there is palpable lack of a sense of urgency on the part of House speaker Sonny Belmonte and Senate president Franklin Drilon based on their recent statements. Moreover, the current delay in the submission by Sen. Marcos of his local government committee’s version of the BBL to the Senate president will further set back Senate’s plenary work on the bill.
Sen. Marcos has been displaying a recalcitrant if not hostile stand towards BBL despite his media double-speaking about it, indulged by at least two of his young co-senators. Presidential Peace Adviser Teresita Deles in her address to some 50 Mindanao and Manila journalists attending the 2-day “Beyond Mamasapano: Reporting the Bangsamoro Peace Process” consultative conference in Cotabato City two weekends ago said BBL has fallen into the clutches of congressional politicking and, hence, she no longer knows when the high-priority bill will be passed.
In the same meeting with the press, Cotabato archbishop Cardinal Orlando Quevedo likened the journalists’ work to the Christian vocation of building the “kingdom of God” as they go about accomplishing their daily earthly life and its chores. “I believe that you, dear media practitioners, have more than a profession”, he said. “You have a vocation. You are agents for the communication of truth, justice, peace and love. These are the truly human values that serve as the pillars of society. You communicate to others the fundamental values of God’s Reign.” In effect, the envisioned Bangsamoro society to be built through BBL, or is already being built under the interim Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), is an inseparable part of God’s reign – God’s kingdom being eternally created here on earth. It is a universal (i.e., catholic) reality not to be discriminated apart or demarcated by geography, religion, politics, race or other compartmentalizations, and instead actualized by and rejoiced in the pursuit of those values of love, justice, truth and peace. This is the moral challenge of Cardinal Quevedo to journalists, that by telling the truth in their news reports and commentaries they precipitate God’s rain to fall on the just and unjust alike.
On the second day of the post-Mamasapano media re-orientation, Cardinal Quevedo moderated a dialogue between them and MILF chief Al-Haj Murad Ebrahim in the latter’s Camp Darapanan. With his favorite grand-daughter sitting on his lap, Murad expressed anew his hope that Congress will pass the BBL in a version that shall be faithful to the CAB’s letter and spirit, and during the remaining months of President Aquino’s term. As it is, though, the BBL is facing serious hurdles in Congress. For any number of reasons, this 16th Congress may already be floundering and lost in the vastness of the BBL sea. Either way, President Aquino has a tough but not impossible job to steer them back to the port of destination, the destiny of Mindanao, while he still holds the helms of government.