IN his privileged speech Wednesday afternoon introducing the Basic Law of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region – the replacement for the fatally-flawed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) President BS Aquino 3rd and his elitist accomplices in the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) tried to fob off on the rest of the rest of the nation – Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. made a wry observation:
“For too long,” he said, “Mindanao has been somewhat dubiously referred to as the ‘land of promise.’ Aspirants for national offices, recognizing that in order to win elections on a national scale they must win in Mindanao, have promised the Sun, the Moon, and the stars to its people.”
Marcos explained, “Sometimes those promises are accompanied by short-term largesse, dole-outs of food, minor development projects, medical and social assistance. But these little benefits have never benefited all Mindanaoans equitably, and they do not last. When the votes are counted and the campaign banners come down, the region is forgotten again, its people left to their despair, which leads to hopeless violence and provides fertile ground for those who seek their own gain at the expense of not just the people of Mindanao, but the entire Philippines.”
It was a brilliant, critically important point, and one that we hope is given the prominence it deserves in the debate and deliberations over Marcos’ proposed “substitute” Bangsamoro law.
The long decades of bloody conflict in Mindanao have resulted in the Philippines as a whole being something like a tricycle with only two wheels. The region contains a vast amount of resources, not just mineral resources like gold, nickel, copper, and oil, but also rich fishing grounds, some of the most fertile agricultural land on the planet, and some of the most beautiful scenery in the whole country, which along with the unique cultures in the region – Muslim and non-Muslim alike – is a potential tourism draw rivaling, and we daresay surpassing, anything our more energetic neighbors like Malaysia and Thailand can offer.
Yet because of the seemingly interminable strife, neither the people of Mindanao nor the Philippines as a whole have ever been able to properly enjoy the benefits the region – which includes our stranded province of Sabah – has to offer. It is the bitterest of ironies that the richest part of the Philippines has always been its poorest, and that is not only an unconscionable injustice to the people in the area that will be soon known as the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region, but an embarrassing underachievement on the part of the national leadership.
The Marcos proposal properly addresses these shortcomings where its hastily-contrived and thoughtless predecessor measure did not. It clearly defines the parameters of wealth-sharing between the Bangsamoro region and the rest of the nation, and establishes a sensible framework of administration so the benefits can be maximized. As Senator Marcos said in his speech, “A rising tide lifts all boats.” By creating a system by which the new region can equitably prosper, the entire country will be able to progress.
The Basic Law of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region is perhaps the most important piece of legislation of our time. We urge that it be passed as swiftly as careful consideration and thoughtful discussion of the matter among our Senators and Congressmen will permit.