It came to me like an epiphany: if you drop the vowels from Babel (as in the tower of Babel), you get BBL.
This has led me to entertain the notion that the Biblical story of the tower of Babel can serve as a cautionary tale for Congress and the nation in discussing and debating the burning issue of the day: the proposed passage of a Bangsamoro basic law for Muslim Mindanao.
The Encyclopedia Britannica succinctly summarizes the story in this manner: “In biblical literature, [the Tower of Babel]denotes the structure built in the land of Shinar (Babylonia) some time after the Deluge. The story of its construction, given in Genesis 11: 1-9, appears to be an attempt to explain the existence of diverse human languages.
“According to Genesis, the Babylonians wanted to make a name for themselves by building a mighty city and a tower ‘with its top in the heavens.’
“God disrupted the work by so confusing the language of the workers that they could no longer understand one another. The tower was never completed and the people were dispersed over the face of the earth.
“The myth may have been inspired by the Babylonian tower temple north of the Marduk temple, which in Babylonia was called Bab-ilu (“Gate of God”), Hebrew form Babel.”
Parallels between Babel and BBL
Now, why do I say this Biblical story should serve as a cautionary tale in the deliberations by the Senate and the House on the Bangsamoro law?
Consider the parallels.
With the BBL project, President Aquino has staked his presidency and his legacy on its realization. He aimed for the heavens in coveting the Nobel peace prize as his reward. His negotiators agreed to almost every demand of the Moro Islamic Liberation front (MILF) in the unbelievable Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) that no self-respecting state and responsible Filipino president could possibly sign.
No issue has divided our people and our country more than the BBL. In Mindanao, there is no support for the BBL, except in the areas controlled by its principal beneficiary, the MILF. In the rest of Mindanao, there is anxiety and fear of the BBL. If the original version of the bill is passed, the legislation would surely be rejected by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional.
The people in Mindanao — Muslims, Christians and lumads — do not understand each other’s position on the issue. There are no less than 13 different Muslim tribes and communities. All together, we have here a veritable babel of tongues.
They have to be unified by their common aspirations for this place they call home.
The BBL is an unworthy temple to worship in. It has been brought down by its delusions and extravagant expectations
When the Mamasapano incident took place on January 25, 2015, there were other casualties besides the 44 SAF commandos and eight other persons who died. Among these other casualties are (1) President Aquino’s envisioned legacy of an enduring peace in the south; (2) Malaysia’s influence in Muslim Mindanao; and (3) the dream of a separate and independent Moro state in Philippine territory.
United Mindanao and credible Bangsamoro
But paradoxically, the BBL project – for all its imperfections, errors and tragic offspring – and by going through the fire, is, in my view, bringing forth a more united Mindanao and a credible Bangsamoro Autonomous Region which Mindanao’s people and the rest of the country can support.
In the Senate, thanks to the work of three committees and the hard work and leadership of Sen. Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., the chamber is poised today to start debates on a substitute measure that, on careful scrutiny, addresses all the issues and concerns in Mindanao, and could open the way forward for a basic autonomy law that most everyone can support.
In the House too, the work of improving on the original BBL has moved forward as the effort to make the law constitutionally compliant has gathered strength.
Only the trio of Mr. Mohagher Iqbal, Ms. Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, and Ms Teresita Quintos-Deles continue to pine for the passage of the original or undiluted BBL.
Even the usually clueless Palace propaganda machine has been reduced to welcoming the substitute measure in the Senate. They see the writing on the wall.
President Aquino himself has not bestirred himself to comment on what is happening.
It is more than likely that Congress and the nation will quickly reach a consensus on what is the proper thing to do about the Bangsamoro idea and the pursuit of peace and development in Mindanao. The hardliners for or against the BBL will go to the sidelines.
Now that there is a concrete and sensible proposal to seriously discuss – in the Marcos proposal for a Bangsamoro Autnomous region (BAR) – our usually laidback senators and congressmen will be roused to do their responsibilities.
The reverse of the biblical Babel
By being inclusive of every stakeholder in Mindanao, the emerging Bangsamoro Autonomous Region (BAR) is doing the reverse of what happened in the biblical story.
In the Bible, the people disintegrated into a Babel of tongues.
In the Philippines and in Mindanao, I dare to forecast that we will see our divided people gathering together to support an autonomous Bangsamoro.
The 16th Congress will pass the law before it adjourns in June 2016. And President Aquino will see a more realistic version of his BBL dream come to life.
And that finally is how it should be. A good law must spring from the desire, striving and genius of the people.