DAVAO Archbishop Emeritus Fernando Capalla, a former president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines and the current chairman of the Bishops-Ulama Forum, said he is still not convinced that there is already an agreement just because the so-called Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro (CAB) has been signed.
The ulama is a body of Muslim scholars recognized for being experts in Islamic sacred law and theology. Some ulama are Islamic clerics.
Speaking at a RadioVeritas 846 interview on Tuesday, Capalla said, “I am not really . . . I keep my fingers crossed . . . I am not really convinced that there is an agreement yet, it is just a proposal that has to go to Congress, and [to a]plebiscite [later]. Ano ang response ng Congress at ng mga tao? [What is Congress and the people’s response?] I think it is not yet time to make a comment on these things. Wait for the right time. It is only a proposal.”
The archbishop’s main aim was to disabuse the minds of those who are trumpeting that “peace has finally arrived” because the CAB was signed in Malacañang last week by negotiators from the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
He told Veritas 846 (Radio Totoo) that the CAB still has to go through a long process.
Capalla urged Filipinos to keep their attention focused on the CAB.
Mindanaoans in particular must watch, observe and be vigilant, he said. They must monitor the next steps taken for the agreement. They must know and understand how this agreement will affect their lives.
He made it clear that the fate of this agreement lies in what the citizens decide.
Capalla stressed that the Bangsamoro Basic Law or mini-Constitution must be subject to the proper constitutional process, contrary to what some allies of President Benigno Aquino 3rd are saying and what the MILF leaders want.
Approval under the Philippine Constitution is not mentioned anywhere in the agreement or the annexes and in the Framework Agreement signed earlier.
“The basic law has to go through the constitutional process. I know that final say is that of the Supreme Court not the Congress. On the ground, there is news that some areas are against this agreement. We have to wait. The people need to be watchful. Both Muslim and Christians have concerns,” Capalla said.
The Bishops-Ulama Forum was founded in 1996. It has been a major venue for exchanges of views between Muslims and Christians since then.
It was not invited for consultations by the Office of the Presidential Assistant on the Peace Process (OPAPP) of President Aquino. But it was consulted by the OPAPP when the President was Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
Plebiscite must be nationwide
In a separate event also on Tuesday, Archbishop Emeritus Oscar V. Cruz, also a former CBCP president, told The Manila Times that he opposes the idea being pushed by the Aquino administration and the MILF that the plebiscite will be held only in those parts of Mindanao that will be included in the proposed Bangsamoro autonomous region-state.
Many Filipinos (including the editors and staff of The Times) have expressed the opinion that any deal with the MILF must be inclusive and the plebiscite must involve all Filipinos.
“All of us Filipino citizens must have a say in what they will do with our nation and our Republic,” Cruz said.
At the Catholic Media Network Forum on Tuesday, Times Publisher/Editor Rene Q. Bas served as a panelist with Archbishop Emeritus Cruz, ProLife Philippines President Eric Manalang, analyst and former Sen. Francisco S. Tatad, leading pro-life lawyer James Imbong and Doctors for Life Director Dr. Rey J. Echavez.