IN Pope Francis’ speech in Malacañang, addressing President BS Aquino and the assembled Filipino officials and the ambassadors and other diplomats of foreign countries, he adverted to the Mindanao peace process, saying, “In a particular way, I express my trust that the progress made in bringing peace to the south of the country will result in just solutions in accord with the nation’s founding principles and respectful of the inalienable rights of all, including the indigenous peoples and religious minorities.” Similar expressions of hope for the success of the GPH-MILF peace negotiations were voiced about a week earlier by the Apostolic Nuncio.
Yesterday’s Times carried the story “BBL brings more division than unity – CBCP.” It made some people wonder why the bishops of the Philippine Episcopal conference were contradicting the Pope.
No. The CBCP is not contradicting the Pope at all–but is in fact carrying out his wish.
Our country’s territorial integrity could be put at serious risk, Davao Archbishop Romulo Valles said–if the the Bangsamoro Basic Law, which would serve as the mini-constitution of the separatist and rebellious Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s proposed autonomous Bangsamoro region or substate to supplant the constitutionally created and extant Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM)– “fails to hear the concerns of all stakeholders.”
Archibishop Valles is right. The concerns of everyone in Mindanao affected by the termination of the ARMM and the creation of the Malaysian-style state to be called Bangsamoro (Moro nation or Moro country or Moro state) must be heard and given due consideration.
Bishop Valles said the territorial integrity of the country should be preserved because the BBL is not only for the people of Mindanao but for the entire country.
The CBCP vice president explained that “everybody” must be involved, heard and consulted in the drafting of the proposed BBL law.
“In the end, it would [perhaps, he meant, should] be a BBL that will truly promote peace for everyone,” he said.
CBCP President and Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas supported Bishop Valles’ sentiment. He said there should be an extensive consultation and dialogue with all the stakeholders in drafting the law creating the Bangsamoro autonomous region.
“It [BBL)] will affect the whole country and therefore all people should be heard, all people should be consulted, and all people should study it as part of good citizenship,” Archbishop Villegas said. The minority people in Mindanao and even the indigenous Christians “who are the minority in some provinces” [the Muslim majority provinces]must be listened to as the government drafts the BBL.
“It is very important as Pope Francis told us that the people in the periphery be given a voice. While we want to give self-determination and autonomy to [Filipino Muslims] in the BBL, that self-determination, that autonomy cannot be at the expense of the integrity of the Philippine territory,” he said.
He stressed the need for “extensive dialogue.” He appealed to lawmakers to “please make sure that the marginalized sectors are given a voice and are listened to.” And he warned that the Bangsamoro region or substation must not be created “at the expense of the territorial integrity of the Philippines and there must be no cessation [from]within the Philippine territory,”
The CBCP head pointed out that the Catholic Church only wanted to ensure that the territorial integrity of the Philippines is preserved as mandated by the Philippine Constitution.
He explained that “the process is more important than the results, and that the goal of the law is the promotion of peace and human development” which are core Gospel values.
Archbishop Villegas said the CBCP stand on the BBL was among the matters on the agenda discussed during the CBCP’s 110th Plenary Assembly held the other day.
He said the members of the CBCP have studied the draft of the BBL presented by the Presidential Palace to the Senate and to the House of Representatives for approval. “We we will submit to both houses of Congress the position of the bishops.”