THE Peace Council created by President BS Aquino, which some critics have called a desperate move by the de facto president to gather a respectable people to bat for the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (which looks like something dead in the water now), does not look to us like a dummy organization.
Among the many convenors of the Peace Council are Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, former ambassador Howard Dee, former Supreme Court Chief Justice Hilario Davide and CBCP President Archbishop Socrates Villegas. These are not people who will not swallow whatever unconstitutional tripe Mr. Aquino, OPAPP Sec. Teresita Deles and Chief Negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer will ask them to approve without studying every line of the proposed law.
The Peace Council held their first meeting on April 6, 2015. The convenors’ speeches seemed to show that they were not at all in favor of passing the BBL in its original version.
Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, in his overview, emphasized that theirs is an independent body committed to help the general public understand what is at stake in the BBL, identify contentious issues, and help find a path towards reconciling divergent views.
What makes us think the Peace Council will not be an Aquino rubber stamp are the words some of the convenors said at the House hearing on the BBL bill yesterday.
More than those words spoken yesterday, Archbishop Villegas we know will not betray himself and Pope Francis. He will not go along with the provisions of the original BBL bill written by the MILF and with a few alterations Mr. Aquino personally brought to the House with a message to the congressman to pass it fast.
Archbishop Soc Villegas has more than once called on “the Philippine government not to silence or ignore those groups in Mindanao that claim they were brushed aside from the deals leading to the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), saying such a move will not help forge peace in the region.” (This is as reported by CBCP News.)
“The sectors that claim they were not included in the deals leading to the BBL [Bangsamoro Basic Law] should not be silenced. Neither should they be ignored. I refer in particular to the MNLF [Moro National Liberation Front] and to indigenous cultural communities, as well as to Christian communities in Mindanao. No agreement that is perceived to be favorable to one sector alone will ever bring the sought-after peace for Mindanao,” the CBCP President Archbishop Socrates B. Villegas said in a pastoral letter dated April 9.
Archbishop Villegas reminded the flock that the armed BIFF, MILF, Abu Sayaff and other groups are still dangerous. “They have given the nation concrete demonstration of the trouble they can cause. Shall we negotiate with them later and hammer another deal? While the MILF has promised to keep them in check, it has also been relevantly pointed out that relatives, though belonging to different organizations and associations, will not so easily restrain each other!” he said.
He also expressed worries about those institutions in Mindanao that have been left out in the government talks with the MILF. He specifically mentioned the Mindanao sultanates, which were left out of the negotiations.
He noted that some BBL advocates invoke historical arguments to back their claims for the creation of the Bangsamoro, but he says “arguments from history are always tricky.”
“In fact, international law has rejected this approach altogether by the doctrine of uti possidetis…in respect to the drawing of boundaries, they stay as they are found,” he said.
“Appealing to history in respect to claims of political power and autonomy will only confound issues more. Once upon a time, Soliman ruled over Muslim Manila. That piece of history is certainly no sound argument for Shari’a in Manila. I am not against Shari’a. I am only saying that some arguments are helpful, others are only distracting!”
Earlier than April 9, when Pope Francis had just left Manila in January, Archbishop Villegas said the CBCP’s “derogation of the pending BBL accords with Pope’s words.”
Pope Francis had said: “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.”