NOT only the Catholic Bishops are insisting that particular concerns be satisfactorily managed by the dispensation, most likely to ne controlled by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), that will govern the proposed Bangsamoro autonomous region or substate. The substate will be created by the Bangsamoro Basic Law now pending in Congress and by the Filipino people (if the BBL is ratified by two thirds of the electorate in a referendum).
The groups want their specific concerns properly addressed in the BBL and be defended or pursued by the rulers of the proposed Bangsamoro region or subtate.
The Catholic episcopal conference (association of all the bishops of the Church) said the BBL is sure to create more division than unity among Filipinos if Congress passes the law without hearing and attending to the concerns of all stakeholders. The CBCP explicitly defined “all stakeholders” as all the Filipinos” throughout the country—not just Muslim and non-Muslims in Mindanao.
CBCP President and Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas said the 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.” He added that 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 by the lawmakers drafting the Bangsamoro Basic Law, which will serve as the mini-constitution of the new autonomous region or substate.
Perhaps the most urgent calls for protection and representation in the BBL are those being made by the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo and its firm supporters.
At the hearing on Tuesday last of the 75-member ad hoc congressional committee on the BBL, chaired by Mindanaoan Congressman Rufus Rodriguez of Cagayan de Oro, the founder and lead convenor of the Philippine Council for Islam and Democracy Amina Rasul-Bernardo, called on Congress not to ignore the Sabah issue in the law.
The Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo has a new Rajah Muda or crown prince after the recent death of then Crown Prince Agimuddin Kiram. In February 2013, Rajah Muda Agimuddin led a small boatload of armed Sulu and Tawi-Tawi Tausugs to establish their presence in Sabah. This resulted in a stand-off with Malaysian police units.
The new Rajah Mudah is Datu Maharajah Ashdinda Pugdal Kiram. He has declared that as per “the policy of Sultam Esmail Kiram II he will pursue his Sultanate’s rights over Sabah through peaceful means.”
All legal and historical documents show that Sabah is owned by the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo. The Philippine Republic, to whose protection and sovereignty an earlier Sultan of Sulu and North Borneo had ceded Sabah, co-owns the territory.
The chief political adviser, or vizier (wazir) to the Sultanate, former Governor of Tawi-Tawi Almarim Centi Al-Tillah, who is also president of the Islamic Society of the Philippines, through the years has also made strong appeals to Congress to make the government pursue the Sultanate’s and the Philippine Republic’s rights over Sabah.
Even Committee Chairman Rodriguez has urged his fellow lawmakers to heed the call of PCID’s Amina Rasul “to make sure that a huge property like Sabah would not be lost just because we failed to mention it in the Bangsamoro Basic Law. Sabah is part of Sulu.”