More than the MILF leaders (Mohagher Iqbal and Murad Ebrahim) and more than our addled peace negotiators Teresita Deles and Miriam Ferrer, there are 30 members of Congress who will deserve the title and credit as “the founding fathers/mothers (parents?) of the Bangsamoro state”, if it becomes law.
These are the13 senators and 17 representatives who are boldly standing as sponsors of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) in the 16th Congress.
It’s fitting that their names should be engraved in stone, so Filipino schoolchildren can easily commit them to memory and transmit their achievement/infamy to posterity.
In the interest of disclosure, I am listing the 30 in this column:
Senate sponsors of the BBL
1. Franklin Drilon, Senate president
2. Ralph Recto, president pro tempore
3. Alan Peter Cayetano, majority leader
4. Vicente Sotto, deputy minority leader
5. Teofisto Guingona
6. Nancy Binay,
7. Joseph Victor Ejercito
8. Gregorio Honasan,
9. Loren Legarda
10. Francis Escudero
11. Paolo Benigno Aquino 4th,
12. Juan Edgardo Angara
13. Pia Cayetano
House sponsors of the BBL
1. Feliciano Belmonte, Jr., Speaker
2. Neptali Gonzalez III , Majority leader
3. Henedina Abad, Batanes, Batanes
4. Giorgidi Aggabao, Isabela
5. Sergio Apostol, Leyte
6. Roberto Puno, Antipolo city
7. Pangalian Balindong, Lanao del Sur
8. Carlos Padilla, Nueva Vizcaya
9. Mel Senen Sarmiento, Western Samar
10. Enrique Cojuangco, Tarlac
11. Mark Leandro Mendoza, Batangas
12. Eleandro F. Madrona, Romblon
13. Elpidio Barzaga, Jr., Cavite
14. Antonio Lagdameo Jr., Davao del Norte
15. Rolando Andaya, Jr., Camarines Sur
16. Nicanor Briones, party list
17. Raymond Democrito Mendoza, party list
The stances of the 30 could change when the heat is turned on and the debates commence. But these 30 will go down into the records as the original authors, no matter how much the original bill is revised. Like paternity, it is not easy to take back responsibility for a piece of legislation. Your DNA is plastered on the thing.
Many will make up their own minds
By order of President Aquino, all the officers of the two chambers agreed to sign on as sponsors of the bill. He thought it was time to collect for all the pork and DAP he has given away.
Only the House Minority leader, Ronaldo Zamora, escaped conscription. But now, he could be unseated because he enjoys the post only because of the help of Belmonte, who got some members of the majority to vote for him. The real opposition in the chamber, which opposes the BBL, may see an opening here to unseat Zamora.
In the Senate, members of the minority surprisingly joined the chorus. The real opposition like, Senatores Enrile, Estrada and Revilla, are still in detention.
Surprisingly, the name of rabid Aquino ally, Sen Antonio Trillanes, is notably missing. He is terrified by what his brothers in the military will think if he is a sponsor.
When the bill was first transmitted to congress by the President, Senate President Drilon took only two days to determine and conclude that the legislation had broad support in the Senate, which shows that “peace knows no political color.”
Speaker Belmonte was even more confident about the House voting for the measure, given the power of pork and DAP to persuade.
Even so, support for the BBL in Congress is far from settled. Many senators and congressmen profess that Belmonte and Drilon should not presume to speak for them. They will make up their own minds on the measure.
The proposed legislation is certain to undergo thorough scrutiny and debate. The committees leading the BBL hearings – one chaired by Bongbong Marcos in the Senate, and the other by Rufus Rodriguez in the House — have pledged to hear arguments and testimony from both legislative proponents and the public.
The biggest hurdles
There are many hurdles that the BBL must pass to (1) clear Congress, and (2) to have a chance in the Supreme Court, where any Bangsamoro law is certain to be challenged.
These hurdles come in the form of questions:
1. Why did the Aquino government talk to only the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in its avowed program to settle the secessionist conflict and bring peace and stability to Mindanao? Why were the other Muslim tribal communities excluded from the negotiation?
Why were Christians and Lumads in Mindanao excluded from the negotiations and discussions, when any agreement reached would surely affect them also?
2.Can congress pass a law creating a Bangsamoro state, which gives it its own territory out of Philippine territory, its own armed and police forces, and its own parliament and administrative machinery? Can this be done without amending the Constitution first?
Under President Arroyo, we have already had the sour experience of seeing a peace agreement voided by the High Court because it posited the idea of an ancestral domain for Filipino Muslims within Philippine territory.
3. Why does the proposed BBL virtually guarantee that the MILF will run the proposed substate? This appears to be the key reason why the other Muslim groups were excluded from the negotiations.
4. Why does the proposed law call for the dissolution of the already existing Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), which exists because of an express provision of the Constitution and a peace agreement forged in 1996 between the government of P:resident Fidel V. Ramos and the Moro National liberation Front (MNLF)?
A time for statesmanship
In tackling these great questions about the BBL, the nation needs from our legislators not just their usual sagacity in looking after themselves. They need to supply a measure of statesmanship, which they have been rarely asked to do.
Legislators are wary of the term “statesman” and are more comfortable with the more ornery term “politician.”
As was once memorably said, to call a man a statesman is eulogy; to call him a politician, while disparaging, is more realistic.
Walter Lippmann has provided the most persuasive characterization of statesmanship on record.
He wrote in his book, A Preface to Morals:
”The chief element in the art of statesmanship under modern conditions is the ability to elucidate the confused and clamorous interests which converge upon the seat of government. It is an ability to penetrate from the naïve self-interest of each group to its permanent and real interest….
“A statesman’s hold on the people is enduring because he promises nothing which he cannot achieve; he proposes nothing which turns out to be a fake. Sooner or later, the politician, because he deals in unrealities, is found out. He [must then]cease to meddle with the destinies of men.”
The coming deliberations and debates on the Bangsamoro will separate the politicians from the statesmen; the boys from the men.
On such issues of great moment, men like Recto, Laurel, Diokno and Manglapus distinguished themselves and made their name during their time.
Those who did not are deservedly forgotten.
Citizens should monitor whether their representatives and senators are doing justice to our real and permanent interests as a people and nation.