WITH the submission to the Senate by Sen. Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., Chairman of the Committee on Local Government, of his substitute bill to the Aquino version of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), full deliberation and debate can now proceed on the legislative measure that can best serve the primary objective of achieving peace and development in Mindanao and Sulu
The substitute measure, Senate Bill No. 2894, entitled “An Act Providing for the Basic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region,” effects a change in acronyms from BBL to BAR. But it involves more than just a change in initials. It involves a far more profound and far-reaching change in legislative intent and reach. The substitute bill aspires to be inclusive of all groups, Muslim and non-Muslim, in Mindanao. And it involves them in all aspects of governance. And it embraces the objective of development for the autonomous region.
In his sponsorship speech of the measure, Senator Marcos enumerated eight basic principles that guided him and various senate committees in the writing of the bill.
These principles are:
1. First, the primacy of the Philippine Constitution which every citizen is mandated to obey and defend. This compels the striking down of any provision that is clearly in conflict with the letter and spirit of the constitution.
2. Second, the autonomy of the constituent local government units (LGUS) of the Bangsamoro AutonomousRegion (BAR) as defined in the Local Government Code of 1991, as amended, which should not be diminished. This is aligned with the national policy of decentralization.
3. Third, the principle of checks and balances in all aspects of governance should be strengthened because this is the main reason why the autonomous region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) has failed.
4. Fourth, while substantial funding needs to be pumped into the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region (BAR) for rehabilitation and development purposes, we should not overlook the fact that other regions and LGUs are equally in need of the same funding support. We risk an unequal distribution or allocation, which could potentially sow the seed of discontent among our countrymen.
While we enhance the revenue of BAR, as well as financial grants from the national government, additional funding for development purposes are better left with Congress through the yearly budgeting process.
5. Fifth, the bravery and heroism of our SAF 44 has taught us many lessons, among which is that peace and order in the autonomous region should remain as the primary responsibility of the national government, through the structured Philippine National Police.
6. Sixth, the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region (BAR) is a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural region. Thus, the basic law must be inclusive by ensuring that all groups are represented in all aspects of governance.
7. Seventh, the history of armed struggle of a number of Muslim groups reveals that the struggle to establish a separate and independent state in that portion of Philippine territory remains a concern. It should therefore be clear that the proposed basic law must never be a vehicle for the establishment of an independent state.
8. Eight and finally, the fundamental premise of the organic law is the continuing quest for peace in Muslim Mindanao. But peace cannot be achieved without an effective normalization process
Every argument, every principle, every goal, every factor to be considered should converge around the primary objective of peace.
Senator Marcos put the issue eloquently and persuasively when he said:
“We strive for peace. We must have peace. And we shall have peace. But we will not have peace at the expense of our sovereignty. We will not have peace by surrendering our land at the behest of the leadership of Malaysia, which, while a respected neighbor and valuable regional partner, seeks only to advance its own interests in Mindanao and Sabah at the expense of the people of the Philippines. We cannot have a peace that violates our own supreme law, the constitution. And we certainly will not have peace if it excludes even one of the many groups who have suffered through the long years of conflict and the poverty it has caused.”
Well said, Mr. Senator. This is the voice of our people speaking through you. For this is the peace that our people and our country deserve, and which in God’s good time, they will achieve.