• CHURCH OFFICIALS DIVIDED OVER BBL

    MILF asks religious leaders to help save peace process

    0

    A senior official of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on Wednesday called on the Catholic Church to help the government unite the people behind efforts to bring peace to Mindanao.

    Ghadzali Jafaar, MILF vice chairman for political affairs, said the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), which is pending in Congress, was a first step to unity and it could make combatants “drop their guns in exchange for shovels, tractors for cannons, fertilizers for bombs and seedlings for bullets.”

    “The BBL is the first step to unite the people of Mindanao to forge a common peace for the sake of progress,” Jafaar said in a news forum at the National Press Club.

    Church officials, however, remain divided over the constitutionality of the BBL amid increasing unhealthy speculations about the fate of the peace roadmap agreed upon by the government and the MILF in wake of the Mamasapano massacre that left 44 Special Action Force (SAF) troops dead.

    The clash of opinions was also expressed on Wednesday by Cotabato Archbishop Orlando Cardinal Quevedo and Fr. Jerome Secillano, executive secretary, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) Permanent Committee on Public Affairs.

    Ongoing offensive
    In Maguindanao and North Cotabato, at least 23 more members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) were killed in clashes with government forces, bringing to 97 the number of bandits killed since the military launched an all-out offensive in the two provinces.

    In a separate encounter with the Justice for Islamic Movement (JIM) tagged by the military as a breakaway group of the BIFF, two Marines were killed and two other soldiers were wounded in Barangay Pusao, Shariff Saydona Mustapha, said Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc, chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Public Affairs Office.

    The JIM led by one Mohhamad Ali Tambako was said to be the group protecting Filipino bomb-maker Abdul Basit Usman and five international terrorists. Both clashes, Cabunoc said, took place in Maguindanao.

    Catholic principles
    In defending the BBL, Quevedo said the proposed law is constitutional and is even inspired by Catholic moral principles and Christian values.

    In a pastoral letter, the Mindanao-based prelate argued that contrary to the opinion of critics, the BBL would not pave the way for disintegration of the Republic because under the proposed law, Bangsamoro self-determination is only within a limited territory that would remain under the control of the central government.

    “The overall principle that governs the BBL is the Catholic moral and social principle of subsidiarity, a principle already enshrined in our own Constitution,” he said.

    “The principle requires the intervention of the national government and its various entities when the common good of all requires it. Therefore, no entity of the Bangsamoro government, such as a Bangsamoro auditing department or police force, is absolutely independent of their national counterparts,” Quevedo added.

    But Secillano did not buy Quevedo’s argument, saying the BBL has many loopholes, pointing to provisions on self-rule and loose financial management.

    Secillano expressed apprehension that if these provisions were left as is by Congress, it could sooner lead to the secession of Mindanao from the Republic.

    “To make it appear that the powers of the central government are not compromised and the right to self-rule of the Bangsamoro is not jeopardized, the draft BBL came up with the words ‘coordination and cooperation’ on matters that may potentially undermine both,” he said.

    “The problem is the extent of coordination and cooperation is not clearly spelled out, hence, there’s a difficulty in determining what really ought to be done and what shouldn’t be,” Secillano added.

    “After reading the draft though, I got the impression that the Bangsamoro’s right to self-rule seems to be favored, with the central government maybe consciously and slowly allowing the island of Mindanao to slip from its grip,” he noted.

    Congress has given itself until June or after lawmakers return from the Holy Week break to pass the draft law.

    The BBL’s enactment into law would pave the way fo the establishment of a new autonomous region that would replace the existing Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao or ARMM.

    Just like in the ARMM, the central government guarantees the flow of funds to the new autonomous region amounting to billions of pesos on top of the region’s revenues from its own taxes, business fees, ports’ collections, mining fees and the cultivation of natural resources, among others.

    But Secillano said how the billions of pesos of funds would be managed by the Bangsamoro government is something that is yet to be clarified.

    He expressed alarm over how the MILF would treat other armed groups in the South such as the BIFF, JIM, Moro National Liberation Front and Abu Sayyaf.

    Protracted war
    Jaafar, meanwhile, noted that hundreds of thousands of people have been killed in Mindanao in “a protracted war” that has been going on for decades. The fighting has been traced to the struggle of Muslim Filipinos for autonomy, he said.

    “Muslims and Christians have lived together in peace in the towns and cities, but a secessionist war has sputtered off and on in the past several years. The latest attempt to end the fighting resulted in a peace agreement that opened the way for passage of the BBL,” according to the MILF official.

    Jafaar, a widely respected figure among Muslim leaders, said the peace agreement and BBL offered an opportunity to end the war, which “only brought anger and hatred among the people.”

    “This is the time to stop firing our guns and start treating one another as equals and brothers,” he added. “It is time to stop seeking revenge and start choosing to forgive the ones, who caused us losses and sufferings.”

    Jafaar said the peace that Filipinos are craving was “hanging in the air” and the delay in the passage of BBL would “kill real progress that the whole country is entitled to.”

    “Why don’t we just start acting as one people and deliberately plan to utilize and maximize the great natural resources that Mindanao is offering?” he asked.

    WITH a REPORT FROM FERNAN MARASIGAN

    Share.
    loading...
    Loading...

    Please follow our commenting guidelines.

    Comments are closed.