A Moro ‘homeland’ is now a done deal

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Marlen V. Ronquillo

IN late 2015 and early 2016, the mood had soured on the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL). Read the newspaper archives and you would get the sense that the early hopes for the BBL’s passage had been dashed. Congress had literally archived the draft BBL and no one was complaining.

Former President Benigno Aquino 3rd’s draft BBL, for all its good intentions, raised all the issues on constitutional overlap. Or, rather, raised infringement issues. Was not the BBL usurping on the republic’s sacred concepts on territorial integrity? Was not the BBL creating a republic within a republic, to be established with all the demarcation lines blurred? Were not its awesome powers an assault on the institutions of the Republic?

Of course, the funding issue was another source of unease among the legislators. Where will we get all the money to fund the cost of that regional experiment? Regular congressmen had districts to protect. Party-list reps had sectors to protect. And both party-list and regular legislators, as a matter of practice, guard the national budget as if their districts and sectors owned it.

There was a bigger reason. And, as usual, it was the mood of Congress members at the time, their view of Mr. Aquino as a leader in particular. By that time, Mr. Aquino, despite the numerical majority of his LP and those allied with the LP, was more of a has-been. (His supermajority simply did not function as a supermajority.) His wont to veto token legislation on social amelioration – on the unfounded ground that the token draft laws would bust his beloved budget once signed into law – had turned off many legislators, including his allies.


The moral ascendancy to push Congress into rushing, not stalling, the BBL action, had been lost. And those congressmen and senators with a real feel of politics knew that Mr. Aquino’s chosen presidential candidate would not win the May elections. The truth is, that was the biggest factor that gave the members of the two chambers the option to stall and delay action on Mr. Aquino’s BBL.

So what has changed this year? What will make the a BBL draft law sail easily through both chambers of Congress, after the routine Malacañang endorsement?

Plenty. And Mr. Duterte’s working supermajority is just one component of the environment that favors the speedy passage of the BBL draft law.

The biggest and most compelling incentive to pass the BBL? Here they are: IS, Maute, Hapilon.

Both chambers of Congress are terrified to the core of any development that will make them give up their entitlement, the perks and the occasional pork, the special plate numbers, the power they have over 100 percent of issues that cover public policy – or even private matters that infringe into the arena of public policy.

Not to mention their subpoena powers, the right to engage in useful or senseless inquisition, the right to detain people and the almost inquisitorial powers possessed by every member.

A hypothetical victory of the IS affiliates will do more than end all these perks and privileges. Society as we know it, liberal democracy and its institutions as we know them, the basic freedoms as we practice them, will all be gone.

The law will be some bearded imam directing gun-wielding young men and women clad in all sorts of Middle Eastern artifices but violent and unreasoning to the core.

In that society that the IS will build, the Taliban regime of the fundamentalists that displayed ruthless and routine violence will be Mother Teresa by comparison. The current crop of women legislators, or any woman for that matter, will have less value than stray dogs. The current male legislators, by virtue of their participation in a ritual of democracy, will probably be hanged or meted death by musketry. Good if they are not beheaded outright.

Even without the presidential endorsement of the BBL as an urgent and priority measure, both chambers will rush to pass it with minor amendments.

Given the environment under which Congress will deliberate on the latest and updated BBL draft, there will be a law – and full implementation of that law – in the three years max promised by DU30.

BBL. Or IS? With those choices, we can only see the rush to pass the draft of the updated BBL. All the previous questions about infringements and overlap would disappear.

On the funding side, multiple countries and multilateral institutions will support the creation of a so-called Moro homeland with soft loans and unencumbered grants. The ODA flows will be spectacular and sustained. A pocket of IS-controlled land will scare the daylights out of our current international allies and the allies that are being cultivated by DU30.

The only question that remains once DU30 passes on the certified measure to Congress is this: Will there be credible leaders that will run, with all integrity and dedication, the Moro homeland’s ship of state. Will the old factionalism disappear in favor of building an autonomous society that will be noble and just enough to contain the IS affiliates?

There has been a clear leadership void in the region and the rise of the Hapilons and the Mautes is Exhibit A of that.

You see, Congress can enact the enabling legislation. But it can’t help the region elevate the good and dedicated leaders to the positions of administrators and regional legislators and civil servants.

The Moro homeland will have to get the best leaders it deserves.

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