The president of the Muslim Bar Association of the Philippines, who is also the chairman of the Bangsa Moro Party (BMP), has challenged the proponents of the Bangsa Moro Basic Law (BBL) to a nationwide television debate.
Firdausi I.Y. Abbas, who holds a doctorate degree from University of the Philippines, and who is the Sultan of Lanao, directed the challenge at the leaders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Supreme Court Associate Justice Marvic Leonen.
Abbas said if Leonen, who was former chairman of the government negotiating panel during the talks with the MILF, refuses to accept the challenge, anybody from the government side will do to represent the affirmative side.
He said the debate will be based on the resolution: The Bangsa Moro Basic Law is the solution to the age-old Moro Problem. The issues Abbas suggested are: the BBL will end the conflict in the south; the BBL will cause a closer relationship between Muslims and Christians; the BBL will usher in economic progress; the BBL will alleviate the economic and social difficulties among the Moros; the BBL will create a stronger bond between the Philippines and Malaysia.
Abbas was captain of the undefeated UP debating team that won the National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP) Graduate Level Debating Tournament in 1968.
Abbas was also named Best Debater in the prestigious UP Open Debates in which his team also emerged as the champion.
He emphasized that the debate will be between the proponents and opponents of the proposed BBL from the Bangsa Moro Party (BMP) and the Muslim Bar Association of the Philippines, which he both heads. The debate could be two on two or one on one using the Oxford-Oregon format of debate where the speakers are given time for their main speeches, interpellation, and rebuttal.
Abbas emphasized that the BBL puts the Bangsa Moro once more at a crossroads. “Such a forum is imperative for transparency and for public information,” he said.
‘The MILF must overcome the position of the Muslim Bar and the BMP that we cannot accept the proposed law as Moros and as Muslims, for this law distorts Bangsa Moro history and is pernicious to Islam,” Abbas pointed out.
“This law is no better than R.A. 9054 which is the enactment of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement between the Philippine government and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) which contains provisions which are culturally erroneous and blasphemous,” he said.
He said the debaters of the negative side could include officers of United Filipino Movement, and may either be lawyers Leonard de Vera or Jose Grapilon, both former presidents of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines.
De Vera was also a prominent UP debater and also once captained the UP debating team.
The Conference of Bangsa Moro Islamic Organizations (CBMIO) that was organized in 1985 and is composed of 58 national Moro organizations, is preparing to host the debate that will be held in Manila.
Officers of the CBMIO will request Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada to sponsor the event.