THE arrogance with which President B.S. Aquino 3rd’s allies in the House of Representatives handled the debate and hasty approval of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) on Monday did not really come as a surprise, but was nonetheless appalling for its breathtaking depravity.
No fewer than 14 amendments meant to correct the glaring constitutional infirmities in the BBL were summarily rejected by the ad hoc committee dominated the Aquino administration. And to add insult to injury, the draft selected for transmission to the full House plenary for a vote was not the one that resulted from several months’ of review by congressional staffers and a variety of outside experts, but a new draft of the BBL virtually identical to the original, and provided to the congressional committee by Malacañang over the weekend.
The mood of the public, nearly three-fourths of whom—if not more—are decidedly against passage of the BBL and the creation of a Moro substate, seems to be turning darker with each day our stubborn President shoves this manifestation of his twisted concept of “peace” in Mindanao farther down the nation’s throat. President Aquino has said on numerous occasions that not passing the BBL will lead to greater violence; we now fear that may be the tragically ironic result of his persistence.
But the ball, as they say, is now in the Legislature’s court. Whatever political arm-twisting or other influence Aquino may have exerted to ensure passage of the BBL, the onus is on the members of the House and Senate to do the right thing. The right thing, of course, is to either reject the BBL as presented, and call for a fairer, more inclusive peace agreement and enabling law, or to revise the BBL to whatever degree is necessary to make it fairer, more inclusive, and compliant with the laws of the Republic of the Philippines.
Aquino’s single-minded determination to produce what to his mind would be a “lasting” achievement before his term ends next year is a personal, petty quest, but the greater shame should be heaped on the congressmen who not only seem willing but eager to help him fulfill it, no matter what the costs to the country they supposedly serve. And what’s more, the eagerness to wash their hands of the matter – one ad hoc committee member pointed out that the BBL still has to pass a House plenary vote, the several steps of the legislative process in the Senate, and then an inevitable Supreme Court challenge – reveals that our representatives are wholly unconcerned with the implications of their actions.
There must be peace in Mindanao. We here at The Times, as well as virtually everyone who has publicly expressed their opposition to the BBL have consistently made it clear that opposition is precisely because the ultimate goal is peace, not in spite of it. Our elected representatives have gravely disappointed us with their betrayal of the entire nation, and particularly the people of Mindanao who have a right to an inclusive peace.
We fervently hope that there are still enough among the full House of Representatives and the Senate with a sense of duty and personal ethics to find the courage to stand up to the President’s bullying and put a stop to the BBL madness. It is a hope, however, that is sadly becoming more desperate by the day.