By Alim M. Bandara .
The two versions of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) —Senate Bill 1717 and House Bill 6475 have been met with diverse reactions from different stakeholders in the Bangsamoro core areas and outside alike. For one, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front or MILF wanted to see a BBL that is compliant with the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro or FAB and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro or CAB and other signed agreements. Legislators from both Houses of Congress, on the other hand, want a BBL that is compliant to the 1987 Philippine Constitution, while other sectors want a BBL that is compliant to a Federal Philippines. In the case of the Non-Moro Indigenous Peoples what they want is a BBL with provisions on Indigenous Peoples that are compliant to the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA)—a national law enacted in 1997 in pursuance of the Constitutional provisions for the Indigenous Peoples, as a minimum standard for the recognition, protection and promotion of IP rights and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).
The bottleneck of currently proposed legislation on the BBL is how to make it “compliant” not only to one or two references but to many and different references. This is a big challenge to the Bicameral Conference Committee of the House of Senate and the House of Representatives.
For the Non-Moro IPs, the IP provisions in Senate Bill 1717 and House Bill 6475 reflect the genuine sentiments of the Non-Moro IPs. These are also compliant to the FAB-CAB in the sense that FAB-CAB recognizes IP rights and is more compliant to the 1987 Philippine Constitution and to the international conventions protecting IP rights. After long years of hard work, availing all possible platforms to be heard, engaging in dialogues, to push for the recognition of our rights, and now going into the bicam process, the Non-Moro IPs see the inclusion of key IP rights provisions in both versions as a positive step towards a more inclusive BBL.
However, it does not mean that the struggle is over. There are more things to be done in the Bicameral Conference. The first and foremost task is to articulate the call for the RETENTION of all IP provisions from both the Senate Bill 1717 and House Bill 6475; and second, to use the bicam process as a space for improvements based on the recommendations of the Mindanao Indigenous Peoples Legislative Agenda or MIPLA, the proposals advanced by Loyukan, and the wisdom of the legislators sitting in the Bicameral Conference. Outside of this legislative process, there is the need for a continuing dialogue with the MILF leadership and fellow IP leaders on the ground for the maintenance of good relationships, understanding and mutual support.
We believe that the IP provisions if retained, with more improvements in the Bicameral Conference will do no harm to the BBL.
(To be continued)