By Alim M. Bandara .
(Last of two parts)
In fact, the IP provisions will strengthen the BBL and clear its way from both Houses of Congress down to the Non-Moro IP constituents of the future Bangsamoro autonomy, come to the plebiscite for the new law. This early, we can say that the proposed BBL is definitely considered more and an improvement than the Armm law as far as the Non-Moro IP provisions are concerned.
Regarding other provisions of the BBL, the Non-Moro IPs in the core and adjoining areas share the same sentiments with the Bangsamoro that the BBL is a special peace legislation and is recognized as a big step towards the resolution of the Bangsamoro problem including that of the Non-Moro IPs in Mindanao.
Some sectors say that there will be a bloody debate in the Bicameral Conference on the substantive provisions in the BTC version that were deleted or changed in the versions of the Senate and House of Representatives. Therefore, we join the call to the honorable men and women legislators in the Bicameral Conference to pass a BBL that is acceptable to all and one that is not less than or simply equals to the ARMM law. We rely on your wisdom for a genuine inclusive BBL, and inclusive peace.
It is also worth sharing that the leadership of the MILF said in many fora and interviews that “war is not an option” in case both Houses fail to pass an acceptable BBL. This is a positive and appreciated remark from the MILF leadership. But, being in the war zones, the Non-Moro IPs have experienced several bloody encounters between the AFP and revolutionary fighters and the terrorist groups in Mindanao. It is obvious that war is destructive, but if there is any reason for it, the risk of having one is always there. Yes, an accepted BBL is not only to stop the war. There is much poverty and poor governance among other problems in this region. Therefore, a BBL that is accepted by all parties, including the Non-Moro IPs, can transform the revolutionary forces and their communities into peace contingents and forces to eradicate poverty and poor governance in the region. The BBL will open this space and will give chance to all peace-loving citizens to chart their own destiny.
Lastly, many well-wishers and sympathizers of Federalism offered the BBL as the template for Federal Philippines. The MILF leadership is not opposed to the idea provided BBL comes first before federalism. In the same manner, the Non-Moro IPs if ever we wish to change the Presidential form of our government into a Federal system, the Non-Moro Indigenous Peoples are ready to be included as a separate political unit within the Federal State based on the four bundles of rights under the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act. If the BBL is a template for federalism, the more we need to articulate IPRA in the BBL because IPs are not only found in the Bangsamoro core area but scattered throughout the country. For the Teduray and Lambangian in the core area of the Bangsamoro, their customary self-governance within their ancestral domain territory, the “Késéfanang-guwit Timuay” or Timuay Justice and Governance is itself a self-determination and self-governance compliant to Federalism.