COTABATO City–Don’t get me wrong. I am as excited as many Mindanawons about federalism. Our excitement, however, should not distract us from the equally important, if not the most important question, that needs to be settled now: the Bangsamoro Question. Let me outline the reasons.
It is important to honor peace agreements. The last thing we want to see is the complete annihilation of the belief among Moros that there can be no peaceful political settlement of the Bangsamoro Question. The Philippines’ long history of not honoring peace agreements, from Tripoli to Jakarta to Kuala Lumpur, must finally end.
The shift to federalism would definitely take time given the stringent requirements for constitutional revision. In the meantime, something concrete must be done in the immediate now to allow the political transition of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) from armed struggle to a peaceful democratic struggle. The only framework to facilitate that is the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).
The decommissioning of MILF weapons is conditioned on the passage of the BBL. I don’t think any of us would want to transition into federalism and thus decentralization with the MILF still holding substantial number of high-powered weapons.
It is best not to obstruct the peaceful transition of the MILF through the passage of the BBL where they can be confident to move towards political participation and the further democratization in the Bangsamoro with the setting up of the Bangsamoro government through the passage of the BBL.
The sooner we settle the Bangsamoro Question, the quicker and more effectively we address the inroads of violent extremism in the country. The longer we hold off the settlement of the Question, the more we aid the extremist in their argument that there is indeed no other way of settling the issue except through the waging of violent war in Mindanao.
We should not deprive ourselves of the valuable lessons and insights that we can potentially get from the more contained experiment on greater decentralization through the passage of the BBL before we embark on a larger national project for federalism.
So, the next time you are asked on why a BBL, you should readily respond, “Why not?”
(Lawyer Naguib Sinarimbo of the Bangsamoro Study Group (BSG) is a member of the GPH-MILF Joint Normalization Committee and part of the technical team of the MILF peace panel that negotiated the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro. -Mindanews)