By Ernie Reyes | InterAksyon
Saying a country without heroes is a country without soul, Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., on Wednesday dedicated the substitute bill to the Palace-drafted Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) to the fallen 44 Special Action Force (SAF) members and their families, with a wish their sacrifice would result in peace in Mindanao.
In his 12-page sponsorship speech on Senate Bill No. 2894 entitled “An Act Providing for the Basic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region,” the chairman of the Senate committee on local government said that despite the widespread rage and anguish over the Jan. 25 Mamasapano tragedy, the widows of the slain SAF 44 and their families chose the path of peace.
“They chose the path of peace. And so shall we. Our heroes died for peace, and we honor them because a country without heroes is a country without a soul,” Marcos said.
However, Marcos said "peace cannot be achieved and cannot be sustained if it is not inclusive.”
“All embracing peace cannot only be for the benefit of Muslims or Christians, or only for the MILF, or the MNLF, or the BIFF. Peace must embrace all faiths and all peoples, peace must reflect and uplift all culture and beliefs. Peace is not and cannot be exclusive; it is inclusive,” Marcos said.
Marcos said that after the tragedy of Mamasapano, the desire for vengeance could reduce even the peace-minded.
“And sadly, in our midst even today, there are those who insist that total war against the MILF and other rebellious movements is the real solution,” Marcos said.
“That is wrong but understandable,” he added.
This is the reason, Marcos said, he exerted great effort and sought the help of as many people as possible to correct flaws of the draft BBL in crafting the substitute bill meant to achieve lasting peace in Mindanao.
Honor heroes by finishing task
“Our heroes are best honored with deeds, not words, and there can be no greater honor than to finish the task for which they gave their lives, because in honoring our heroes, we honor the Philippines, and all its diverse people,” said Marcos.
Unfortunately, Marcos said the government’s peace agreement where the proposed autonomy for Bangsamoro people is based generated fears and suspicion when government negotiators dealt solely with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) - to the exclusion of other stakeholders.
What made matters worse, according to Marcos, is the participation of Malaysia in the peace talks as facilitator and moderator even though “it is not a disinterested party”. It was a reference to Malaysia's continuing possession of the resource-rich Sabah claimed by the Sulu sultanate, and its past links to earlier insurgent groups.
Marcos said his version of the basic law for the Bangsamoro autonomous region protects our national interest and reserves to the national government its powers enshrined under our constitution.
“The basic law addresses the first and most important prerequisite to peace – the definitive end to armed conflict – by providing an efficient, verifiable program of disarmament and demobilization, overseen by an independent monitoring body, and providing the needed financial and social assistance to former fighters to become peaceful and productive members of society,” he added.
At the same time, Marcos said his version of the bill fulfills, to the extent that the constitution and national sovereignty can allow, the desires of the Bangsamoro people for meaningful autonomy.
Marcos said his committee adhered to several basic principles in crafting the substitute measure. First among these basic principles is the primacy of the constitution.
He said that since every citizen is mandated to obey and defend the constitution this compelled the committee to “strike down any provision that is clearly in conflict with its letter and spirit”.
Likewise, Marcos said his committee believed that the autonomy of the constituent local government units in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region (BAR) as defined in the local government code of 1991, as amended, should not be diminished.
In addition, Marcos said his panel believed that principle of checks and balances in all aspects of governance in the BAR should be strengthened because this is the main reason the ARMM has failed.
While the committee recognized that substantial funds need to be pumped in to the BAR for rehabilitation and development purposes, Marcos said they acknowledged too that other regions and local government units are equally in need of the same funding support.
Marcos said another important principle, based on the lessons learned through the heroism of the SAF 44, is that peace and order in the autonomous region should remain the primary responsibility of the national government, through a structured Philippine National Police.
Since the BAR is a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural region, the committee believed that the basic law governing it must be inclusive by ensuring that all groups are represented in all aspects of governance.
Marcos said the committee also deemed it essential, given the history of secessionist-armed struggle in Mindanao, that the proposed basic law will never be a vehicle for the establishment of an independent state.
Last among these important guiding principles, according to Marcos, is that peace in Muslim Mindanao cannot be achieved without an effective normalization process.
He said peace and development are as much primary objectives of the proposed measure as the enhanced autonomy for Muslim Mindanao being granted to the people of the new autonomous region.
According to Marcos, the normalization process under SB 2894 follows the United Nations principles of “DDR”---or disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration---to attune and peg the milestones of the normalization efforts to internationally acceptable standards.
An integral component of the normalization process, Marcos said, is the decommissioning of forces.
Under SB 2894 decommissioning shall continue to be implemented and supervised by the independent decommissioning body, but with enhanced functions and auxiliary support from government.