By Bernadette E. Tamayo | Journal Online
Senator Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., yesterday afternoon sponsored his substitute bill to the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) and dedicated it to the 44 Special Action Force (SAF) troopers killed at the height of arresting a Malaysian terrorist and Filipino bombmaker in Mamasapano, Maguindanao last January.
Government chief peace negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer and his counterpart in the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Mohagher Iqbal as well as Secretary Ging Deles, head of the Office of the Presidential Assistant on the Peace Process (OPAPP) were seated at the gallery of the Session hall as they were invited to witness Marcos’ sponsorship speech on the BBL.
In his sponsorship speech of Senate No. 2894 entitled “An Act Providing for the Basic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region,” Marcos said that despite the widespread rage and anguish over the Mamasapano tragedy, the widows of the slain SAF 44 and their families chose the path of peace.
“They choose 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,” said Marcos, chairman of the Committee on Local Government, which tackled the Palace-backed BBL.
This is the reason, Marcos said, why he exerted great effort and sought the help of as many people as possible to correct flaws of the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law in crafting the substitute bill meant to achieve lasting peace in Mindanao.
“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,” he said.
He stressed that peace cannot be achieved if it is not an inclusive and all-embracing peace. 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 him, is the participation of Malaysia in the peace talks as facilitator and moderator since “it is not a disinterested party.” 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 our 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 of the BAR as defined in the Local Government Code of 1991, as amended, should not be diminished.
He also said his panel believes that principle of checks and balances in all aspects of governance in BAR should be strengthened because this is the main reason why the ARMM has failed.
While the committee recognized that substantial fund 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 to be the primary responsibility of the national government, through our structured Philippine National Police (PNP).