“Is the Proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law the Answer to Long-Lasting Peace in Mindanao?” Sen. Bongbong’s Speech at the University of Caloocan City Political Science Forum

Maraming salamat sa pagkumbida ninyo sa inyong lingkod, upang makasama kayo rito sa inyong Political Science Week dito sa ating mahal na University of Caloocan City.

For this morning’s forum, you ask me: “Is the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) the answer to long-lasting peace in Mindanao?

As any intelligent and diligent student would address a rather complex question:

“Sir, I would have to qualify my answer!”

If it is to pass a Bangsamoro Basic Law that shall govern our brothers and sisters in Muslim Mindanao, then YES, it is.

But if it refers to the Bangsamoro Basic Law in the exact shape and form as proposed by the Government, and as borne out of the negotiations between our Government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), then, NO.

Why do I say that?

YES, because the Bangsamoro Basic Law, which is presented to Congress, stems from a new yearning for change and a new expression of the will of our Muslim brothers and sisters, and agreed to by our Government in our nation’s contined quest for peace, order, stability in Muslim Mindanao.

In fact, this particular draft law is the result of almost fifteen (15) years of negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Late-1990s pa lamang, nagsimula na ang mga usapin na ito. At sa bawat hakbang, naghayag ang ating pamahalaan ng kanyang buong suporta upang ito ay matuloy at magbunga.

Baka itong bagong mungkahi na ito—ang BBL—kapag maisasabatas, ay ating hinihintay na permanente at pangmatagalan na solusyon sa suliranin ng ugnayan sa pagitan ng ating pamahalaan at ng ating mga kapatid sa Muslim Mindanao. Kaya naman todo-suporta ako sa mga pagdinig sa panukalang ito, na akin pang dinala at pinaabot hanggang sa Cotabato City, sa Marawi City, at sa Tawi-Tawi.

On the other hand, NO, especially, if Congress will be made to accept hook, line and sinker the draft of the BBL, as exactly proposed and presented to Congress by the Executive Department. Ito ay dahil sa mula sa ating mga naging pagdinig sa Kongreso, may mga naisiwalat at nakita tayong mga bahagi ng panukalang batas na maaaring sumalungat sa ating Saligang Batas.

And as we learned from our basic Political Science 101, the Constitution is the fundamental law of our land. It is the primordial and foremost law of our nation, being the symbolic product of the sovereign will of the Filipino people, and to which the enactments from the Legislative Department and the Executive Department should be subordinated. Kapag ang anumang batas na nagmumula sa ating Legislative Branch o sa Executive Branch ang mapapatunayan na kumokontra o sumasalungat sa ating Saligang Batas, hindi mag-aatubili ang ating Supreme Court na ipawalang-bisa ito at tratuhing “NULL AND VOID”.

Ngayon, hindi naman pupuwede na magsa-walang-bahala lamang ang Kongreso sa pagsasabatas ng panukalang ito. May responsibilidad din ang Kongreso sa taumbayan sa ilalim ng ating Saligang Batas, lalo na kung may makikita tayong mga bahagi na maaaring maging labag sa Saligang Batas.

Maging sa mga naging pagdinig sa Senado na pinamunuan ni Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago—ang aming resident constitutional law expert sa Senado—lumabas din ang mga partikular na kontrobersyal na detalye ng panukala.

For example, legal issues such as whether the Bangsamoro is a “sub-state” or “state within a state”, the ministerial form of its government, the relation and the balance of power between the Central Government and the Bangsamoro Government, its territory and the coverage of the term “Bangsamoro people”, the seeming variance with our usual concept of a local government unit, among others, have all been put on the table and have been the subject of contentious discussions.

The Congress is as much a bulwark of the rule of law and constitutional supremacy in our beloved country, in the same way that the Supreme Court always loftily claims that it is. We, the people’s elected representatives in Congress, in the course of our official and private duties, have also sworn to uphold the Constitution and all the other laws of our land.

So, as regards our role in Congress, we are not to deliberate on the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law simply to give our thumbs-up or thumb-down, as if we were a mere rubberstamp. We are also not in a position to decide with finality on its legal or constitutional merits—that is for the Supreme Court to do. We are here to study and evaluate the proposal, and to exert all efforts to adopt and make it as our own, as the constitutionally mandated law-making body, and ultimately produce a national legislation beneficial for the entire Filipino people.

The most immediate challenge to Congress is to be able to find justifications under the Constitution that can warmly and perfectly receive and accommodate the institutional changes in our government system contained in the Bangsamoro bill.

We want to ensure that Congress will be able to produce something that can stand legal challenge by the public before the Supreme Court and in the “bar of public opinion”, something that I can personally stand by with conviction and be prepared to defend before the Supreme Court, as I certainly do not want to be associated with an action by Congress that would soon be declared illegal or unconstitutional by Supreme Court.

Kasi kung talagang hindi uubra ang mga probisyon ng panukala, baka kailangang ang sambayang Pilipino ang dapat na magpasya sa bagay na ito, sa pamamagitan ng pag-amyenda sa ating Saligang Batas.

We in Congress, especially I, want to make all our time and efforts worthwhile, and possibly avoid yet another cycle of exasperation and frustration on the part of our advocates for freedom and peace in Mindanao and our beloved country. Please rest assured that we, your elected representatives in Congress, are aware of all these dynamics. And as Chairman of the Local Government Committee in the Senate, I assure our Muslim brothers and sisters and the entire Filipino people that I will not stop until we find the most effective, and also the acceptable and allowable solutions under the law and Constitution.

At walang dapat na makapigil nitong pag-asam natin sa kapayapaan. Kahit may nangyayaring madugong bakbakan, tulad ng nangyari sa Mamasapano, Maguindanao, hindi dapat tumigil ang ating paghahangad ng kapayapaan sa Muslim Mindanao.

Napaka-exciting talaga ng mga kaganapan ngayon sa Kongreso, tulad ng BBL na ito! At pinag-aralan ninyong lahat ito sa inyong political science na mga asignatura!

As political science majors, I believe, this is very much right up your alley! Maganda ang inyong napiling kurso! Take it from me; I was a political science major myself—once upon a time. Hindi pa kayo pinapanganak! Huwag kayong maniwala doon sa mga naninira sa akin sa media na nagsasabi na hindi raw ako nakapagtapos ng kolehiyo!

Excuse me! Sorry na lang, pero tunay na orihinal at hindi lang gawa sa Recto ang aking mga diploma!

Cognizant of the potential rewards offered by the course, I even successfully convinced my son to take up political science as his undergraduate course. Maganda kasi ang political science dahil maiintindihan natin ang interaksyon at ugnayan sa pagitan ng sambayanan at ng pamahalaan, at ang iba’t iba pang mga puwersa sa ating lipunan.

Kaya kayo ay mapapalad na nakakapag-aral ng political science, na magtuturo sa inyo ng kaalaman tungkol sa mga teorya na nagbibigay ng basehan at lehitimasiya sa istruktura ng ating pamahalaan para pangasiwaan at pangalagaan ang ating kapakanan, kasama ng ating mga kapatid sa Muslim Mindanao. At ang kaalaman naman na ito ay mahalaga para maintindihan natin ang ating lipunan, at ang mga dapat nating gawin upang mabigyan natin ng paliwanag at ng kaukulang solusyon ang mga problema na ating kinakaharap, at upang mabigyan din natin ang ating sarili at ating mga mahal sa buhay ng magandang buhay sa hinaharap.

With your sharp and incisive political analysis of the issues presented by the BBL, as so well instilled in you by your study of political science, you also develop and hone practical skills and competencies in order to prepare you and increase your chances of success in the real, cruel and competitive, world out there. I firmly believe that Political Science is a good college course to help students prepare for the real world.

Kaya nga political science ang aking piniling kurso noon!

Pag-igihan at seryosohin nating mabuti ang ating pag-aaral, at huwag natin itong bale-walain! Hindi ito “University of Kalokohan”! Bagkus, tayo ay nasa University of Caloocan City. Bigyan natin ng kahalagahan ang serbisyo na alay sa atin ng ating mahal na Lungsod ng Caloocan. Alang-alang ito hindi lamang sa ating mga sarili at ating pamilya, kundi na rin sa ating mga libu-libong kapwa-residente natin sa mahal nating Lungsod, na sama-samang nagsusumikap para makatulong na masuportahan at mapondohan ang ating University—siyempre sa pamumuno ng ating mahal na Punong Lungsod!

Then, with hardwork, and aided by good fortune, we may be able to become productive citizens in the near future, and be able to give back to our City in the form of taxes, which shall then be used to pay forward and further support the education of future batches of students residing in our beloved City.

So, here in the University, we have to shape up in order to keep up with the cruel and competitive world out there. With focus and determination, let us prepare ourselves to be the best we can be, and arm ourselves with the necessary skills needed to survive in our society today at this stage. Let us also learn, by heart, our civil and political rights under the Constitution and our existing laws, especially our labor laws. And let us then brace ourselves as we brave the challenges presented by our Philippine political economy.

With the solid foundation and walls that we are able to build using the essential building blocks provided by our education, nakatitiyak ako na magiging mas malakas ang laban natin at mas mataas ang ating tsansa at pag-asa na magtagumpay!

Kaya uulitin ko, magsumikap at mag-aral kayong mabuti! Let us make the most out of our precious education!

Hanggang dito na lamang po. Tunay na isang malaking karangalan ang makasama at makausap kayo ngayong umaga, mga mahal kong mga mag-aaral ng political science ng UCC!

Mabuhay ang University of Caloocan City!

Maraming, maraming salamat po!

Muli po, magandang umaga sa inyong lahat!

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