Bangsamoro Basic Law Signing: Challenges, Shadow and Uncertainties

COTABATO CITY (20th of April) – The draft of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) was completed and signed by 13 of the 15 members of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC). Commissioners Atty. Johaira Wahab, Chair of the Committee on Transitory Provisions, and Fatmawati Salapuddin from Sulu were absent, while Froilyn Mendoza, representative of the indigenous people and Peter Eisma from Basilan signed with reservations. All of them have yet to issue an official statement on their actions. (As of April 29, only one (1) female commissioner has not signed the draft BBL.)

On April 18, 2014, 4-days after the submission of the partial draft of the BBL to the Office of the President, a text message already circulated, claiming that the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) was allegedly secretly meeting three commissioners of the BTC asking them not to sign the draft of the BBL. Afterwards it became viral on the social networking sites. People started to doubt the sincerity of the government’s commitment to the peace process.

In the morning of April 20, OPPAP posted the response of the GPH Panel Chair Miriam Coronel-Ferrer on the allegations: “The report circulating on social media that 3 BTC commissioners did not sign the draft BBL on orders of OPAPP is FALSE. In the first place, the proposed BBL is not yet finished. They will still meet on Sunday to put all the parts together. Secondly, we had no secret meeting with GPH representatives to the BTC. We meet with them when they want to consult us on their concerns and to ask them to update us. This is natural. The MILF representatives also meet with the MILF Central Committee to consult and update. Thirdly, we gave no instruction to any BTC commissioner not to sign the draft. We trust them to act according to their judgment and the best interest of the peace process. Please help us correct the misinformation”.

On the same day, Luwaran stated related to the signing of the commissioners on the BBL: If by chance, any commissioner decides not to affix his/her signature to the proposed BBL, such is within the purview of his or her right. No one can question that. But one thing sure is that he or she has to explain why he or she did not sign.  History will judge his or her decision. But in the immediate, the negative decision will surely make the spoilers happy; they will feast on this even if the decision was based on reasons personally well-thought-out”.

Before the signing of the draft an estimated 1000 individuals from the communities and civil society organizations gathered in front of the BTC office expressing their support for the signing and demanding unity among the BTC members and the Bangsamoro as a whole. The peace rally was led by United Youth for Peace and Development (UnYPAD).

A female participant of the rally expressed her fears, saying “Akoy nababahala sa mga nangyayari at sa tema na aking nababasa, worried ako dahil baka hindi pirmahan ng BTC ang BBL. “Hindi ko maintindihan kung bakit ayaw nilang pirmPhoto0239ahan ang BBL” other women added. (I am worried with what is happening and with what is written in the placards I am reading, I am worried that the BTC will not sign the BBL). (I cannot understand why they do not want to sign the BBL). Many women who joined the rally broke into tears while calling upon the attention of the BTC and urging them to sign the BBL.

We at UnYPhil-Women, who had always been accompanying the peace process and are hopeful to the peaceful resolution of conflict, have yet to understand the commissioners actions. We are not yet in the position to condemn their decisions, because we believe that they have accounted the best interest of the Bangsamoro people.

But we deserve an explanation. We, who are working on the ground and who the government and the MILF expect to disseminate information to the Bangsamoro people. We deserve to know the reasons, because we don’t want to give information that were merely based on assumptions to our communities; likewise, our communities are expecting us to provide them with honest and clear information and feedback on the status of the peace negotiation.

As a woman organization involved in the pursuit of progress and just peace for all, this issue has tainted the hopes of the people for a better tomorrow. Everyone is in high spirits on the recent development of the peace process and with the circulation of an alleged ‘maneuvering’ by the OPPAP on the signing of the draft BBL, everything changes. Gone is the euphoria, all that is left is uncertainty. We would say, this is the time to be vigilant. A time where all of us seeking to realize the Bangsamoro dream should take a stand to commit ourselves in safeguarding the dignity of the process by holding the members of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission accountable for all their actions and transparent with their decisions.

By: Hasna Adi

United Youth of the Philippines-Women

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