ONE of the more objective thought on the issue of peacemaking and the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is that of Archbishop Socrates Villegas which, as he premised, he is sharing neither as president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines nor as archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan, but “as a Filipino and a believer in Christ”. Dated in time for the celebration of “Araw ng Kagitingan” (The Day of Valor) on April 9, he titles his piece “Bataan Valor, Peacemaking and the Draft BBL”.
Admittedly, the Mamasapano clash last January has triggered deep-seated apprehensions on the peacemaking efforts in Mindanao particularly on the draft BBL, which should not be the case. Providentially or otherwise, this incident made even the general public more serious about this draft legislation. But to equate peace and the BBL would be a careless association that may in fact be counterproductive in the long haul. “What threatens the prospect of peace most, however, is equating it with the present BBL and threatening the return of violence and bloodshed should the Legislature fail to pass it intact!,” says Archbishop Villegas.
The threat of bloodshed if the BBL draft is not passed in toto was made of late by no less than the president himself and the head of the peace negotiating panel. Says the archbishop, “Our sights should be set not on a truce, not on some tenuous cessation of hostilities, and for this, principles must be explicated, clearly discussed and rationally agreed on. This is what I refer to as ‘principled peace’. And warning that we shall have war unless BBL is passed does not make for principled peace!”
On its constitutionality, the archbishop opines, “It is my position that all suggestions, insinuations or hints that the Constitution will be amended to accommodate the provisions of the BBL cease. The Constitution is not a document that can be dealt with in patch-work fashion whenever we enter into negotiations with any restive sector of the Philippines. In this respect, the decision of the Supreme Court in the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domains (Province of North Cotabato v. GRP Peace Panel, 2008) ought to be the juridical sieve through which the BBL should be examined. If we pass anything now, let us enact a document that we are morally certain will withstand constitutional challenge before the Supreme Court. I have paid close attention to the arguments of the legal experts summoned by the houses of Congress to shed light on the Constitutional issues, and I am convinced that there are some very crucial points of constitutional law that ought to be resolved. Glossing over them will not be helpful at all, and it is neither my place nor my competence to pass upon them now.”
The abating stature of the Aquino administration may actually be another big factor that could be dragging the current peacemaking initiative an uphill climb—at least in the bar of public opinion. Everybody wants peace. But a good one.