With just days to spare before yet another break, the 17th Congress of the Philippines passed the Bangsamoro Basic Law on third and final reading. Amid the cheers are those skeptical of whether the version of the law the country needs is what Congress approved.
The version passed by the Senate, however, is the fruit born of a debate that lasted almost two decades.
At long last
Just hours after the House of Representatives, in a 227 to 11 vote, approved their version of the bill, the upper house with all 21 senators present approved what was known as Senate Bill 2408 on its final reading.
The 21-0 vote came around 1 a.m. on May 31.
There has been some applause from the stakeholders.
Gov. Mujiv Hataman, the Administrative Region in Muslim Mindanao which the proposed Bangsamoro Autonomous Region is slated to replace, praised the legislative branch for the law’s passage.
Prior to the law’s approval, Hataman discussed the significance of Bangsamoro to the Moro people.
Not everyone is pleased with the version that has been approved. Veteran journalist and known administration critic [who?] in a post discussed the reasons for Rep. Sarah Elago’s (Kabataan party-list) decision to vote against House Bill 6475.
Some have warned of how self-defeating an ineffective Bangsamoro Law could be.
A bastardized BBL can only mean the conflict in Mindanao will linger, even worsen. MILF will lose face and will fight again. BIFF will be legitimized even more and emboldened. Extremists are going to have a field day recruiting.
Are you all ready for this?
— Caloy Conde (@carloshconde) May 30, 2018
Earlier reports said that the Senate’s version of the BBL would be different from the initial proposal of Malacañang and the Bangsamoro Transition Commission.
The Bicameral Conference Committee is expected to immediately convene to reconcile conflicting provisions in the versions passed by the House and the Senate.
Tracing the origins of the BBL
The creation of the Bangsamoro Region has long been touted as part of the solution to the decades-long conflict between the government and Moro insurgent groups, particularly the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
Peace talks with Moro insurgents started in the 1970s, but were derailed in 2000 when President Joseph Estrada declared all-out war with the MILF.
Another attempt at attaining peace, the Tripoli Peace Agreement of 2001, would give birth to one of the first incarnations of the Bangsamoro: the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity.
The Memorandum on Agreement on Ancestral Domain, which government and MILF panels were scheduled to sign, was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 2008, derailing the creation of a Moro homeland.
Following years of further negotiations with the MILF, the Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro was presented by the Palace in October 2012. In December the same year, President Benigno Aquino III issued Executive Order 120 creating the Transition Commission that would draft what would become the Bangsamoro Basic Law.
In 2014, the Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro was signed, seemingly signalling a final end to hostilities and national support for the creation of a new Bangsamoro region.
Despite the CAB and an earlier ceasefire agreement signed in 1997, encounters between the government and the insurgents still took place.
The 2015 Mamasapano Clash, where more than 60 Filipinos — including 44 members of the police Special Action Force — died in a firefight with members of the MILF, the breakaway Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and so-called Private Armed Groups, soured public opinion towards the bill and the peace process in general.
According to surveys, support for the BBL dropped to 23 percent from 44 percent after the incident, which a police panel later determined had partly been caused by poor planning and coordination on the SAF operation against international terrorists in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.
Hopes for the BBL were revived with the election of President Rodrigo Duterte, the first president from Mindanao.
The siege of Marawi by Maute and Abu Sayyaf terrorists — groups with a different grounding than the MILF and Moro National Liberation Front — in 2017 spurred renewed action on the BBL, which is meant to address the historial injustices and grievances of the Moros and IPs in the southern Philippines.
Duterte had previously urged swift passage of the law at his first State of the Nation Address and in speeches after. He promised to shepherd the bill through Congress and, this week, certified the bill as urgent.