Aquino seeks help of Tagle, others to push for BBL passage

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Friday, March 27, 2015

(AP file photo)

PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino III said Friday that he has invited citizen leaders to help improve the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) amid strong criticisms against it following the Mamasapano incident.

Delivering a national message on the first anniversary of the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), Aquino said that these people who would act as "independent convenors" are known for their wisdom and integrity.

These include Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, former Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr., Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, Howard Dee, and Bai Rohaniza Sumndad-Usman.

Aquino said these individuals would gather other responsible and respected leaders to spearhead a National Peace Summit to deliberate on and discuss the BBL.

"They will dissect the proposed law in a calm and reasonable manner that will not incite anger and hopelessness. This way, the BBL can be improved," he said.

The group will write a report that will be made public so that everyone may be informed and so that more of the Filipinos may understand the matter.

"In this manner, we will be able to advance a reasonable decision as regards the Bangsamoro Basic Law," Aquino said.

The President said that it should be expected that as the country moves closer and closer to attaining the long-held dream for peace, "the cacophony that aims to dismantle our trust in each other will also grow louder".

"It is only right and prudent for us to prepare, for them not to succeed," Aquino added.

He also hit those who have been calling for an all out war in Mindanao.

"And I ask them: What gain do you see from waging war? Now that we are moving forward as a nation and are on the cusp of success, do they really think that we should advance violence, only to bring us back to the path of hardship?," Aquino said.

He noted that previous administrations, such as during the late president Ferdinand Marcos, and former president and now Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada, tried an all-out war approach.

But it only resulted to hundreds of thousands of casualties, ruined livelihoods, and a status quo of suffering in Mindanao, he said.

"Is it not clear that their approach was wrong? What were the results? Did the conflict end? Didn't such an approach lead to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Filipinos? There were reports that, during the time of Mr. Marcos, blackouts were purposefully done to conceal the arrival of body bags, so that no one could see the large number of casualties," he said.

He warned that if the peace process is derailed once again, the government would lose ground for sincere dialogue with leaders, and with all the Moros who are ready to listen to reason and who genuinely seek peace.

"Isn't it possible that they too might be pushed to join those who want violence?" he said, citing the case of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG).

He noted the reasons behind the spreading influence of the bandits, such as the Abu Sayyaf.

"Some communities have long been denied service and care from the government. Given this lack of support from the government, the Abu Sayyaf compensated for the neglect. While the government only showed itself to these communities during elections or military operations, the Abu Sayyaf was there and, despite causing trouble, it saw to the needs of these communities," he said.

"Because of this, the Abu Sayyaf earned their sympathies. There were even those who coddled the Abu Sayyaf, after receiving a cut of their ransom money," Aquino said.

"This is the crossroads we face: We take pains to forge peace today, or we count body bags tomorrow. To those who have called for all-out war as the solution, do you think we’ll be able to talk peace after the shooting has started, when the wounds, and the failure of the talks, would be raw?"

Aquino said he was not pursuing peace just to add to his legacy.

"What we are pursuing is a genuine peace that truly addresses the roots of the problems that led to violence. At this point in our history, I say to all of you: The BBL will make this a reality," he said.

Senator Grace Poe agreed with the President in seeking help from "credible" individuals but stressed that Congress must be given the opportunity first to come up with a constitutional version of the BBL.

"Before these eminent individuals would be given the chance to help in objectively communicating to all Filipinos, the goals and the practical necessity of a political settlement towards peace and development in Muslim Mindanao, Congress must be given the opportunity first to come up with a constitutional version of the BBL," said Poe.

She said that with the help of Tagle and other citizen leaders the Filipinos should be enlightened on the provisions and goals of the BBL.

"By having respected leaders of society analyze, suggest amendments if any and objectively present the BBL, the public may be more inclined to keep an open mind, understand and perhaps even support the measure," Poe said. (SDR/Ruth Abbey Gita/Sunnex)

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