By Francis Wakefield
The executive director of a Mindanao-based regional non-government peace-building and solidarity organization, said a transitional justice and reconciliation framework is crucial in the collective goal to once and for all heal the wounds of the past, that have left scars in the minds and hearts of the victims of the armed conflict in Mindanao.
Gus Miclat, executive director of the Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID), said it is the soul of the proposed Bangsamoro law which admits, but at the same time expresses willingness to correct all damaging and defective narratives against the Bangsamoro and all other inhabitants of Mindanao.
He added that their group fully supports the push for the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) this year.
Miclat, however, asserted that aside from providing the legal structure for self-governance and exercise of greater autonomy for the Bangsamoro, we must, as a nation, work harder towards genuine national unity, healing and reconciliation.
He explained that historical injustices committed against the Bangsamoro people, the indigenous peoples, and other inhabitants of Mindanao must be corrected. The first step towards this process is the passage of the BBL, he said.
He elaborated that one concrete step to attain this is to heed previous recommendations to establish a Transitional Justice and Reconcilation Commission for the Bangsamoro (NTJRCB) that must ensure the implementation of the ‘dealing with the past’ framework and promote justice, healing and reconciliation.
Last month, the House Special Committee on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity began its initial deliberation of HB No. 5669, authored by Representative Kit Belmonte ”An Act establishing a transitional justice and reconciliation program for the Bangsamoro, creating for the purpose the National Transitional Justice and Reconciliation Commission for the Bangsamoro.”
“A transitional justice and reconciliation framework is key in addressing the legitimate grievances of the Bangsamoro and all other inhabitants of Mindanao. We believe, that passing the BBL without a transitional justice and reconciliation perspective and enabling mechanisms to address the roots of this decades-old conflict, the kind of peace that we have been longing for decades will remain incomplete and elusive,” Miclat stressed.
In an executive session on April 16, two of the three House panels approved House Bill (HB) 64765. The House Committee on Muslim Affairs, voting 5-3, and the Special Committee on Peace, Unity and Reconcilation, voting 6-4, approved the motion to pass House Bill 6475 as the BBL version, retaining all of its provisions.
The approved bill, principally authored by House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, is the same as the BBL version submitted by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) to Congress.
President Rodrigo Duterte also reiterated his support for its passage this week in a meeting with Moro leaders in Maguindanao saying he will resign if it does not pass.
The proposed BBL seeks to establish a new political entity that in effect will abolish the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), provide for a basic structure of government to recognize the justness and legitimacy of the cause of the Bangsamoro people and their desire to chart their own political future through a democratic process securing their identity and allowing self-governance.
IID has been in the forefront of engaging the peace process in Mindanao since the “all-out war” declared by then President Estrada in 2000 against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). It has since initiated and helped establish various networks for peace in the country including Bantay Ceasefire, Mindanao Peaceweavers (MPW), Friends of the Bangsamoro (FoBM) and All-Out Peace (AOP) among others.
“First, we see this positive development for the proposed BBL as a fresh opportunity to end our long and exhaustive search for a just and enduring peace in Mindanao. With the way things are going in Congress and the Senate, we are optimistic and hopeful that genuine peace in the southern region and the whole country may finally be within reach,” Miclat said.
“We must however continue to persevere and defend the political promise and peaceful vision of this proposed law. This is not yet the time to rejoice and we must be more vigilant in the coming months to ensure that the law will be passed without further delay and in accordance with its real purpose and intent. The BBL is definitely not the be-all and end-all solution to all the conflicts happening in Mindanao, but let us collectively utilize the law as a potential instrument to effect genuine peace and social progress for Mindanao and the whole country,” he added.