Radicals may ride on death of BBL, says House leader
Mindanao solons in the House of Representatives lamented the failure of Congress to pass the proposed Bangsamoro basic law (BBL), raising fears the death of the bill would only fuel the radicalization of the Islamic faith.
Deputy Speaker Pangalian Balindong on Thursday led a press conference with Maguindanao and Cotabato City Rep. Bai Sandra Sema and Sulu Rep. Tupay Loong.
Balindong, who represents Lanao del Sur, said “there is no more room for hope in my heart” and that he has “closed all hopes for peace.”
“What will take place after this, I cannot say; history will be our judge,” Balindong said.
He said Congress’ failure to pass the BBL, now called the Basic Law for the Bangsamoro Area of Responsibility, may fuel the radical secessionist movement in Mindanao, especially at the wake of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
“The non-approval of the BBL would be a good recipe for radicalization. If we speak of radicals and militants, they usually thrive on situations like this. If the BBL is not approved, then they will try to ride on the situation,” Balindong said.
He compared the influence of ISIS to electricity, which cannot be seen but can certainly be felt.
“We don’t see now the ISIS, or how they are organized, of if there are ISIS in our areas. But you can feel their presence,” Balindong said of the reported influence of the radical group in Mindanao.
Balindong said it will now take a miraculous political will to pass the BBL just before Congress takes its break on Feb. 5.
“Maybe political will can take the place of [a] miracle. If there’s a political will, it could happen,” Balindong said.
“But I certainly don’t believe in miracles,” he added.
For his part, Loong, a former commander in the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), said the failure in passing the BBL may only fuel the ongoing secessionist movement led by the MNLF and its breakaway group the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), and another splinter group the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).
“To be honest, there is still a certain war, although we are discussing this Bangsamoro basic law, there are certain armed elements fighting. The BIFF and the MNLF is the biggest group fighting against government,” Loong said.
“I’m afraid this would result again into a certain war, because we cannot control the people fighting for peace, fighting for justice and for their own interests,” Loong added.
Loong said he would leave it up to the next administration to take up the cause for a more politically autonomous Bangsamoro region.
Balindong, who is finishing his last term, said he would leave it to the next batch of lawmakers to take up the Bangsamoro cause.
But he said he could not be sure if the next administration would be as sincere in pursuing peace as the Aquino government.
Balindong lamented the death of the BBL which took 17 years of negotiations to come to a peace agreement with the MILF.
“I’m not saying wala akong tiwala sa (I have no faith in the) next administration… We’re not sure if the next administration would adopt the policy of the present administration,” Balindong said.
Loong said if reelected he would refile the bill in Congress.
In a privilege speech Wednesday night, Balindong cited the lack of quorum and the Mamasapano incident for causing the failure of Congress to pass the administration’s pet piece of legislation.
Balindong said his colleagues seemed not eager in passing the bill because they skip sessions. He also said his fellow congressmen and women are the ones who express bias and hatred against their Muslim counterparts.
He also said the Jan. 25, 2015 Mamasapano incident, a botched antiterror raid where 67 persons died in a firefight between the Special Action Force (SAF) policemen and MILF, derailed the prompt passage of the bill.
In the same press conference, Balindong reiterated his statement, saying some representatives seemed to have “vested interests” in opposing the BBL.
“There are colleagues who have a mindset against the Muslims, maybe because of vested interests in our area. When we started hearings on the BBL, maganda ang takbo namin (the flow went well). There was optimism all around. Pero towards the end, lalo na (especially) when the Mamasapano (happened), nag-iba situation (the situation changed),” Balindong said.
“We would not identify the people who display bias, but this is a mindset. We cannot deny that,” he added.
The BBL seeks to implement the government peace deal with the MILF in creating a more politically autonomous Bangsamoro region.
While her two colleagues were passionate about their statements, Sulu Rep. Sema has only a few words to explain her disappointment.
Sema, the wife of MNLF Chairman of the Central Commitee Muslimin Sema, seemed to be holding back tears.
“I did not prepare my speech. I’m sad, disappointed and frustrated,” Sema only said. CDG