Various Groups in the Philippines Conduct a Peace March
Various groups conducted a peace march to the Congress in support of the immediate passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) and for lasting peace in Mindanao.
The peace march is conducted to coincide with the meeting of the House of Representatives Adhoc Committee on the Bangsamoro Basic Law that is expected to vote on their committee report today.
“Bangsamoro para sa Bayan, para sa Lahat"
The various groups unite under the banner "Bangsamoro para sa Bayan, para sa Lahat" in an effort to bring together organizations working on peace and human rights from all around the country and to highlight the wide support of civil society on the BBL not just by Moros, but by the Filipino nation at large.
"We rally here today to show wide support on the passage of the BBL, with groups coming from Luzon to Mindanao. This is not only an issue of our brothers and sisters in Mindanao. BBL is for all Filipinos," said Risa Hontiveros, former member of the Government Panel for Peace Talks with the National Democratic Front and chairperson of Akbayan Partylist.
“We are joined here by various social forces - progressive political organizations, civil society organizations, networks from the basic sectors, women, youth, communities, professionals, church and business. We are most hopeful that through this multi-sectoral march, our legislators will see that there is a wide support for the Bangsamoro Basic Law from all walks of life,” added Hontiveros.
Participating groups included 1-Bangsa, Mindanao Alliance for Peace, Friends of Peace, Friends of the Bangsamoro, All-Out Peace, Akbayan Party-list, Anak Mindanao, Freedom from Debt Coalition, Sanlakas Party-list, CODE-NGO, among others.
No to watered-down BBL
The marchers further expressed their concerns with the pronouncements of some leaders of Congress that open the possibility of Congress passing a watered-down BBL and warned that they will not accept a diluted law.
"Though we understand that congress will and must review and revise the current draft of the BBL to further improve it, we will solidly oppose any move to dilute the agreed version of the BBL because a diluted law cannot bring into fruition the peace formula agreed upon by both Philippine government and MILF." said Atty. Mary Ann M. Arnado who chairs the steering Committee.
“Many of the provisions have undergone meticulous processes and have been scrutinized by both the peace panels from both the government and the MILF side in the spirit of trust and genuine dialogue. We hope that unfounded fears of some of our legislators do not put to waste the difficult negotiations that have resulted to the current draft of the BBL,” added Abdul Malik Cleofe from the Bawgbug Peace and Human Rights Center.
Some of the contentious issues include the establishment of constitutional bodies, as well as of the Bangsamoro police in the regions to be covered. Other issues involve the resources to be made available to the Bangsamoro government, as well as the coverage of the Bangsamoro entity to be created.
The peace advocates subsequently urged lawmakers to cast their vote on the BBL, within the spirit of Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) and in conformity with the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB).
"The integrity of the BBL must be preserved. This means it should stay true to the spirit of the Framework Agreement on theBangsamoro and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro. We are hopeful that our legislators will heed our call and preserve the integrity of the BBL," added Hontiveros.
The peace march was joined by ten thousand Filipinos and the groups are expected to conduct another mobilization on the 18th of May when the measure is expected to be taken up in the congress plenary.