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Terms that congress must clarify


(BY: CLEM M. BASCAR) To avoid the same tragic fate that befell the previous organic acts crafted and approved by Philippine Congress, which figuratively ended up either in the legislative intensive care unit or morgue, there are  terms that I believe to be crucial and central to the proper and judicious enactment of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) envisioned to set up another sub-political entity in Mindanao and Sulu and to abolish the present Autonomous Region In Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) which has been jointly declared by the GPH and MILF Peace Panels and concurred by the incumbent President, Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III as “unacceptable and a failed experiment.” 

These terms, aside from many others, are “Bangsa,”  “Moro,”  “Wali,” and “asymmetric,” These terms have not been clearly defined,  thoroughly explained,  comprehensively discussed, and satisfactorily understood as to their linguistic origins, evolutions,  definitive and operative meanings from the political, historical, sociological, anthropological, cultural, administrative, and constitutional  contexts and standpoints. For the GPH side, obviously the most competent and knowledgeable persons to explain these terms in the manner easily understood by everyone, are the OPAPP personnel headed by Sec. Teresita Quintos Deles and Prof. Miriam Coronel- Ferrer. For the MILF, this task can very well be handled singly by the Chair of its peace negotiating panel, Mohagher Iqbal. 

 Owing to the common lack of knowledge and understanding of the general population with regard to the afore-mentioned terms, especially in the proposed areas that will constitute the New Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE) territory, the likelihood of misconceptions, variances in meanings, misinterpretations, disagreements, and confusions arising from the oversight of this present Congress, is potentially high. Some critics view this glaringly and abnormally supportive legislative action of the majority bloc of Congress and the aggressive endorsement coming from the executive department, as  overt demonstration  of  over-zealousness to rail-road the passage of the BBL according to the time-table set for its actual implementation.

Right now, even among the educated and enlightened members of our society including those occupying key legislative, executive, and judicial positions of our country, there is a great amount of certainty that a large number does not possess operative or functional knowledge and understanding of the terms I enumerated above. This unfortunate educational reality is multiplied exponentially if we consider the millions in the hinterlands and far-flung barangays whose average educational attainment does not go beyond the threshold of being able to read and write.

 Frankly, I myself, who have been doing a great deal of quiet and informal research on these terms, still admit without reservation, my lack of knowledge and understanding about these four terms. Yet, observation wise, in all the public consultations I was able to monitor on the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), I never heard  even one attendee  asking any of the resource speakers or congressmen to explain these particular terms in crystal clear and generally comprehensible manner. This even led me to suspect that probably, I might be the only one out of the almost one hundred million inhabitants of the Republic of the Philippines who does not know and understand the terms mentioned above. If my suspicion is correct, humbly I accept such cognitive inadequacy with a grain of salt.

The operational definitions of certain terms that are not commonly used and  adequately understood by the ordinary man on the street, most especially by those who will be affected by the actual implementation of a political entity wherein these  terms will form part of the basic law that will  govern their lives,  are of paramount importance. Taking this educational process for granted  could become the source of massive frustration, widely organized protests and mass actions for its abolition or major legislative amendments like the preceding organic acts which tragically resulted in either the abolition  or declaration of all the sub-political entities established as “unacceptable and failed experiments.”   

A glossary of terms, (terms of reference for projects)  , or definitions of terms,  is standard  requirement for all graduate students who opt to proceed to  obtain a Master’s or doctoral degree from an accredited graduate school of a university. The absence of this academic requirement is enough cause for the automatic rejection of any thesis or dissertation proposal by the Panel of Oral Examiners officially constituted for the purpose. A chapter or section in a thesis or dissertation proposal devoted principally to the definitions or unlocking of unfamiliar or technical  terms, is essential in determining its urgency, feasibility,  theoretical and pragmatic usefulness, applicability, and relevance  to the academe and society in general aside from the vital role it plays in confining the oral defense within the parameters or limits  strictly in accordance with the terms of reference or definitions of terms.

What I wish to bring into the collective consciousness of the present Congress is the contention that if in the academe, the definitions of terms section of a research proposal, is a non-negotiable standard requirement, how come a draft Bangsamoro Basic Law  that envisions to establish a new sub-political entity in Mindanao and Sulu and at the same time abolish the existing Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), in the two supporting diplomatic documents signed by both the GPH and MILF Peace Panels namely, the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) or even in the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law itself, the terms of reference or glossary or terms, is nowhere to be found?

However, if Congress ( both the upper and lower houses) is one hundred per cent sure that all its members know completely from all relevant standpoints, the real intended meanings, derivations, evolutions, and explanations of the four terms and all the other unfamiliar terms in the draft BBL, then by all means and without any pressure and influence from anywhere, go full speed ahead with its deliberation and final enactment into law. I will not raise even my small finger to oppose it. Just make it perfectly sure that it will not suffer the same tragic fate as its predecessors.

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