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Congress, what is “Bangsa?”

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(BY: CLEM M. BASCAR) The title of any proposed law is supposed to tell all in a nutshell; meaning, history, evolution, purpose, coverage, and application. If Congress chooses to proceed  to enact a law without knowing and understanding fully what the title is all about, like all the previous  defective and inapplicable  Republic Acts, it might lead to the establishment of a sub-political entity only to be declared few years after, as “unacceptable and a failed experiment.”  

I wish to emphasize earnestly that I am writing this article as matter of constitutional right and as a prompt and regular taxpayer who has always been a consistent small-time fiscal contributor to the Peace Process which has been going on so expensively (mostly conducted in foreign venues) for many decades now principally to address and put an end permanently to the intermittent and horribly destructive and sometimes due to unforseen circumstances and unexpected turn of events, becomes a barbaric war between the GPH forces and the various liberation and secessionist fronts in Mindanao and Sulu.

In restropect and recapitualtion, over a span of 40 years since the initial peace negotiation between the GRP and the MNLF was held in Jedda, Saudi Arabia (January 18-19, 1975), there had been enacted by Congress several Republic Acts aimed at bringing about, genuine, just, and sustainable peace, prosperity, and development in Mindanano and Sulu, namely;  Batas Pambansa No. 20 in 1979 for the creation of two autonomous regions in Southern Philippines ( Region 9, Western Mindanao and Region 12, Central Mindanao); Republic Act No. 6734 for the establishment of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao in 1989; and Republic Act No. 9054 (March 31, 2001) for the expansion and strengthening of the ARMM.

 Unfortunately and undeniably, as had been previously articulated, all the above-mentioned Republic Acts instead of resolving the MIndanao Crisis, literally they only worsened, escalated, and increased the number of revolutionary and other anti-government armed groups including kidnap- for- ransom and terrorits bands with international links and support networks.  Let us all bear in mind that all the dysfunctional, ineffective, and unsuitable political sub-entities established in Mindanao and Sulu are collectively, the legislative creations and products of Congress. What a colossal waste of time, money, and other resources which could have been best utilized for other urgent life-sustaining purposes and  poverty reduction services.

Congress is again about to enact another basic law for the Bangsamoro. By the way, what is “Bangsa” as a separate word from “Moro?” Please, please, for humanity and heaven’s sake,  avoid making another gargantuan legislative mistake of enacting an organic act that will just be declared “unacceptable and a failed experiment.” For once and for all, please do it right this time, honorable members of Congress!

Since the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) was first proposed, drafted,  jointly  approved, and finally presented to President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino lll  by both the GPH and MILF peace panels for legal review and indorsement to Congress, I don’t remember any instance, occasion, public consultation  or forum wherein the term “Bangsa” was operationally defined, satisfactorily explained, or fully discussed from the linguistic, political, cultural, ancestral, or anthropological contexts and standpoints. 

If my recollection is still accurate, from the first time it was used by both the GPH and MILF peace negotiators, I could not recall of any place, time, and occasion when this term was explicitly defined in a manner that is commonly understandable to the general public. The only person who incidentally asked the meaning of this term was Senator Grace Poe during the 2nd day of the Senate inquiry into the Mamasapano incident. The Chief MILF Peace Negotiator, Mohagher Iqbal, in response just defined it as an “identity” which to me is so inadequate to give us  full understanding and knowledge of this unfamiliar and exotic term.

Like the term “Moro” the word “Bangsa” has always been presumed and treated as commonly understood by the general public that is why very few take time and effort to ask about its originally intended meaning, etymology, evolution, and in this particular case, its political implication from the viewpoint of the proponents themselves. It is only when confusion arises pertaining to such term, when we begin  to realize the importance and relevance of correctly and clearly defining it as basis for common point of reference and understanding.

Why is it so necessary and important for Congress to collectively possess adequate and common knowledge and understanding of this term “Bangsa?” It is not only for the purpose of widening and enriching their vocabulary by knowing its intended political meaning as they relate to the concept of nationhood, statehood, and the aspiration for self-determination, but this will also enable them to determine whether the BBL by the title itself, is within the parameters and flexibility of 1987 Constitution.

Rightfully, logically, and procedurally Congress before tackling the contents of the Bangsamoro Basic Law, the first educational step to take is to completely and definitely know and understand from  all relevant standpoints, most particularly from the political perspective, the term “Bangsa” which has been combined with another foreign word “Moro” to form “Bangsamoro” in the very title of this proposed organic law.

As previously underscored in this column, the most competent persons that should provide Congress in particular and the public in general with clear-cut, comprehensive, and down-to- earth definition and explanation of the term “Bangsa,” as it is combined with the word “Moro,” are the members of the GPH and MILF Peace Panels who were actively involved in the drafting of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law. As  previously suggested, they must be required to come up with a glossary of unfamiliar legal, political, cultural, and anthropological terms that are contained in the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law. (BBL). Ideally, if these terms and the draft BBL itself can be translated, defined,  and explained in the different dialects of the various ethno-linguistic groups most especially, in Mindanao and Sulu, this effort will surely be of utmost educational benefit to all the stakeholders and intended beneficiaries of this proposed organic law.

 Over and above all other considerations, Congress must be absolutely sure that the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) once fully implemented, will result in the total extraction and elimination of the historical, ancestral, legal, diplomatic, and military root-cause of the Mindanao Crisis.




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