Privilege Speech of the Hon. Tupay Loong, 1st District of Sulu

Bismillahi Rahman nir Rahim.
In the name of Almighty God, the Most Beneficent, and the Most MErciful.

Assalamu Alaikum wa Rahmantullahi Taala wa Barakatuhu.
Peace and the Blessing of Almighty God be Upon All of Us.

Mr. Speaker, honorable colleagues, ladies and gentlemen, good day.

It is with heavy heart that this humble representation from the first district of Sulu has to stand once again in this august chamber on individual and collective privilege on the very controversial issue of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law which remains in our hands for our consideration.

To refresh our memory, the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law or BBL was crafted by the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front or MILF, after more than 17 years of arduous negotiation to implement a peace agreement so that lasting and meaningful peace will reign in the country after more than four decades of destructive wars of rebellion that brought unimaginable devastation to the nation in terms of loss of lives and properties of the Filipinos not to mention the harsh suffering of those who survived the wars.

Mr. Speaker and honorable colleagues, the BBL has been in our hands for deliberation and enactment into law for a length of time already. We have consulted numerous legal experts and constitutionalists as well as stakeholder and concerned sectors of societ. We have conducted no less than 24 public hearings throughout the country and held no less than 19 in-house committee meetings to listen to the opinion of legal experts and constitutionalists as well as to listen to the voice of the stakeholders and concerned sectors of society to ensure its conformity to the constitution as well as to ensure its justness and acceptability not only to the Bangsamoro people and inhabitants of the concerned areas, but also to the great masses of the Filipino people. We have compiled 4 volumes of no less than 290 position papers from different sectors of society. Indeed, we have substantially deliberated the constitutionality of the BBL and came up with a substitute bill to ensure the provisions of the BBL confirm to the constitution. And in spite of the pleading of President Aquino for us to pass the bill as time is running out, we seem to continue to pay less attention to such pleading.

Mr. Speaker and honorable members of this august body, even before the filing of this proposed BBL in Congress for legislation, this humble representation already continue to receive many expressions of support for the passage of the proposed BBL from various sectors of society both from here and abroad. Likewise, we have heard the expression of support of many legal and constitutionalists including the former Supreme Court Chief Justice Hilario Davide, Jr., and former Chairman of the Commission on Election lawyer Christian Monsod, both of which were members of the 1987 Constitutional Commission. We have heard too the expression of support from the Business Clubs. This recently, 22 ambassadors of countries from different parts of the world passed a resolution expressing their government supports for the passage of the BBL bill. 

The long delay in the passage of the proposed BBL, Mr. Speaker, has already generated skepticism among our people, especially in Sulu, the home-based of the Moro National Liberation Front or MNLF and the bastion of Muslim rebellion in the country. In fact, many felt that this delay and the seemingly impending failure of Congress to pass this bill during this 16th Congress, simply confirm their long belief of another insincerity of the Philippine government  to solve the Bangsamoro rebellion in the country peacefully. The government-MILF Bangsamoro Comprehensive Agreement and the BBL are now being seen as another government strategy and tactics of just giving false hope to the Bangsamoro people so that they will forget their struggle for self determination and independence. It is seen to go the same way as the Philippine government-MILF 1996 so-called Final Peace Agreement which did not bring final peace at all to Mindanao because we remain at war with the MNLF as we continue to disagree on many things particularly on the many provisions of the government-MNLF 1996 Final Peace Agreement.

While we keep on harping for a lasting peace in the country, we seem to have no sincere effort to provide solution to attain that lasting peace. We keep on calling the Bangsamoro people our brothers, yet we seem not to trust them to govern a meaningful and acceptable autonomous government based on their culture and within the ambit of the Philippine Constitution. We keep on entertaining the idea and suspicion that the Bangsamoro people will one day separate from the republic. Mr. Speaker, if the Moro people felt that they are not fairly treated, if they continue to feel discriminated, if they feel there is no justice in this country, if they feel they are not trusted to govern an autonomy and much more to be part of national governance, with or without autonomy, they will resume their struggle to separate from the Philippine Republic.

Today, I am begging my honorable colleagues to please give extra effort and understanding to help us pass this substitute bill soonest possible for the sake of attaining lasting and meaningful peace not only in Mindanao but in the entire country. Let us not push the Moro people to choose other option than peace and meaningful autonomy where we can unite as one people with one aspiration. Because the other option left for the Moro people is to revert to their original armed struggle for self-determination and independence. This may take a long period of time for them to attain, if ever. It may take generation. It may cost their life. But for the Muslims, for the Moro people, to die for their religion, to die for their homeland and to die for their people, is a religious obligation and a blessed death which they all sought and welcome. Hence, the problem of rebellion and war has no ending for us. I need not elaborate the consequence of war of rebellion, because the country has already a long experience of more than four decades of it. Let us not exhaust the patience of the oppressed and disgruntled people.

In closing, I humbly reiterate my plea for us to hasten the passage of the substitute bill of Bangsamoro Basic Law to finally resolve the Moro problem of rebellion as it is in the interest not only of the Moro people but of the entire nation.

Let us show love for our Muslim brothers by sincerely addressing their problem and showing them our complete trust and confidence not only in their ability to govern autonomy, but to remain one and united with us as one people and one nation.

Before I end, I am reminded and touched by the statement of the Hon. Supreme Court Associate Justice Marivic Leonen, when he was still the Chairman of the Philippine government negotiating panel during one of the government peace panel briefings here in Congress: "that the Bangsamoro problem is not a legal problem. It is not a constitutional problem. The Bangsamoro problem is a political problem which should be resolved politically." With that statement, I felt Mr. Speaker and honorable colleagues, that, if by amending the constitution we will resolve our problem, why should we not amend it. The constitution is meant to harmonize the relationships and coexistence of the citizens and not to hinder them.

Thank you distinguished colleagues and Mr. Speaker and good day. Wassalam.