In the next few weeks, we can expect news reports to revolve around the debates on the amendments on the draft of the Bangsamoro Basic Law and how it has been affected by the tragedy in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.

With the spotlight on the conflict in Mindanao, we are confronted with countless questions and emotions associated with distrust and, ultimately, fear.

Last month, the Senate released its committee report following the investigation on the Mamasapano clash and I am one of the senators who signed the committee report with reservations.

Though I agree with majority of what was written, I disagree with some of the conclusions made regarding the actions of the peace panel, the peace process, and the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law itself.

There were conclusions about the“excessive” optimism of the peace panel, and the report went as far as calling the Bangsamoro Basic Law a “casualty” of the Mamasapano clash. These statements went beyond the scope of the hearings.

While the peace panel was represented during the Senate investigation, they were not able to present the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law in depth nor were they able to discuss the peace process in detail.

We wrote the committee asking for clarifications and, if necessary, we will propose amendments once the report reaches the plenary.

These next few months are crucial if we are to achieve justice for our fallen heroes. We must maintain our focus on three things: First, we must capture those that were involved in the summary killing of the SAF 44 and have them stand trial for their crimes.

Second, we must ascertain that the families of the Fallen 44 are cared for and that the donations and benefits awarded to them are properly turned over.

And third, we must work to the best of our abilities to have peace in Mindanao so that tragedies like this will no longer happen again.

Through the course of the Mamasapano hearings, a number of concerns have been raised regarding the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law. Some of these are with regard to constitutionality and others with regard to resources to be allotted for the proposed Bangsamoro new political entity.

The most pressing concerns, though, are with regard to the MILF itself and their ability to be partners in the peace process.

The crossroads we now face are whether legislators will seek to address these concerns through changes in the Bangsamoro Basic Law or whether these concerns mean the junking of the bill and possibly, the peace process altogether.

Though it may not seem that way now, before Mamasapano, we were closer than we had ever been to ending the decades-long conflict in Mindanao. Can we find our way back amidst the anger, fear, and grief that befell us?

The answer to this pregnant question is not just a “Yes,” but a “We have to.”

To honor those that have fallen in Mamasapano, and the thousands more throughout the decades of armed conflict, we have to.

To protect families from being displaced and torn apart by armed conflict, we have to.

To ensure that Filipinos stop killing each other, we have to.

It is the job of the Senate to debate, deliberate, and refine the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law and produce the best possible version that addresses the concerns in our peoples’ hearts and minds.

We must learn from the Mamasapano incident and let spring forth a stronger regime of peace instead of letting the tragic event be a catalyst for more violence, war, and terror.

It is “the better angels of our nature,” as Lincoln once said, that will help us decide what path to take.


First Published on Manila Bulletin

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