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Jesuit priest, Moro youth plea for peace on final BBL hearing

MANILA, Philippines – A Jesuit priest representing the country’s top Catholic Church leader and a Muslim youth-leader who also comes from a Moro royal house have joined forces in appealing to Congress to help achieve peace in Mindanao by passing the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).
Ateneo de Davao University (ADDU) president Fr. Joel Tabora, S.J. told the House of Representatives Ad Hoc Committee on the Bangsamoro Basic Law that he believes the BBL “requires a search for compromise and consensus” and that “peace building is essentially trust building.”
In the same forum, Bai Rohaniza Sumndad-Usman, a multi-awarded youth leader and Moro princess, said the BBL is the last hope for peace in the Bangsamoro, as she appealed to fellow Filipinos especially those in Metro Manila to understand the Filipino Muslims’ yearning for peace.
“We hope you will respond to the struggles of our ancestors. As the youth of today, we will safeguard what you will bestow upon us,” Usman said.
Tabora represented Manila Archbishop Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, who along with Usman, were named by President Aquino as members of the National Peace Council that was convened to study the BBL and find ways to explain it further to the public. The other members of the Peace Council include former Chief Justice Hilario Davide, Jaime Zobel de Ayala and former Ambassador to the Holy See Howard Dee.
According to Tabora, any delay in the passage of the BBL would be “wasteful” of the previous efforts that had been exerted to attain peace. He also wondered aloud why people are seemingly disregarding the efforts put forth and sacrifices made by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front all these years.
“Peacemakers on both sides—of the government and the MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front)—have spent 17 years to bring us to this juncture. There is enough goodwill on both sides to bring this agreement to its conclusion, one that would provide communities in one of the most deprived regions in the country with a genuine fresh start. To set it aside now would be foolhardy,” he said.
Tabora also stressed that it is vital for the BBL to be passed now since there has been no other time when so much political will has been invested in the peace process.
“It would be foolish for us to end at this time and try to restart again in an indefinite future,” he said, echoing Former Chief Justice Davide’s earlier comments.
Davide, speaking for the council, has stated that the timing for the creation of a Bangsamoro autonomous region is “auspicious” in light of the 17 years of negotiations, the Aquino administration’s firm commitment to the peace process and most especially the mutual trust and goodwill that has already been established.
He also referred to the BBL as “an autonomous law that broadens the original one and more fully complies with our government’s constitutional promise and duty.”
Passing the BBL a good starting point for peace
The Peace Council has called for the immediate passage of the BBL, claiming that it is faithful to the constitution and would not lead to a Moro sub-state. They also shared their five major findings about the draft BBL and their recommendations in a report which they submitted to the House Ad Hoc Committee through Rodriguez.
Usman, on her part, appealed once more to lawmakers to give the BBL a chance.
“We strongly believe that the BBL will start us on the path that will bring peace to Mindanao and the rest of the country. The BBL is not a ‘silver bullet’ that will solve all our problem but we cannot even begin to solve the problems if we don’t address it. It’s an excellent starting point,” she said.

Criselda Cabangon David, a happy mother of two kids, is a full-time Sociologist at the City Government of Lucena, Quezon Province. She is currently the Managing Editor of Ang Diaryo Natin Sunday News, a weekly local community newspaper in the Philippines and an active member of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines.