We, members and supporters of the nascent coalition “FRIENDS OF THE BANGSAMORO (FoB)”, express our appreciation and support for the open and participative process in the Ad Hoc Committee of the House of Representatives tasked to guide the birth of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL). We are encouraged by the openness and willingness of the committee and other House members to engage with civil society organizations and their supporters, both outside as well as in the halls of Congress. The first Committee hearing on the BBL (House Bill 4994) gave an encouraging sign towards an open, participative and inclusive law-crafting process in the enactment of HB 4994 also known as Senate Bill 2408.

We laud the solidarity of the members and representatives of both the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) and the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) in contextualizing, deepening and explaining the process of crafting the BBL. We laud them further for responding substantively to queries and sharp criticisms and oppo-sition on key points raised on the BBL. Together with them, we take this as part and parcel of the necessary process to build consensus on the BBL. We take particular note of BTC Chair Mohager Iqbal’s reassuring tone for the legislators and the rest of the country as well to “Be not afraid of the Bangsamoro.” This anchoring sentiment we believe, should form part of the recurring, underlying and constructive theme guiding us all through the whole process of critical consensus building for HB 4994 to be enacted into law. Chairman Iqbal’s statement should also once and for all dispel the demonization and Islamo-phobia that have been ascendant in Philippine discourse about our Muslim brothers and sisters, the Bangsamoro and Mindanao.

It is expected, as the House meeting exemplified in microcosm, that there will be advocates, dissenters along with the undecided during the discussions to follow at many levels of the Philippine society. We even foresee the likelihood that some groups will seek to misdirect, disrupt and even sabotage the deliberation process. The Friends of the Bangsamoro believes and commits itself to the process of informed, educated and consultative consensus building as the best response to such schemes.

In the wake of this first step, we, Friends of the Bangsamoro, commit ourselves and call for other sectors to ally themselves to the following urgent and essential tasks :

(1) Launch public advocacy at all levels of public discussion and debate to provide an informed perspective on the BBL, its key provisions, restrictions and potential.
(2) Pursue active legislative lobbying to keep the BBL front and center in the local, regional and national policy agenda.
(3) Communicate the core messages of advocating the full implementation of the final agreement and standing by an inclusive peace process in the local and global levels to both inform as well as reap the lessons that have taken root here and in other parts of the world.

We close this first promising salvo with an earnest prayer that our task of nation-building guide and unite rather than divide us. As we take notice of the restiveness in different parts of Mindanao especially in some conflict-affected communities where emerging issues on land fueled by animosity and misinformation are coming to the fore as impacts of this change process — let us be reminded that our efforts today shall be judged by the generations to come. It is they who will say that truly, when given the chance to work for peace, our generation took up the challenge and embraced the promise of peace and allowed it to prosper in our cherished Land of Promise.

While we commit to rally behind the Bangsamoro as a self-determining people during this critical stage of the peace process, we meanwhile enjoin other kindred partners especially the Indigenous Peoples, Women, Labor and other vulnerable sectors in engaging the 16th Congress. We likewise invite the rest of the country and beyond to coalesce with or join us towards our collective desire and dream to finally bring genuine peace to Mindanao.

Support the passage of an inclusive and gender-responsive Bangsamoro Basic Law (HB 4994/SB 2408)!
Support the full implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement on the Bangsamoro CAB)!
Peace in Mindanao, Peace in the Philippines, Now!
Onward Friends of the Bangsamoro!


Initial Signatories from Networks and Organizations :

Mindanao PeaceWeavers
Mindanao Solidarity Network
Philippine Misereor Partners, Inc
Waging Peace – Philippines
Women Engaged in Action on 1325
Women’s Peace Table
Aksyon para sa Kapayapaan at Katarungan
Initiatives for International Dialogue
Saligan – Mindanaw

/October 7, 2014/