Bishops request more ‘inclusive’ Bangsamoro talks

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MANILA, Oct. 3, 2014— The Catholic hierarchy believes the government should strive for a more “inclusive” dialogue to try to restore peace and stability in the troubled southern Philippines, especially with regard to the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) said that discussion on the said legislation “must be inclusive as much as possible” to address the root causes of conflict in Mindanao.

Mohagher Iqbal (left) and Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, chief negotiators of the MILF and GPH, respectively, shake hands while holding a copy of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro during its formal signing on March 28, 2014 in Malacañang. (Photo: OPAPP)

The bishops particularly insist on the participation in the “exchange and debates” on the law of the indigenous communities.

“It would violate the tenets of social justice to ignore them under the pretext of going by the desires of the majority,” Archbishop Socrates Villegas, CBCP president, said in a statement.

Citing lessons from the Middle East, he said the law will only succeed if its discussion will be inclusive, and called on all sectors to be allowed to take part in the process.

“Let those who have reservations to the proposal, or even those who oppose it, speak their minds freely, coherently and without reserve, and let those who advocate it argue as strenuously in its defense, for only in the context of intelligent — but charitable — discourse can we hope for a reasonable outcome and resolution,” Villegas said.

The bishops also pledged support for all initiatives and efforts to achieve lasting peace in Mindanao, saying that peace in the region “has been a common national aspiration for a very long time now”.

Villegas also said that the emergence of Bangsamoro should not mean the exclusion of any Filipino from any part of the country by reason of religious belief, ethnicity or language.

“Our Muslim brothers and sisters have found their way through various parts of the archipelago, settling in many provinces heretofore almost exclusively peopled by Christians,” he said.

He added: “As far as we know, they have been welcomed, received and respected. It is our hope that Christians too may receive hospitality in those parts of the one Republic that, by legislation, may be marked out as Bangsamoro”.

The House Representatives recently started committee hearings on the proposed BBL, as a series of public hearings are also set in different parts of Mindanao on the BBL that once approved, will create a Bangsamoro core territory that will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. (CBCPNews)

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