Church backing no guarantee of BBL passage – priest

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MANILA, April 12, 2015 –- An official of the Church’s policy-making body has noted Mohagher Iqbal’s claim that members of the Philippine Catholic Church’s hierarchy back the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is pointless when the truth is lawmakers could not care less what the institution approves or condemns.

“Granting the Catholic Church is supportive of the BBL as alleged by Iqbal, will it change the mindset of our legislators, especially those against it?” asked Fr. Jerome R. Secillano, executive secretary of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP)’s Permanent Committee on Public Affairs (PCPA).

MILF Chief Peace Negotiator Mohagher Iqbal said the Catholic Church, as well as other faith-based groups are supportive of the BBL. In a briefing with members of the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines, Iqbal said there lies a need to go on a massive information campaign for the people and to engage lawmakers as the "real battle" is in Congress. To his right is Chief Government Negotiator Prof. Miriam Coronel-Ferrer. (Photo: Melo M. Acuña)

The RH example

At the risk of downplaying the Church’s influence on the Filipino faithful, the head priest of the Nuestra Señora del Perpetuo Socorro in Sampaloc, Manila, pointed out the “triumph” of the Reproductive Health (RH) Bill concretely proves that solons ignore her teachings, even oppose her, especially when it is convenient for them to do so.

“Didn’t Iqbal notice that the legislators’ opposition to the BBL is not necessarily buoyed by the electorate’s rejection of the draft law, but because of their own rational appreciation that the BBL does not guarantee peace in Mindanao?” Secillano told CBCP News in an interview.

Anti-BBL, anti-peace not the same

Moreover, he has expressed confidence that most, if not all, Filipinos desire a conflict-free and prosperous Mindanao, underscoring the error in the assertion that those who reject BBL necessarily reject peace as well.

“Why can’t the government and Iqbal start exploring now other ways to peace that will be acceptable to all?” the priest inquired.

According to him, the Draft BBL remains a draft, as such, not as sacred as the Constitution, which cannot be easily changed.

More acceptable mechanism

“Our policy and decision makers should now tinker with it until a more acceptable, effective and realizable mechanism for peace and development is agreed upon by stakeholders and other interest groups in Mindanao,” Secillano said.

Iqbal reportedly told members of the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FCAP) in a recent briefing that the Catholic Church is supportive of the BBL.

The chief peace negotiator of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) cited no less than Ateneo de Davao president Fr. Joel Tabora; Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio G. Cardinal Tagle; Cotabato Archbishop Orlando B. Cardinal Quevedo; and Cagayan de Oro Archbishop Antonio Ledesma, Jr. as allegedly among those pushing for the bill’s passage.

Simplistic solutions

Meanwhile, in his recent letter, CBCP President Archbishop Socrates B. Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan has blasted the idea that peace in Mindanao is possible only through BBL, and the looming bloodshed if Congress fail to pass it in full, junking these “solutions” as “simplistic.”

“All must work for peace in Mindanao – and throughout the country. This precept is not seriously disputed at all. What threatens the prospect of peace most, however, is equating it with the present BBL and threatening the return of violence and bloodshed should the Legislature fail to pass it intact!” shares the prelate in the April 9 document. (Raymond A. Sebastián/CBCP News)

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