Manila (AsiaNews) – Last Saturday, at the end of its three-day Plenary Assembly, the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) issued a press release presenting their views about the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), which would establish a special region for Muslims on the island of Mindanao.
In their statement, the country’s Catholic bishops reiterated that any law should be based on “social justice” and “moral values”. The crux of the matter is reaching a deal on the bill between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), a former Islamist terrorist group that pursued a bloody war for decades in order to achieve independence for its Mindanao.
The Senate and the House of Representatives are now vetting the much criticised draft bill, which would allow for an autonomous 50-member legislature, a prime minister and the partial implementation of Sharia.
“We want a BBL that effectively addresses the injustices suffered by the Bangsamoro as well as the injustices suffered by indigenous peoples and various religious minorities within the proposed Bangsamoro area,” the bishops said.
“We want a BBL that concretely achieves the self-determination of the Bangsamoro in an identified area that remains part and parcel” of the Philippines, maintaining its “territorial integrity under the national sovereignty of the Philippine Republic,” they added.
Noting diverging opinions expressed by legal and constitutional experts, the CBCP said it was hoping that ad hoc legislative committees would seriously and reasonably consider all views to avoid jeopardising “the requirements of social justice for the Bangsamoro.”
In the press release, the CBCP also called for “A BBL that effectively protects universal human rights, particularly that of the indigenous peoples and the rights of Christian minorities who fear harassment and further marginalisation”.
For the bishops, the ultimate purpose of the law must be "lasting peace" based "on mutual trust, openness and respect”.
“Christianity and Islam are religions of peace," the CBCP said. “Most Muslims, Christians and indigenous communities want peace."
Hence, the moral imperative for lasting peace is for “Christians, Muslims, Lumads and members of other faiths to begin trusting one another,” said the bishops.
Finally, the bishop entrusted efforts for “a just and lasting peace” to Mary, who is eminently “honoured in the Qur‘an and the Bible as Jesus’ mother, whom Christians call ‘Our Peace’.”