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Posts Tagged ‘Peace’

Bataan Valor, Peacemaking and the Draft BBL by Archbishop Socrates B. Villegas

I write these thoughts as a Filipino and as a believer in Christ. I speak neither for the Catholic hierarchy nor for my people in Lingayen Dagupan. I speak from my heart, molded by the five years of my ministry in Bataan, land of valor, land of peace. What did Bataan teach me about peace? What does Bataan say to me about the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law?

Principled Peace

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!

A complicated history and complicated issues do not lend themselves to simplistic solutions, and the more possibilities are restricted, the less likely truly lasting peace becomes.

Our sights should be set not on a truce, not on some tenuous cessation of hostilities, and for this, principles must be explicated, clearly discussed and rationally agreed on.  This is what I refer to as ‘principled peace’.  And warning that we shall have war unless BBL is passed does not make for principled peace!

Inalienable Rights

I refer to the “people of Mindanao” and not only to Muslims, because Mindanao has many communities that are not Muslim, and the principled peace we so desire cannot be attained unless we make a firm resolve to respect the rights of all.

Social justice is the name of the just claim of the people of Mindanao to a share in the prosperity of the nation and to its resources.  It is not just to beggar Southern Philippines.  It is not just that morsels be thrown in their direction while imperial Manila lounges in luxury, fed and pampered by the toil and industry of the provinces.  Social justice is the just cry that protests against the disproportion in allotments between the provinces of Mindanao and those of the rest of the country.

Self-determination is what gives them the right to live by their moral codes, their cultural mores and their rich traditions.  It is the name of their right to determine how they ought to live and how they ought to organize themselves to be true to their most sacred beliefs and their heritage as a people.  Self-determination is their greatest entitlement to that degree of autonomy that is consistent with the right of the Republic to its integrity and sovereignty.  We are not conceding favors to Mindanao.  We are recognizing the rights of the people of Mindanao and according them their due.  It is not a matter of condescension and accommodation but of justice!

Religious freedom is the reason that the people of Mindanao should not be compelled to submit to a secular regime if they believe they should be practicing their religion even in their civil and political lives.  Religious freedom does not only mean that there should be room for all to freely believe and freely practice.  It also means that secularism cannot be an imposed ideology on the entire Republic!

The Constitution

All Filipinos, not only its officials, swear to uphold and defend the Constitution.  It embodies the foundational norms of our organized life, articulates our core-values as a people, and establishes the framework for political and civil life.  It has to be that secure point of reference for all agreements and negotiations. Otherwise, deals and covenants would rest on nothing more than passing fancy, dangerously cheap compromise and perilous détente.

It is my position that all suggestions, insinuations or hints that the Constitution will be amended to accommodate the provisions of the BBL cease.  The Constitution is not a document that can be dealt with in patch-work fashion whenever we enter into negotiations with any restive sector of the Philippines.

In this respect, the decision of the Supreme Court in the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domains (Province of North Cotabato v. GRP Peace Panel, 2008) ought to be the juridical sieve through which the BBL should be examined.  If we pass anything now, let us enact a document that we are morally certain will withstand constitutional challenge before the Supreme Court.

I have paid close attention to the arguments of the legal experts summoned by the houses of Congress to shed light on the Constitutional issues, and I am convinced that there are some very crucial points of constitutional law that ought to be resolved.  Glossing over them will not be helpful at all, and it is neither my place nor my competence to pass upon them now.


The sectors that claim they were not included in the deals leading to the BBL should not be silenced.  Neither should they be ignored.  I refer in particular to the MNLF and to indigenous cultural communities, as well as to Christian communities in Mindanao.  No agreement that is perceived to be favorable to one sector alone will ever bring the sought-after peace for Mindanao.

The BIFF phenomenon is likewise worrisome.  They are armed and dangerous.  They have given the nation concrete demonstration of the trouble they can cause.  Shall we negotiate with them later and hammer another deal?  While the MILF has promised to keep them in check, it has also been relevantly pointed out that relatives, though belonging to different organizations and associations, will not so easily restrain each other!  The same thing must be said of the remnants of the Abu Sayaff Group.  And while some claim that Jemmayah Isalmiyah is a spent force, I personally would like to know more about its presence or its demise in Mindanao.

Finally, there are the traditional institutions such as the sultanates that seem to have been left out of the conversation.  What is their future under the BBL?

Arguments from History

Some of the advocates of BBL rest their claims for the swathe of powers granted the entity known as Bangsamoro invoke historical arguments – such as the sultanates of the past and their sway.   But arguments from history are always tricky.  In fact, international law has rejected this approach altogether by the doctrine of uti possidetis…in respect to the drawing of boundaries, they stay as they are found.  Appealing to history in respect to claims of political power and autonomy will only confound issues more.  Once upon a time, Soliman ruled over  Muslim Manila.  That piece of history is certainly no sound argument for Shari’a in Manila.  I am not against Shari’a.  I am only saying that some arguments are helpful, other are only distracting!

A Plea Against Tribalization

Ours is a beautiful people precisely because of our diversity.  Our cultural heritage is enviable precisely because it is rich.  But it is precisely the multi-faceted character of our ethnicities than can lend itself, unless are vigilant, to a decadent local version of Balkanization, our own form of modern-day tribalization.

From the crucible of history, we have emerged one nation, subsisting as a sovereign State.  This, for me, is beyond negotiation: the singularity of the State and the singularity of sovereignty.  I believe that I speak in union with the Magisterium of the Church on this issue that teaches:

“The rights of nations are nothing but ‘human rights fostered at the specific level of community life’.  A nation has a ‘fundamental right to existence’, to ‘its own language and culture through which a people expresses and promotes…its fundamental spiritual ‘sovereignty’, to ‘shape life according to its own traditions, excluding, of course, every abuse of basic human rights and in particular the oppression of minorities, to ‘build its future by providing an appropriate education for the younger generation’.” (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, n. 157)

The State has the right to the seamlessness of its integrity and to its territorial integrity!

I am a Filipino. We are Filipinos hallowed by the heroism of our Bataan heroes. The Philippines is God’s gift to me. The Philippines is our blessing from God. We need peace. We need laws for the preservation of peace, principled peace.

Dagupan City, April 9, 2015


This Monday August 18, 2014 at the conclusion of his apostolic visit to Korea, Pope Francis will preside at Mass at the Myeong Dong Cathedral for Peace and Reconciliation. In recent days, we have been made aware of the perilous and life threatening situation that our Christian brethren in northern Iraq are going through.

At the Angelus prayer on July 20th, Pope Francis cried with pain: “Our brothers and sisters are persecuted, they are pushed out, forced to leave their homes without the opportunity to take anything with them. To these families and to these people I would like to express my closeness and my steadfast prayer. Dearest brothers and sisters so persecuted, I know how much you suffer; I know that you are deprived of everything. I am with you in your faith  in Him who conquered evil!”

The Pope also appeals to the conscience of all people, and to each and every believer he repeats: “May the God of peace create in all an authentic desire for dialogue and reconciliation. Violence is not conquered with violence. Violence is conquered with peace! Let us pray in silence, asking for peace; everyone, in silence …. Mary Queen of peace, pray for us!”

Therefore as a gesture of spiritual unity with our persecuted brethren in northern Iraq and in response to the call of the Holy Father that all the faithful in the whole Church raise a voice of ceaseless prayer for the restoration of peace, I request my archbishops and bishops in the Philippines to offer all our Masses on August 18 as Votive Mass for Peace and Reconciliation in Iraq. It is humbly requested that the archbishops and bishops also disseminate this information to all the priests and mandate the priests to offer the same prayers in all their Masses on August 18.

It would be opportune for our school children to be asked to pray the rosary in school on August 18 for the healing of Iraq. Let us be united with Pope Francis in this quest for peace.

Let there be peace!

From the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, Manila, August 12, 2014



Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan

CBCP President

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