A Moro woman calls for the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law, which would establish a parliamentary government to replace the current autonomous region in Muslim Mindanao, has been delayed due to a lack of quorum in Congress. (Photo by Joe Torres)
The heads of Philippine Jesuit universities have called on legislators to pass a law that will recognize the identity and aspirations of the Moro people in the southern Philippines.
In a statement released Oct. 5, the presidents of five Jesuit-run universities in the Philippines said the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law, which will pave the way for the creation of an autonomous Muslim region in Mindanao, should be integrated into the country's sociopolitical institutions.
The Jesuit educators said the law "emerges from 17 years of peace negotiations" and seeks "to rectify past errors, to reverse injustices committed in prejudice and hatred against Muslims in Mindanao."
"It charts a better future for the Bangsamoro peoples and cultures and thus for the people of the Philippines," said the statement signed by Jesuit Fathers Joel Tabora, Jose Ramon Villarin, Primitivo Viray Jr., Karel San Juan, and Roberto Yap.
The presidents of the Ateneo university system — Ateneo de Davao University, Ateneo de Manila University, Ateneo de Naga University, Ateneo de Zamboanga University, and Xavier University — warned lawmakers against squandering "their fragile moment for building peace through absence from crucial legislative sessions, indifference, or fear."
The statement referred to the lack of quorum that has plagued the House of Representatives debate on the proposed law aiming to establish a parliamentary Bangsamoro government to replace the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
The Philippine Congress is to pass the law by Dec. 16.
The Jesuit priests in their statement said they believe in the negotiated process that achieved the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro.
The Philippine government signed the agreement with the rebel Moro Islamic Liberation Front in 2014 to end almost four decades of war in the southern region of Mindanao.
The agreement served as a basis for the drafting of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law.
The Jesuit educators said the law should have "provisions that surpass, not diminish, the provisions" of an existing law that gives autonomy to Muslims in Mindanao.
They maintained that the importance of accepting a political entity where the Muslim autonomous region enjoys powers greater than other local government units "but fully subject to national governance."
In separate statements, the policy center, Institute for Autonomy and Governance, and the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines, a consortium of Catholic schools, supported the call by the Jesuits, highlighting the need for immediately passing the law that they said "is based on social justice."