Privilege Speech by Atty. Laisa Masuhud Alamia: “False Dichotomy and the Moral Responsibility to Unite”

The Honorable Interim Chief Minister Ahod Balawag Ebrahim Al Haj, Honorable Speaker Ali Pangalian Balindong, distinguished ladies and gentlemen of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority, all the staff who are here, assalamu’alaikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh:

I rise on a matter of personal and collective concern to address and confront the biggest elephant in the room today. 

There is a false dichotomy existing right now within this parliament, within the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region, and even between and among the Bangsamoro. It is said that this kind of schism is most vicious and unjust when people arbitrarily y separate parts of a diverse but highly interrelated, complex system, and cause an “othering” of the imagined “enemy” from within.

Mr. Speaker, the former Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao is born out of the sweat, blood and tears of not only of our mujahideens from the Moro National Liberation Front but also of every Moro who suffered, shed their blood and lost their lives and property as a result of the never ending conflict between the government and our people amidst the implementation of martial law. I am a martial law baby, the barangay where I was born in Zamboanga City was burnt to ground including our houses, our business, and many of our relatives were killed.  This one that represented the ARMM at that time when it was created represented the aspirations and the struggles of “us,” of our people, of the Bangsamoro — for autonomy and self-governance. One that was of every Abdul and Fatima and every ordinary babuh and bapah, indah and utoh; one that was envisioned for a better tomorrow where justice is served, where lasting peace and development is envisioned. ARMM existed for twenty-nine (29) years but we acknowledge the fact that it failed to put a stop to the pestering injustices committed against the Bangsamoro. For all the good and the bad that ARMM was, ARMM was not just a structure or an abstract idea or an experiment that failed. For better or for worse, ARMM was also 36,000 employees – permanent and contractual, professionals who have given their professional lives to the betterment of the autonomous region, who are registered voters of the ARMM and most importantly who supported the passage of the Bangsamoro Organic Law.

The BARMM and in this case the Bangsamoro Transition Authority as the interim Bangsamoro government, also, is a product of this same aspiration. It is a continuing quest of our people, the Bangsamoro people, for a genuine self-rule, for lasting peace, and for real development that would change the lives for the better of ordinary Moros living in communities in the entire autonomous region.

Mr. Speaker, the previous ARMM government including its workforce of more than 36,000 employees have consistently supported this struggle for self-rule — the Moro Islamic Liberation Front or the MILF as the one leading this cause— from the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro or FAB, to the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) to the Bangsamoro Basic Law to the Bangsamoro Organic Law, to the preparation of all inventories and transition documents from ARMM to BARMM to facilitate the smooth transition, to the time that the law was ratified in the January 21st plebiscite, and even after the official turnover to the Interim Chief Minister as the leader of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority — I was part of ARMM before, we were all out in our support — because more than anything, we are Bangsamoro. We are also Bangsamoro. We are not the enemy. The 36,000 employees who are out there now continuing to work for the BARMM are not the enemy. They are our allies. Every teacher, every health and social worker in the farthest hard to reach places in the BARMM, every road construction worker, accountant, human resource officer, clerk, utility worker, security officer – all of them are our allies. They are also Bangsamoro. The same blood that have flowed in the veins of the mujahideens are in their veins, in our veins. The basic human rights principle and Islamic fundamental truth that all men are created equal and so no one is above any one, cannot be overemphasized. No one should be left behind. And it becomes our moral responsibility in the BARMM to ensure that these principles of equality and equity are given life and practiced by us.

Mr. Speaker, the elephant in the room that I am referring to is the false and perceived dichotomy of “ARMM versus BARMM.” This othering that separates and further divides our people, divides us instead of uniting us. 

With the passage of the Bangsamoro Organic Law, the entire Bangsamoro people have been provided with the structure, mechanism, and the principles and policy direction within which our right to self-determination may be exercised. It also gives the region the right to self-governance to pursue our political, economic, social, and cultural development within the framework of the Philippine Constitution. With the overwhelming ratification of this law by not just a majority of the constituents of the former ARMM but most importantly, with the full support of the almost 36,000 permanent and contractual employees of the abolished ARMM, we have cast in stone our aspiration to establish a democratic political system and a parliamentary form of government, providing the Bangsamoro people the freedom of choice and the right to participate in political processes within our territory. The passage of the BOL and the establishment of the BARMM are proofs of that unity and support that we have for one another, from the ARMM, to the BARMM.

Mr. Speaker, this false dichotomy should not be happening especially at a time that we need all the support we can get as we work towards having a meaningful transition from an interim government to a full-fledged Bangsamoro Government.

Mr. Speaker, we are one. One as a people of diverse opinions but one, nonetheless. One as a people who continue to resist colonization and oppression. One as a people who continue to rise from the war and conflict that has ravaged our communities. And now, one in rising to the challenge of self-governance and moral governance — a people working together as one that imposes upon ourselves the moral responsibility to take care of our people. 

Mr. Speaker, as the Minority Floor Leader, we reiterate our support to the cause of the Bangsamoro. We shall support all the undertakings of the Parliament and the executive that would be for the benefit and general welfare of the Bangsamoro. 

An author once said that there are two kinds of people in this world: those who believe that there are two kinds of people in this world and those who are smart enough to know better. My dear esteemed colleagues in the BTA, I implore you to be in the second category – those who are smart enough to know better. Whether we came from ARMM, from the national government, from the MILF , form the MNLF, from the BTC or local government units, academe, or civil society – it doesn’t matter now. What matters is that we work as one, we think as one, we help and support each other as ONE BANGSAMORO. And this was the call of the Honorable Chief Minister yesterday during his speech for all of us to help each other.

We reiterate our support to the leadership of the Bangsamoro Government led by Chief Minister Alhaj Murad Ebrahim because only in unity will we be able to put our minds and hearts towards a meaningful transition and lasting peace and progress in our region.