𝗥𝗘𝗔𝗗| 𝗣𝗿𝗶𝘃𝗶𝗹𝗲𝗴𝗲 𝗦𝗽𝗲𝗲𝗰𝗵 𝗼𝗳 𝗠𝗣 𝗟𝗮𝗶𝘀𝗮 𝗠𝗮𝘀𝘂𝗵𝘂𝗱 𝗔𝗹𝗮𝗺𝗶𝗮Assalamualaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakaatuhu.Our memories always find their way to the work that we do. In making decisions, both personal and political, what always comes to mind is a memory that will inevitably define our position or course of action. These memories serve as reminders of what is important to us, not only as public servants who make policy decisions on a daily basis, but as individuals who share in the struggles and triumphs of the Bangsamoro communities that raised us into the people we are today.

As we begin the work that awaits us in the next three years, I call upon each and every one of us to remember what brought us into the halls of this Parliament, and what we bring with us from beyond these walls built on the backs of our people. The memories that first come to mind as we face our daily tasks are a sobering reminder of who we are and whom we dedicate our work to.

What memories do we remember when we work? Who do we remember? Ano po ang naaalala natin kapag nandito tayo sa loob ng session hall? Ano po ang naaalala natin kapag nagtatrabaho na tayo at nagdedebate?

It would serve us very well to remember that the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao – the BARMM – was established as a response to our people’s assertion of the right to self-determination and our just calls for transitional justice and reconciliation. Everything we do must be an unequivocal affirmation of these things, otherwise we are setting ourselves and our communities up for failure – a failure we cannot afford, especially given the constraints we have to work with, for better or for worse.

In 2019, when many of us first took our seats as members of parliament, we knew for a fact that we only had three years to build and reinforce the legal and practical foundation on which the Bangsamoro regional government will be built. We had our sights set on seven legislative priorities, namely the creation of offices necessary for the BARMM bureaucracy, administrative code, civil service code, education code, electoral code, indigenous peoples code, internal revenue code, and local government code.

During the pandemic that plagued the first three years of our political transition, we worked hard to fulfill our duties despite the unprecedented challenges we have had to face in the process. The political transition is already difficult enough as it is, even without a global pandemic that shocked even the richest nations into a standstill. Through our collective efforts, we managed to deliver goods and services with a sense of urgency and accountability to our communities. We did well, and yet we also know that it is far from enough. We, the BARMM Government, tried to do our best, pero alam nating kulang pa rin. We only managed to pass half of the priority bills, many of them filed halfway into our term but failed to move forward in the legislative process.

Mr. Speaker, it is now 2022, and the parliament is once again made up of presidential appointees, with another three years of working on the success of the BARMM’s political transition ahead of us. If there is anything that the first three years of the political transition has taught us, it is that there is never enough time to do everything that we want to do for our people, not when we have spent our entire lives imagining what can and must be done for the Bangsamoro.

What our people demand, however, are results. Ito po ang sinasabi ng mga tao, ng ating constituents: resulta. We cannot waste our time on mere imagining, when there is always work to be done. We cannot waste our time on mere conversation, when there is always action that must be taken. Our people demand to feel that our struggle has begun to bear fruit, and to know that the time for harvest is near. We cannot reap a full harvest if we refuse to engage in the difficult work of tending to the dreams we have planted together, making sure that our dreams take root in a way that runs deep and spreads wide across the land we have fought for.

We do not have the luxury of time, fellow members of parliament. We are, indeed, blessed to stand in these halls to represent our people, but we are working on borrowed time. We have spoken about our people’s needs and struggles at length during our committee hearings, speaking engagements, and parliament sessions, but our peoples’ struggles are not mere talking points for us to discuss and debate about as if we have time that stretches infinitely in front of us. Our lived realities are not mere teaching moments that we share with a willing audience. Our lived realities are reminders of what must change for the better, if we are to deliver the promise of autonomy and self-determination.

Our memory must be unflinching and uncompromising, if we are to look at the future with a clear vision of what we can and must do for the Bangsamoro. Every time we walk into the halls of parliament, let us remember what the past three years were like – what we have accomplished and what we could have done better, what we have delivered and what we could have provided sooner.The past three years prior to our recent appointment into the parliament is something that we must sear into our collective memory. It is what we hold in our hands and carry in our hearts as we stand in the halls of the Bangsamoro Parliament, and the weight we carry must always be unbearable if we are to genuinely represent the people whom we have committed to serve. Otherwise, if the burden feels light, then maybe we are not here for the same reasons at all.

Transitional justice and reconciliation (TJR) is at the core of our people’s struggle for autonomy and self-determination. Its importance to the Bangsamoro is such that the first section under RA 11054 or the Bangsamoro Organic Law’s article on Basic Rights is devoted to transitional justice. In it, the parliament is expected to commit as it works to “enact a transitional justice mechanism to address the legitimate grievances of the Bangsamoro people and the indigenous peoples, such as historical injustices, human rights violations, and marginalization through unjust dispossession of territorial and proprietary rights and customary land tenure.”

The members of the previous parliament recognized and acknowledged this important task. The Bangsamoro Human Rights Commission was, in fact, the first office created by an act of parliament, given its indispensable role in fulfilling the human rights component of TJR until a law establishing TJR mechanism is passed. This commitment to TJR also extends into the process of drafting the priority codes, as the Bangsamoro Education Code carries a provision to uphold and affirm the “historical identity, narratives, and aspirations of the Bangsamoro people.”

Three resolutions were also passed in relation to TJR measures, namely Resolution 56 which calls for the creation of a National Transitional Justice and Reconciliation Commission for the Bangsamoro and the formulation and implementation of a transitional justice and reconciliation program at the national level; Resolution 58 which calls for the creation of a regional Transitional Justices and Reconciliation Commission in the BARMM; and Resolution 62 which requires all ministries and offices to annually commemorate the anniversary of the Jabidah Massacre on March 18 as part of the regional government’s efforts towards transitional justice.

But, Mr Speaker, resolutions are not laws, and resolutions do not have budget allocations.

It is for this reason that I have drafted previously in the first Parliament and intend to refile all the bills I have submitted to the previous parliament with respect to transitional justice, including the Internally Displaced Persons Rights Bill.

It is my hope that we can work together to enact these bills into law, thus securing regular appropriations for TJR programs that are necessary to making TJR a part of the peoples’ everyday life in the Bangsamoro.

I have mentioned that we are working on borrowed time, but we also need to remember that we are working with limited resources. The block grant that currently provides funding for a huge bulk of the regional budget is not forever, and the Mandanas Ruling is set to have an impact on the programs and projects that we will be implementing in coordination with local government units across the region. There are no surprises here, which is why we have no excuse to be unprepared in facing the changes and challenges that await us in the future. There is no excuse for us to not do our due diligence given these shifts in public funding and spending, and we need to be ready and self-sufficient once these changes happen.

We need to take steps in order to ensure that the BARMM will be self-sufficient in the soonest possible time. Wala na po tayong panahon. Ang block grant ay hindi forever. This is what it means to have a federal parliamentary system, and this is the essence of a government that embodies our peoples’ right to autonomy and self-determination. That the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao now exists as part of the national political landscape is, for sure, a step towards fulfilling the highest hopes and aspirations of our ancestors, but it does not stop there.

We cannot stop here. We cannot afford to stop, not when the Bangsamoro people are still dreaming of a better future. We cannot sleepwalk our way into a future where just and lasting peace is a reality shared by all of us. We must work, and I look forward to working every single day in the next three years with all of you, with memories of our people’s suffering pushing me to be a better parliament member and with the dreams of our youth inspiring me to build a better future with every Bangsamoro, and for every Bangsamoro.

Together, we can do all of this and more.