Ateneo presidents support new Muslim region

MANILA, Philippines – Presidents of the Philippines’ Jesuit universities on Monday, October 5, announced their support for a proposed law to create a more powerful Muslim region to end a 4-decade secessionist movement in the southern Philippines. 

In a half-page advertisement on the Philippine Daily Inquirer, presidents of the different Ateneo universities said the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is not an ordinary piece of legislation. Rather, it is “crafted to do social justice.”

“Here, our legislators are not only hewers of laws. They are builders of peace. They are architects of our future, their responsibility,” the school presidents said.

“Their fragile moment for building peace they ought not to squander through absence from crucial legislative sessions, indifference, or fear,” they added.

The following school heads from the Society of Jesus, better known as the Catholic Church’s Jesuit religious order, signed the statement:

President Benigno Aquino III himself studied in one of these Jesuit schools, the Ateneo de Manila University. 

This statement comes days before the Senate and House of Representatives adjourn their regular session on Saturday, October 10.

Senate President Franklin Drilon earlier said both houses of Congress will prioritize passing the BBL, a law pushed by Aquino, before the session is adjourned. 

The BBL aims to create a Muslim region more potent than the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). 

However, a controversial police operation that killed at least 67 people, including 44 members of an elite police force, stalled the BBL. 

This was after critics blamed these deaths on the rebel group Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which is engaged in a peace process with the Philippine government. (READ: Mamasapano, the President, and the Bangsamoro Basic Law)

‘Peace or war’ at stake

In their statement, the Ateneo presidents pointed out that the executive branch of the government “has done its part” by signing a framework agreement leading to the BBL. The government forged this deal, called the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), with the MILF.

The Ateneo presidents warned that “should the legislators or the courts repudiate the peace agreement that the executive forged with the MILF, they take responsibility for the ensuring peace or war into their own hands.”

The school heads then urged both houses of Congress to pass a BBL that guarantees the following:

The Ateneo presidents said: “The establishment of a Muslim region in MIndanao that is truly autonomous is mandated by the Constitution as a social justice imperative. Let this social justice no longer be postponed.” 

Earlier, Cotabato Archbishop Orlando Cardinal Quevedo, 7 Catholic bishops, and 50 Christian and Muslim advocates also joined forces for a BBL that “secures justice and peace.” –