Contentious Positions and the BBL

As interests in our county are manifold, and often conflicting, looking for the common good is always challenging. The common good demands that one look beyond one’s personal or institutional private good, to seek the good where all can flourish as human beings under particular historical circumstances. The common good is never reached once and for all time. It is an ongoing shared work in progress.

Unfortunately, what the common good is or demands – even though associated with the will of God – is not revealed through special divine revelation. In this country, we do not accept that the common good is bindingly articulated by any religious leader. No Pope, no Imam, no Dalai Lama, no taoist Monk articulates the common good for the nation. Nor do we have a recognized leader that articulates the common good once and for all. That is was what kings do – or used to do – in other countries. Their decrees were absolute. In the Philippines today, where we subscribe to a separation of powers, the common good is the goal of the political processes that involve the executive, the legislature and the judiciary. But it is also the outcome of the democratic conversation or debate, participated in by various levels of society, among them academe, the media, the religious communities, the business communities, the citizens’ organizations, and the like. Orlando Cardinal Quevedo is a participant in this process, but so is Bp. Broderick Pabillo; Roberto Tiglao is a participant, but so is Randy David.

In this process, contentious issues – which are not just issues which involve right vs wrong, but especially those which involve good vs. good – are decidedly not resolved through the barrel of a gun, but by our “democratic processes.” Positions are formed, statements are articulated, counter-statements are made, convictions are formed, counter-opinions created. Some statements are well-researched, others preposterous; some illuminating, others deceptive. They all form part of the process by which the person or persons or institutions, appropriately empowered by our democracy, finally comes to a decision. Here, the goal is to decide among competing opinions for the common good.

In the case of the draft BBL, decisions on its legislation are left to the wisdom and the conscience of the Legislature.  The Executive proposed it as the result of an extended peace process, in which both the government and the former belligerants agreed on a formula through which peace might be achieved.

The draft BBL, the product of an extended peace process, has been proposed for legislation by the Executive. Ultimately, their product may pass the scrutiny of the Supreme Court.

Just as it would not be appropriate in a democracy to take a gun and shoot down a legislator whose opinion varies from one’s own, it is not appropriate to reduce the positions of lawmaker with which we may not agree to ad hominem vilification. Many issues are contentious because they involve choices between good and good, not just good and evil. Coal-fired power plants and large scale mining today are contentions. “Bangsamoro people” “territory,” “concurrent powers,” “asymmetric relations” and “Wali” are contentious issues. An opinion opposed to one’s own does not necessarily mean that one is possessed of the devil, or manipulated by the madness of the administration, or the victim of shameless railroading in the legislature. It may mean that all things considered, the lawmaker, working within timeframes that are reasonable, consciously allows his or her position to be influenced by the positions of those most informed or most reasonable or most credible, and so makes a decision for the common good as he or she best perceives it.

For me, discharging this sacred duty is the burden of the legislator today. I thank the legislators in the House of Representatives and in the Senate that are putting in extra time and effort, to make good and timely decisions. I pray that their decisions may indeed issue in a meaningful autonomy for Muslim Filipinos as the Constitution mandates.   May it create for them a homeland of prosperity and peace.

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About Joel Tabora, S.J.

Jesuit. Educator
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