By Virginia J. Pasalo
MY day began at 7:00 a.m, passing by Mira, my niece who took the time to teach me how to pay my bills on coins.ph. After the tutorial and transacting payments for basic utilities with the new app, I proceeded to Philcoa to find a quick ride to Dusit Hotel to attend the “National Conference on Bangsamoro Basic Law and Federalism“. All taxis were full so I decided to try my luck on the buses. They were as packed as the Metro Rail Transit (MRT), which I decided not to take on a rush hour. After a grueling wait, I got lucky to board a bus standing on my feet, luckily not on high-heeled shoes, but on my pink sneakers.
I arrived in time to watch the opening, a few minutes past 9:00 a.m. and occupied a table very near the door. Constitutionalist Christian Monsod and his daughter sat just as soon as the first panelists made their presentations. This is the second time I had meaningful conversations with him, the first time being inside a high-security detention cell. During that time, he was with his wife, Winnie Monsod, a journalist/ TV host known for her incisive dissection of socio-economic issues.
The presentations exceeded their limits, interrupted only by a pipe-in announcement of a fire drill, and a warning to stay where we are, and to keep calm. One speaker kept saying, “I will share with you now a very privileged conversation”, and I listened to these “privileges” with bewilderment and alarm. The daughter of Christian Monsod, genuinely concerned that she will self-destruct, tried to talk to one of the organizers to caution the speaker that she is on live telecast, but she told her that the speaker does not listen to prompts like that. The speaker narrated with vigor, how she got the Bangsa Moro Basic Law (BBL) approved in the House of Representatives, with strategies such us personally buying Chanel lipstick and threatening not to bring those responsible for a European tour, if the BBL is not approved. After all, she says, she brought some of them to these trips before, on official tour. Crocodiles grab these tours, like monkeys grab bananas.
The issues concerning the BBL and Federalism are complicated that even educated people need to read volumes of history and literature on politics and development, in addition to how these two concepts intersect with citizen empowerment. Even lawyers who were quick to offer their opinions got lost in the middle of conceptual frameworks and pragmatic considerations. The conference ended with more questions, as it was broken down into what is doable in the framework of the Constitution, because to attempt to revise the Constitution at this time would be impossible, considering the “urgent” intention of the President to pass the BBL during his second State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 24.
The conference expanded my own understanding of the BBL and federalism, and that is something I am truly grateful for, having so many questions on federalism as it will be implemented in Region 1. In addition, we were given tapes of the presentations, and a book entitled, “Drawing Lessons for the Creation of Regional Governments Under a Federal Setup: A Case Study on the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.”
We “kissed” each other on the cheeks, in parting. I decided to take the train, in anticipation of the heavy traffic from Makati to Quezon City where I picked up books at Victory Liner. From Victory Liner I passed by some fresh fruits and vegetables at Q Mart, and took a jeepney to Sikatuna Village to drink buko (young coconut) juice.
On my way, I saw a wailing child who just got up from the street. His right eye was all white. The on-lookers stared at him in disbelief. His own father and her sister were so bewildered, they attended to the cart first, upon seeing him able to stand up. The cart, half-filled with junk, was mangled a bit, with one wheel dislodged. They were on the opposite side of the curve where normally they were not supposed to be. Drivers normally reduce speed to engage the curve, but this time, it swerved in a hurry.
A woman muttered, “Huminto lang sila para bumili ng saging.” (They just stopped to buy bananas.)
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