COTABATO CITY (MindaNews/08 June) – The draft Bangsamoro Basic Law submitted by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission to Malacanang on April 22 has not been submitted to Congress because it is still undergoing a “thorough process of review” by the Office of the President to ensure Congress gets a “more refined and strengthened” draft, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos-Deles told an international inter-religious and inter-cultural conference here.
Congress adjourns on June 11 and will reopen on July 28 with President Benigno Simeon Aquino III delivering his State of the Nation Address (SONA). In last year’s SONA, he urged Congress to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law before end of 2014 to allow more time for the transition from the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) to the Bangasmoro, a new autonomous political entity with a ministerial form of governance.
Senate President Franklin Drilon, in a message read for him by Cardinal Orlando Quevedo during the opening Friday night of the two-day International Conference of Cotabato, assured the Senate’s support to the peace process and their commitment to pass what he refers to as “unifying and integrating” Basic Law.
Drilon said they “will ensure that the Bangsamoro law falls within the four corners of the Constitution and that it can withstand judicial scrutiny.”
He vowed to pass the law “as early as possible.”
Deles urged hundreds of participants gathered at the Notre Dame University gymnasium to “look at what’s going on from a glass-half-full perspective.”
“A few more days, if not weeks”
“We have waited 17 long years for a mutually binding and acceptable peace process with the MILF; and yet that has been achieved within three years of this administration. We can be bold in taking a few more days, if not weeks, to ensure a more refined and strengthened draft BBL (Bangsamoro Basic Law) to be stewarded by the leadership of both Houses of Congress through the legislative process and thereafter for ratification through plebiscite,” Deles said.
The International Conference of Cotabato was organized by the Archdiocese of Cotabato and two of the non-state members of the International Contact Group in the GPH-MILF peace process: the Community of Sant’ Egidio and Muhammadiyah, with the theme “Peace is Living Together: Religions and Cultures in Dialogue for Peace and Reconciliation in Mindanao.”
Deles did not say in her speech if the draft bill will be submitted to Congress before it adjourns on June 11 or wait until President Benigno Simeon Aquino III delivers his SONA on July 28 but she told MindaNews after the opening program that “an announcement will be made next week.”
The “more refined and strengthened” or “unifying and integrating” draft, however, will likely not be submitted before Congress adjourns.
Like Deles, Mohagher Iqbal, chair of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s (MILF) peace panel and concurrent chair of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC), declined to say if the draft will be submitted before Congress adjourns.
Like Deles, he told MindaNews in a text message Sunday afternoon that Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa and he as BTC chair, “would come out with an official statement.”
Roadmap “firmly in place”
Deles opened her update on the peace process by saying she wants to “allay some fears and slay a few rumors about the so-called delay” in the submission of the draft BBL to Congress.
The political roadmap, she said, is “firmly in place and we are fully confident that we are installing a process which will ensure, within an acceptable and doable time frame, that the BBL which will be enacted by Congress, will live up to people’s expectations as a measure worthy of broad-based support, and one that is faithful to our Constitution.”
“All parties concerned are striving to meet the standards set by the President at the historic signing of the CAB (Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro) for the BBL to be a law that is “equitable, practical, and empowering and which serves the interests of the entire nation.”
Barking up the wrong tree
To recall, rallies were held on May 4 in various parts of Mindanao pushing Congress, which was resuming sessions on May 5, to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law. But rally participants were actually barking up the wrong tree as the draft was then, and now, still with the Office of the President.
The Congressional calendar says it will go on sine die adjournment on June 13 but since June 12 is a holiday – Independence Day — it will adjourn on June 11.
The MILF in an editorial posted on its website, luwaran.com this week warned: ”The MILF is naturally easy to deal with provided that the other party also abides and complies with their obligations. And therefore, without saying, the MILF is hard to deal with if the other party dishonors or violates commitments made in signed documents.”
Deles told MindaNews that upon arrival here on Friday, she proceeded to the BTC office to give members an update on the review by the Office of the President, the latest of which was the meeting between Ochoa and Drilon.
“You can imagine the kind of rigor that is being done,” she said, citing as example the provisions in the draft on the plebiscite which she said had to be checked with the Commission on Elections.
She said due diligence is being undertaken to ensure its passage. “A lot of what would otherwise be happening in the (Congressional) committee hearings, some of that are being done now,” she said. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)