CAMP DARAPANAN, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao (MindaNews /08 August) – The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is still looking forward to the commitment of President Aquino to push for the passage of a Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) that adheres to the peace agreements signed with the government (GPH) but if it is not passed, will “continue to demand of the next administration to implement the FAB (Framework Agreeement on the Bangsamoro) and the CAB (Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro),” MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim said.
Murad told MindaNews in an interview here on August 5 that as the 2016 Presidential election nears, they feel the peace process has been “politicized,” with some politicians using the issue to serve their interests.
He acknowledged the challenges they are facing now but maintained they are “holding on to the peace agreement.”
“We have to protect the peace agreement…. if all efforts will not succeed in passing it within the President’s term, then we will continue to demand of the next government to implement FAB and CAB because the final peace agreement is not subject to renegotiation,” said the 67-year old Murad, who has been chair of the MILF since founding chair Salamat Hashim passed away in July 2003.
Murad, then vice chair for military affairs, served as MILF peace panel chair when the peace negotiations between the government and the MILF resumed in 2001, following the ouster of then President Joseph Estrada, who waged an “all-out war” against the MILF while peace talks were ongoing in 2000.
Murad said they are still looking forward to the commitment of President Aquino (even as) his political capital may be winding down. “I think he still has capacity to really push for the BBL” that “will comply with the peace agreements,” he said.
The government and MILF signed the FAB on October 15, 2012 and the CAB on March 27, 2014. Both parties agreed that the status quo in the relationship between the government and the Moro is unacceptable and that they would work for a new autonomous political entity named the Bangsamoro that would replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
The passage of the BBl will pave the way for the creation of the Bangsamoro by June 30, 2016, according to the roadmap of the government and MILF peace panels.
He noted that the President in his State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 27 cited the BBL as the first in his list of priority bills. The President, however, has not not certified as urgent HB 5811, the substitute bill which has been the subject of criticisms from various sectors for allegedly producing a Bangsamoro that will be “less than the ARMM” that it seeks to replace.
Murad added that while those who are eyeing the Presidency have not declared their positions on the peace process, “our general assessment is we are still optimistic that whoever wins as President, it’s unlikely that he will abandon the peace process.”
He said all Presidents starting from Cory Aquino (1986 to 1992) resumed the peace process, including Estrada (1998 – 2001) until his “all-out war.”
Murad said among the challenges that they are facing is how to manage the “very high expectations” of the Moro people “but we are also trying to start now our advocacy to let them see the possible scenarios… our possible options.”
He cited three major scenarios:
Scenario 1: if the BBl is passed in compliance with the FAB and CAB and acceptable to the parties, the roadmap of the peace process will proceed as scheduled;
Scenario 2: BBL will not be passed anymore (under the Aquino administration) “so we have Plan B because that can happen, that is a possibility;” and
Scenario 3: the BBL is passed but not compliant with the FAB and CAB and not acceptable to the MILF. “We also have our own plan if this happens,” he said.
Murad, however, declined to say what their plans are for scenarios 2 and 3 but admits that the third scenario is “more complicated.”
He said the BBL “has to comply with the peace agreement.” He said this is not an ordinary bill but one whose foundation is the peace process.
Murad said a BBL that is not acceptable would send a wrong message to the people that the peace process is not the solution to the problem. “Yun ang kinatatakutan natin (That’s what we’re afraid of) and it can also be capitalized by extremists among the Bangsamoro,” Murad said.
Murad reiterated what he told MindaNews in August last year, that they would “try to work out every effort to make armed struggle the last option.”
He dismissed fears that the MILF will go to war if the BBL is not passed.
“We’ve already invested so much in the peace process so hahawakan namin ang (hold on to) the peace process. We will not abandon the peace process. … We will continue to press government to implement the agreement because it’s binding not only to the Aquino administration but to the entire government, up to the next governments,” he explained.
At the House of Representatives, the interpellation period for HB 5811, the substitute bill approved by the Ad Hoc Committee on the BBL (AHCBBL) last May 20, was supposed to resume on August 4 but the session was adjourned due to lack of quorum. The same situation happened on August 5.
Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, chair of the AHCBBL told MindaNews last Thursday that the interpellation will resume August 10. This is exactly two months after it was suspended when Congress adjourned sine die on June 10. By then, only eight of 38 representatives who had signed up to interpellate had done so.
At the Senate, Senator Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., chair of the Committee on Local Government is expected to submit his substitute bill on August 10. Marcos in early June delivered a privilege speech saying that in its present from and substance, SB 2408 or the draft BBL crafted by the 15-member GPH-MILF Bangsamoro Transition Commission, would “lead us to perdition .”
Senate President Franklin Drilon last Monday told Senate reporters the sponsorship of the substitute bill would be on August 11 but interpellation would begin on August 17.
He said no deadline has been set as to when to terminate the interpellation period. “We will not set any deadline on the interpellation, so everybody will be given a chance to review the report that will be submitted,” he said.
MindaNews counted 33 session days – at a maximum of four session days a week — from August 17 until Congress goes on recess from October 10 to November 2. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)