DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 27 Sept) – The chair of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has issued an appeal “to everyone to hold fast to the Peace Process” even amid “trying times and enormous challenges,” particularly because chances of passing a Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) that adheres to the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) signed by the Philippine government (GPH) and the MILF are “gradually diminishing as time passes by.”
“Whatever happens to the BBL, we should accept as the will of Allah” who “will decide and grant us what is best for us in this World and the Hereafter,” MILF peace panel chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim said.
Murad issued the appeal in his September 24 “Message of Solidarity and Unity to the Bangsamoro People, the Filipino People and Muslim Ummah” on the occasion of Eid’l Adha (also spelled as Eid-ul Adha or “Eid’ul Adzha”)
Eid’l Adha, the Islamic feast of Sacrifice, was celebrated on September 24 although Malacanang declared the holiday on September 25.
“We appeal to everyone to hold fast to the Peace Process, continue our arduous journey for peace and development and exhaust all means to achieve our aspiration for genuine, just, lasting and dignified peace and sustainable development in the Bangsamoro and the whole of the country,” he said, adding, “we have already travelled a long way and invested immeasurable efforts to attain our cherished objective.”
Murad said they are aware of the trying times and enormous challenges facing the peace process, “especially in the internal process of the government with the BBL,” citing how “obsessed” the spoilers are in “building stumbling blocks to stop the enactment into law of the GPH-MILF agreed draft of the BBL.”
Murad was referring to the draft BBL submitted by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) to Congress in ceremonial rites in Malacanang on September 10, 2014.
The House of Representatives and the Senate have filed their respective substitute bills, both of which are not acceptable to the MILF as it provides for a new autonomous political entity that is “less than the ARMM (Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao” that it seeks to replace.
Congress will go on recess from October 10 to November 3, will resume sessions November 3 to December 18 and will go on recess again from December 19 to January 18.
The House of Representatives on September 23 suspended the interpellation period for HB 5811, the substitute bill to the draft BBL prepared by the 15-member GPH-MILF BTC as the next sessions, starting September 28 until Congress goes on recess on October 10, will already focus on the national budget debates.
Lack of quorum has been hounding the House of Representatives since the period of interpellation began on August 4.
Speaking before the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP) on September 18, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos-Deles acknowledged that “by any and all estimation, the passage of the BBL has been deferred. There is no other way to put it. But we are confident and cautiously optimistic that this dream will not be deferred for long.”
“Where we are now, I must insist that we are returning to a better place. With all peace activists left standing – and we are stronger now and joined by far-seeing pillars of society – we are steadfast in laying claim that this dream will not be deferred for long,” she said.
“The leadership of both Houses of Congress have held firm that they are looking to pass the law sometime between the end of September and early October,” she said.
The House of Representatives is now eyeing December 16 as target for the passage of the BBL.
Murad said they remain optimistic because of the “unwavering commitment” of the President and his allies, the strong support of the international community, the Organization of the lslamic Cooperation (OIC), the peace-loving peoples of the country and the world, “and most of all our complete trust in the Oneness and Justness of Allah.”
“As long as we have exhausted our best efforts, whatever happens to the BBL we should accept it as the will of Allah. We completely thrust that Allah will decide and grant us what is best for us in this World and the Hereafter, lnsha Allah,” Murad said.
Eid’l Adha, which marks the end of Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca, reminds every Muslim of the great sacrifice of Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham to Christians).
Murad reminded everyone that while the passage of a good BBL is of paramount importance as it is the key to the implementation of the Peace Agreements as well as the other aspects of the agreed Roadmap, especially on Normalization, the BBL is “not everything in the process.”
The gains of the peace process, according to Murad who served as vice chair for military affairs and chair of the MILF peace panel until he assumed the post of MILF chair following the death of MILF chair Salamat Hashim in July 2003, are “much wider and more comprehensive.”
“What is of prime importance is the preservation and sustenance of the achievements of the struggle and the Bangsamoro people in the peace process,” Murad said. (Read also August 2015 Q and A with Murad)
The failure to pass under this administration, a BBL adhering to the peace agreements, “will undoubtedly affect the process,” Murad admitted, but quickly added that it is not the end of the undertaking “since the gains we have achieved are the Peace Agreements themselves, the FAB (Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro), the CAB (Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro) and all the related agreements signed with the Philippine government.”
He explained that they negotiated and signed a peace agreement with the Philippine government, not just the executive branch of the government.
“It therefore follows that whoever is in the government of the Philippines is bound by the agreement and obliged to implement its provisions,” he said.
He praised Allah for the relative peace and security the Bangsamoro and adjacent areas are experiencing which he said is attributed to the progress of the ongoing peace process and the combined efforts of the lnternational Community and all the peace-loving peoples supportive the Bangsamoro cause.
He noted that since the signing of the FAB on October 15, 2012, and the CAB on March 27, 2014 the number of violent incidents and armed encounters “dramatically dropped.
“Except for the Mamasapano incident on January 25,2O15 and the subsequent AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) offensive actions against the BIFF (Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters), there were no major incidents that ever happened in the Bangsamoro Homeland and elsewhere,” Murad said. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)