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MILF: “The BBL will pass if Congress decides to pass it”

by: January 17, 2016 5:48 pm Category: Peace Process, Top Stories A+ / A-

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 17 January) –  “The BBL (Bangsamoro Basic Law) will pass if Congress decides to pass it. If they don’t, then it is finished, at least for the present Congress and the Aquino Administration,” the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) said in an editorial for January 16-23, published on its website, luwaran.com.

For the MILF, however, the peace process is “never finished” as they will “persevere until our just agreements are implemented because that is what honorable and principled people do — they keep their word,” the editorial said.

At the All-Leaders’ Summit on the Bangsamoro held in Davao City on January 10, Mohagher Iqbal, chair of the MILF peace panel and the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) that drafted the BBL, said he still hopes that the law will be passed before February 5 but acknowledged there is “no assurance” it will pass “so let’s keep moving forward.”

LMILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal, also chairof the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, addresses the All-Leaders Summit on the Bangsamoro in Davao City on January 10. MindaNews photo by Carolyn O. Arguillas chair MILF MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal, also chairof the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, addresses the All-Leaders Summit on the Bangsamoro in Davao City on January 10. MindaNews photo by Carolyn O. Arguillas 

Iqbal said that if the BBL is not passed, the peace process will continue, even beyond the Aquino administration, as they will continue to demand from government to implement the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) signed on March 27, 2014, which includes passing the BBL.

“Sisingilin namin ang gobyerno ng Pilipinas na (we will demand from government) that you have not complied with the agreement, you have reneged on your obligation,” he said.

Congress will resume sessions on January 18 (the congressional calendar published on the website of the House of Representatives earlier stated January 19, but it was recently changed to January 18) and will adjourn on February 5 for the election campaign.

Between January 18 and February 5 are only nine session days, from Mondays to Wednesdays.

Before Congress adjourned for the holidays on December 16, the House of Representatives had finished its period of interpellation and will now proceed to the period of amendments. The Senate, however, has yet to finish its period of interpellation.

Senator Juan Ponce Enrile is scheduled to continue his interpellation. The editorial said Enrile’s voice “is a significant voice because of his experience and stature as a senior senator” and that they “await Senator Enrile’s suggestions and recommendations on how to improve the BBL.”

“Given the shortness of time left to pass the BBL, we ask only that the Senate act swiftly on the proposed BBL,” it added.

Don’t delay

“Let us not delay… The Senate should not allow time to lapse without acting on the BBL. The Senate owes that favor to Filipino people and the Bangsamoro — that they will make a decision on the BBL before the end of the current session of Congress on February 5,” it added.

Addressing the House of Representatives, the editorial said they are asking the lawmakers to “reconsider, for the just and full implementation of the CAB, the return of the provisions that were deleted from the original draft of the BBL as submitted by the Office of the President and the BTC.

The BTC, composed of 15 commissioners from the government and MILF, submitted its draft BBL to Congress in ceremonial rites in Malacanang on September 10, 2014. This draft became House Bill 4994 and Senate Bill 2408.

The House of Representatives’ Ad Hoc Committee on the BBL and the Senate Committee on Local Government, however, filed their substitute bills, HB 5811 and SB 2994, both titled Basic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region (BLBAR) . But both substitute bills have been criticized for envisioning a Bangsamoro less autonomous than the ARMM it seeks to replace, the Senate version further reducing the Bangsamoro into a mere local government unit.

The editorial said the provisions the BTC included but which the House deleted “have a purpose and are needed to bring about peace and development in the Bangsamoro.”

It added that many of the deleted provisions in the substitute bill, HB 5811, were in fact, already granted to the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Not less but more

The CAB provides for the creation of a new autonomous political entity called the Bangsamoro which will replace the ARMM. President Benigno Simeon Aquino III had earlier referred to the ARMM as a “failed experiment.”

“The BBL should enhance autonomy, not diminish it,” the editorial read.

It also stressed that for issues that may have questions on constitutionality, “it is better, in our opinion, to leave those to the wisdom of the Supreme Court which is, ultimately, the final arbiter of all legal issues.”

It called on Congress not to pass off the “great opportunity to end this sad part of our nation’s history and begin a new age of trust and cooperation.”

“Let not fear divide us. We must seize it and bring peace, not just to the Bangsamoro, but to the whole Philippines as well. Let us not be faint-hearted. Let us not fail to seize this singular opportunity. There might be no more of something like this in the future as the situation may even get worse as we will all be suck into the quagmire of the global conflict and extremist violence.  This opportunity we must seize,” it said as it urged lawmakers “not (to) miss the bus of peace and prosperity. For our people. For our children,” the editorial read.

The bottomline

Earlier, MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim told MindaNews that the ball is in government’s hands. “We have no control over what will happen so we are just holding on to the commitment of Malacanang especially the President that they will really push the original agreed BBL… hopefully the President can still do something to save the peace process.”

“The bottomline,” said Murad, “is the agreed version.”

The “agreed version” is the draft BBL that the BTC and the Office of the President finalized after a series of meetings between July and September 2014 and submitted to Congress on September 10 that year.

“Whatever is contained in the CAB, yun ang ide-demand namin na it has to be implemented because it is a finished agreement,” Murad said, adding it is “very clear to Malacanang that we will not accept a BBL that is not compliant with the CAB.”

The peace process between government (GPH) and the MILF has spanned four Presidential administrations – from Ramos to Estrada to Arroyo and Aquino .

On January 8 in Davao City, President Benigno Simeon Aquino III told reporters at the inauguration of the 300-megawatt coal-fired power plant here that he would meet anew with members of the House to push for the passage of the Bangsamoro law.

Last month, he also met with members of the House on December 8 in Malacanang to ask them to “seize the historic opportunity…” of passing the BBL.

Secretary Teresita Quintos-Deles, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, in a statement on January 13 said despite the challenges, “we have basis for real hope.”

“We still believe. We remain courageous in the face of challenges. We continue to work and pray hard so that in our remaining months in office, the peace process can move closer and closer – Insha’Allah – towards its successful conclusion, towards a bright new dawn of peace, of prosperity, of harmony, for the Bangsamoro, for Mindanao, and for the Philippines,” she said.

Above ARMM but CAB-compliant

In July and September, the BTC sent House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte and Senate President Franklin Drilon an initial list of 29 issues on HB 5811 and 87 issues on SB 2894 along with their comments on the changes on substantive provisions of the draft BBL, including the autonomy framework.

Iqbal reiterated that the law that will be passed must be CAB-compliant.

Asked if they would accept a BLBAR that will provide an autonomy “better than the ARMM,” Iqbal replied by first asking “What percentage ? 1%? 2% 3% 5% 10%?”

Iqbal explained that anything above the ARMM is better than the ARMM, but “the autonomy that has to be established, for it to be genuine and real has to be not below ARMM, not the ARMM, but it has to be above the ARMM pursuant to the letter and spirit of the FAB (Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro) and CAB.”

He clarified that while 0.5% or 1% is still “above the ARMM” the law should be “above the ARMM pursuant to the FAB and CAB.” (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)

MILF: “The BBL will pass if Congress decides to pass it” Reviewed by on . DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 17 January) –  “The BBL (Bangsamoro Basic Law) will pass if Congress decides to pass it. If they don’t, then it is finished, at least fo DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 17 January) –  “The BBL (Bangsamoro Basic Law) will pass if Congress decides to pass it. If they don’t, then it is finished, at least fo Rating: