DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 06 Sept) — President Rodrigo Duterte met with leaders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in Malacanang on Monday, vowed to push for the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) and set another meeting, also in Malacanang, with the 20-member Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) that drafted the BBL and leaders of the two houses of Congress on September 14, BTC chair Ghazali Jaafar said.
Jaafar told MindaNews that the President met with them for about an hour on Monday afternoon to address “important issues na nagiging concern at apprehension ng mga kapatid natin sa Mindanao tungkol sa peace process at ang BBL.”
The meeting came a week after the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC) released on August 29 a list of 28 priority bills of the Duterte administration, the proposed BBL not among them.
Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III told MindaNews in a text message on August 30 that the “BBL (is) to be added per motion by Presidential Legislative Liaison Office (PLLO) chief Adelino Sitoy.”
Jaafar said the September 14 meeting will be attended by the 20-member BTC, “the leadership of Senate and the Senate President including the leadership of House and the Speaker” who, he said, “are invited for further discussion of BBL.”
“There were substantive issues we discussed and agreed upon,” Jaafar said. He declined to provide details on the “substantive issues.”
The five-member MILF delegation was composed of chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, peace implementing panel chair Mohager Iqbal, BTC Commissioner Abdulraof Macacau and BTC Executive Director Esmael Pasigan.
At the Presidential Study Room, venue of the meeting, the MILF delegation sat on the right side of the President, across the government team composed of Secretaries Jesus Dureza of the Peace Process, Delfin Lorenzana of Defense, Hermogenes Esperon, Jr. of National Security, Catalino Cuy of Local Governments and Presidential spokesperson Ernie Abella.
The five-member peace implementing panel of the government led by Acting chair Nabil Tan was also present.
Dureza told MindaNews the President thanked the MILF “in countering terrorists and criminality and committing to them support for the BBL.”
The MILF has been helping government forces in the fight against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in some portions of Maguindanao.
The draft BBL was received by both houses of Congress in mid-August but has yet to be filed as a bill as it is still awaiting authors.
Dureza said the bill has no authors yet because representatives willing to author it are waiting for Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez Jr. to sign in.
Senate President Pimentel told MindaNews in mid-August that he was”willing to be author” but “have to sked discussion with my legislative staff.”
Dureza said the President “will meet with Speaker and Senate President to discuss his desire to get the BBL approved.”
Abella told MindaNews that the BBL will be “prioritized for the next LEDAC” meeting, which he said will be held in “mid September.”
He maintained tha the BBL is “very high priority for PRRD (President Rodrigo R. Duterte).”
“I will husband it”
Asked if the concerns raised by the MILF were addressed during their Monday meeting, President Duterte told Malacanang reporters at the sidelines of the Metrobank anniversary celebration on Tuesday (Sept. 5): “Yes, I said that I hope the BBL would pass Congress. I said that I will husband it.”
“And I’m trying to convince everybody that it is for our own — to our national interest that we start changing the unitary type into a federal type. And that was — that’s being asked by the Visayas and Mindanao for the longest time, an equal sharing of the wealth of the nation, the taxes and all. Kaya mga probinsiya and that’s why some of them are rebellious,” Duterte said.
The draft BBL was handed over to President Duterte on July 17, in rites held in Malacanang in the presence of Pimentel and Alvarez.
“Within the context of the Republic of the Philippines, there shall be a Bangsamoro country,” President Rodrigo Duterte declared after receiving a copy of the proposed BBL from Jaafar.
Duterte committed to “support and husband” the proposed BBL in Congress to ensure the passage of the law that would create the Bangsamoro, a new autonomous political entity that would replace the 27-year old Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
The creation of the Bangsamoro is in accordance with the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro signed by the government and the MILF on March 27, 2014.
The agreement envisions a new entity that would realize the aspirations of the Bangsamoro people for genuine self-determination under a ministerial form of government and ensure autonomy far more than what the present ARMM provides. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)