MILF chair Murad: Senate’s proposed Bangsamoro is “generally acceptable”

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DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 06 March) — The chair of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on Monday said Senate Bill 1717, the substitute bill to the four versions of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) earlier filed, is “generally acceptable” to them.

“Generally, SB 1717 is already acceptable to the MILF… it is acceptable to us,” Murad told ANC’s Early Edition host Christian Esguerra.

MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim in Camp Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao. MindaNews file photo by MANMAN DEJETO

Filed on February 28 by the Senate Committee on Local Governments after a series of public hearings, consultations and technical working group meetings, SB 1717 aims to create a Bangsamoro that will be parliamentary in form, with a Chief Minister as head of government, two deputy Chief Ministers, a Cabinet, and a Parliament of at least 80 members.

The bill, now up for plenary debates with the Senate eyeing passage before Congress takes a break from March 24 to May 13, replaced the four proposed Bangsamoro laws earlier filed, including the version submitted by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC), the body tasked to draft the BBL, composed of 11 representatives nominated by the MILF and 10 by government (GPH).

The Senate proposes fiscal autonomy for the Bangsamoro, a major problem in the past and present autonomous regions in the Moro-dominated areas.

It also provides for an annual block grant which shall be the share of the Bangsamoro in the national internal revenue of the Central Government and will be automatically appropriated to the Bangsamoro Government and reflected in the General Appropriations Act

The bill also adopts the BTC’s proposed PhP 100 billion Special Development Fund (SDF) but instead of allocating it over a period of 20 years as proposed by the BTC, wants the amount spread across 10 years, at 10 billion pesos a year.

The SDF is intended to “rebuild (the Bangsamoro’s) conflict-affected communities and catch up with the rest of the country.”

SB 1717 provides that the transition period for the establishment of the Bangsamoro shall commence upon ratification of the BBL and its first regular election will be held “three years from the ratification of this Basic Law.”

Under the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) that government and the MILF signed on March 27, 2014 after 17 years of peace negotiations, the now 27-year old Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) is deemed abolished upon the ratification of the BBL.

The BTC draft had proposed that the first regular election be held on the first Monday of April 2022. This proposal was adopted by the House of Representatives’ Committees on Local Government, Muslim Affairs, and Peace, Reconciliation and Unity, in their working draft that consolidated four bills earlier filed in the House, including the BTC draft.

The House committees are conducting four more public hearings on the BBL – on March 8 and 9 in Buluan, Maguindanao and Koronadal, South Cotabato, and 15 and 16 in Tubod, Lanao del Norte and Marawi.

The House earlier gave assurance they would pass the Bangsamoro law before the recess.

Parliamentary

SB 1717 was filed a day after the 20-member Consultative Committee tasked by President Rodrigo Duterte to review the 1987 Constitution, voted for a Presidential form of federal government.

The Senate bill adopted the form of government envisioned under the GPH-MILF peace agreement.

The Bangsamoro “will allow them self-governance that will put an end to their feeling of alienation which for decades have fueled their rebellion,” Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri, chair of the Senate’s Sub-Committee on BBL, said in his sponsorship speech on February 28.

Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri delivers his sponsorship speech on Senate Bill No. 1717 or the Bangsamoro Basic Law during the Senate plenary session, Wednesday, February 28, 2018. Photo by Alex Nuevaespaña, Senate PRIB

“The Parliamentary System of government,” he explained, “is closer to their tradition as the Parliament mirrors their traditional leadership such as the Ruma Bichara (Council) of the Sultanate of Sulu or the Atas (Council) Bichara of the Sultanate of Maguindanao.”

“Everyone will have a voice in the Parliament,” Zubiri said as he noted the “innovative features of party representation, district representation, and reserved seats and sectoral representation ensures that no one is left behind.”

The Senate bill  proposes two provisions on the Parliament — anti-dynasty and turncoatism — that were not in the BTC draft.

“No Party Representative should be related within the second civil degree of consanguinity or affinity to a District Representative or another Party Representative in the same Parliament,” the Senate version proposes.

It also says a member of Parliament elected under the proportional representation system shall forfeit his or her seat for any of five grounds listed, among them “transferring to another party during his / her incumbency.”

Zubiri, a Mindanawon from Bukidnon said SB 1717 aims to address the historical injustices committed against the Bangsamoro,  “correct the mistakes of the past” and prevent “another Marawi.” (See sponsorship speech)

“Mr. President, I do not want to sound like a warmonger, but if we do not heed this clamor for change in the Bangsamoro, God forbid, restlessness among the armed groups in Mindanao could spiral out of control. The possibility of another Marawi siege would not be far from the horizon. The country can no longer afford more bloodshed. Our generation has suffered long enough from the clutches of poverty, from the evils of war. Let not our children and their future suffer some more. Never Mr. President, never,” Zubiri said.

“On the right side of history”

He called on his colleagues to be “on the right side of history, and certainly, passing the BBL now is on the right side of history” that would pave the way for a “just and dignified peace not only in Mindanao but in the whole of Philippines.”

READ: Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri’s sponsorship speech 
Bangsamoro Basic Law: Towards a Just and Dignified Peace 

The proposed law, he said, gives “greatest latitude if not full autonomy to the Bangsamoro government that will be established, to assert their political and economic self-determination and pursue development programs for their people according to their peculiar historical, cultural, religious and national identities.”

In his co-sponsorship speech, Senator Sonny Angara, chair of the Senate Committee on Local Government, said passing the BBL is “not only necessary” but “also life-saving, and hopefully life-changing.”

Angara noted that many skeptics say the BBL will just give rise to other breakaway groups and will not lead to peace. “Their position is understandable for one only needs to look at the past for proof of this.  But to them I say, let us look to the future with hope and optimism.  I say, we should not stop trying to find the solution for peace and prosperity in Muslim Mindanao.”

The BBL, he maintained, “comprises our greatest legal arsenal for achieving peace, which will ultimately help unleash the other positives of the peace process.”

Under the CAB, the passage of the BBL is tied to the normalization process and the decommissioning of weapons and combatants of the MILF.

“Fertile ground, no longer for violence or for terrorism”

“Where our armed forces laid siege on Marawi City to stop terrorist-rebels in their tracks, we need to enact this law so that no other armed group could recruit and amass critical support. Never again should any of our beautiful communities, especially those in Mindanao, ever be at risk of being leveled or destroyed by human hands,” Angara said.

He expressed confidence that the BBL will ensure that the Bangsamoro will “become fertile ground, no longer for violence or for terrorism, but instead for opportunity and active civic engagement.”

READ: Senator Sonny Angara’s co-sponsorship speech
The BBL comprises our greatest legal arsenal for achieving peace 

The BBL, he stressed, “could very well be our most effective means of keeping religious extremism and secessionist tendencies at bay—and hence, of achieving long-lasting peace.”

In her co-sponsorhip speech, Senator Risa Hontiveros said the passage of the BBL will “change that narrative” of “violence, oppression, and marginalization” in the Bangsamoro.

READ: Senator Risa Hontiveros’ co-sponsorship speech
Bangsamoro is our commitment to peace

She said passage of the BBL will “renew our commitment to democracy,” will be “an institutional recognition of the justness and legitimacy of the cause of the Bangsamoro people,” and is “our commitment to peace.” (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)

 

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