Q&A with MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim: “Our people will also judge us”

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Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, chair of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) recalls having been surprised to see leaders of the Senate and the House of Representatives when they arrived in Malacanang for a meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday, May 28, 2018.

They had met with the President at the Matina Enclaves clubhouse in Davao City on May 4, he said, to raise their concerns about the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) drafted by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC), citing “so many provisions being diluted or amended or taken out” and they were afraid the measure will not be passed before Congress adjourns by end of May.  

Murad said their concerns in early May were “not much on the Senate at that time” because it seemed on track. Before it went on recess on the third week of March, it had approved the Committee on Local Government’s report on Senate Bill 1646, the BTC-drafted BBL; Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri had filed the substitute bill, SB 1717; and it was already on interpellation phase. When sessions resumed on May 15, it was set to finish interpellation so it could proceed to the period of amendments.

The House at that time, had yet to approve the report of the joint committees on Local Government, Muslim Affairs, and Peace, Reconciliation and Unity. In a move that surprised many, instead of meeting on April 16 to 19 to vote on 362 proposed amendments, they approved on April 16 the omnibus motion of Maguindanao Representative and Deputy Speaker for Mindanao Bai Sandra Sema to “retain as is” HB 6475, the BTC-drafted bill sponsored by Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and some 90 other representatives. This, after the three committees had consolidated the four bills on the Bangsamoro into a working draft and conducted public hearings in Mindanao.

Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, chair of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front checks a computer file on the matrix comparing the Bangsamoro Basic Law versions of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, the House of Representatives and the Senate during a sit-down interview with MindaNews late Thursday afternoon, June 7, 2018, in the MILF’s Camp Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat in Maguindanao. MindaNews photo by MANMAN DEJETO

Murad said the President assured them he would meet the leadership of the House and the Senate. 

That meeting took place on May 28.

But before the President met with the House leadership, the Senate leadership, and later the leadership of both houses, he first met with the MILF.

Murad said they reiterated to the President the issues they had raised earlier. “Very concerned kami sa ipapasa ng House at Senate parang masyadong, maraming amendments, maraming deletsons, maraming revisions.”

The President again assured them he would push for the passage of the BBL and that he would tell the leaders of Congress. 

Did the President assure them that the BBL passed would consider the concerns that they raised, MindaNews asked.

“Wala. Actually, sinabi lang niya he will urge Congress na ipasa na yung bill,” he said adding they asked him if he would designate a point person for them to talk to and explain the “so many issues” they want addressed about the proposed amendments in both houses.  

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza was designated to talk with them. And he did meet with the MILF on Friday, June 1, at his Seagull beach resort in Davao City, after the House and Senate passed their respective versions (the House at around 5 p.m. May 30 and the Senate at around 1a.m. on May 31).

MindaNews’ Carolyn O. Arguillas sat down with the MILF chair at the conference room of the MILF Central Committee office in Camp Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao late afternoon of June 7  to  ask his views on recent developments in the Bangsamoro peace process.

Excerpts:

Q. So you talked to Secretary Dureza after the passage of the BBL? Bakit hindi before? Akala ko concern ninyo maipasa ang BBL na compliant with the CAB (Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro)?
A. Di rin namin alam na ipapasa agad. We were surprised also that the day after, pumasa na …  but anyway sinabi rin sa amin na … after nito meron pang Bicameral Conference Committee (bicam). So nag-usap kami ni (Sec. Dureza) Friday afternoon, June 1 sa Seagull Davao sa Matina.

Q. What did he say?
A. Inenumerate namin sa kanya tapos diniscuss namin. Di siya nag-comment. Sabi niya “ipaparating ko ito” pero sabi nya maganda yung nakasulat … Sabi niya isulat ninyo mga concerns ninyo then sinabi niya sa akin “pirmahan mo lang tapos I will take up with the President” kasi sabi niya “meron pang chance diyan sa bicam.”

Q. Are you convincing yourself that? Because (Tawi-tawi Rep. Ruby) Sahali (chair of House Committee on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity) said in a conference in Manila his morning that walang idagdag at ibawas sa bicam kasi magre-reconcile lang sila ng provisions na di magkatugma sa House and Senate. So are you saying that you still expect that some provisions that you lost will be restored in the bicam?
A. Well.. there are provisions na hindi magkatugma sa Senate at sa House. So ang tingin namin pwede pang doon maibalik sa dati if both houses will agree. Titingnan natin …. We recognize the reality na … the struggle is still ongoing sa aming side. We will still try our best na ma-regain whatever is lost dito sa BBL. Sa ngayon … we cannot thoroughly judge muna … because we will exhaust all avenues. We will now, aside from bringing our concern to the President, we will also bring up our concern to the leadership of the Senate and House.

Q. Still, the bicam will only tackle the provisions that the two houses passed. If the provisions are not there — the ones that were taken out that would have given you the autonomy that you desire …
A. Well maybe that is a normal process. We do not know if there is some other way the President can do something. Anyway … we will exhaust every effort…

Q. But what if despite the exhaustion of all efforts, the final version of the Bangsamoro law will be very much less than ARMM and definitely not compliant with the CAB?
A. Alam mo kung sa present situation ngayon, sa nakita namin, maraming naibigay na sa ARMM na nawala pa sa BBL. Pero on the other hand also, meron ding wala sa ARMM na nandayn sa BBL. Pangalawa, maraming provisions na napalitan na it resulted to violation of the agreement, na-violate yung agreement. Maraming meron ding mga provisions introduced na wala sa agreement, wala sa ARMM but ang tingin namin it it substantially watered down yung concept, the very concept of self-determination.

Q. What in your analysis of the versions passed, are unacceptable to you precisely because of what you said, that it watered down the very concept of self determination. What are these provisions na talagang as of now hindi katanggap-tanggap?
A. Hmmm. .. marami talaga .. hindi natin ma… because if you look at the versions makita mo na napakaraming napalitan, napakaraming, so very difficult, so ang mangyari ngayon is ang process namin now … two days ago we had a meeting with the Central Committee, so kasi ang decision namin will be a collegial decision, so ang napagkasunduan namin is … exert all efforts then afterwards we will decide.

Q. You said it’s going to be a collegial decision but your people are already praising the versions …
A. Well there are some praising, some also are …

Q. … not bad, more than ARMM, etc.. and I heard one say change has finally come to the Bangsamoro because of this BBL
A. Well that is their personal view … but the view of the Central Committee will always be a collective decision. That will come after we have reached a collegial decision.

Q. At what point will you decide?
A. After the bicam.

Q. Are you not going to make moves before that?
A. We will lobbywith the leadership of the House (and Senate) then also individual lawmakers … Dito sa matrix (comparison of provisions from the BTC-drafted BBL, House version and Senate version) … we will try to lobby with the leadership of the House and individual congressmen and congresswomen. Ganon din sa Senate… And then sa President, we will continue … we hope after Secretary Dureza brings it up (with the President).

Q. What kind of BBL will you not accept?
A.We will always analyze what would be the impact, what would be the consequence … because it’s an overall analysis. Tingnan namin … kung hindi namin tatanggapin, anong mangyayari? Kung tatanggapin namin, ano rin ang mangyayari? Now alam natin that the BBL is intended to solve not only one problem but multifacted problems. Maraming problema kailangang i-address. Now how much will this BBL that will be passed will become instrumental in solving these problems? So basically ang decision namin will lie on how much the BBL can address the problem that we are confronting.

Q. But if the final version is not acceptable … tinanggal nga ng Senate yung self-determination sa Preamble di ba?
A. Oo yun na nga.. So there’s no essence of self-determination.

Q. And the essence of the struggle of the Bangsamoro.
A. Although it is in the Preamble, hindi naman yan implementable dahil Preamble lang yan, but that is the whole thing.

Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, chair of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, acknowledges in a sit-down interview late Thursay afternoon, June 7, 2018, in the MILF’s Camp Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat in Maguindanao. that that Bangsamoro Basic Law versions that the House of Representatives and the Senate passed last week is “very diluted” but hopes something can still be done at the level of the Bicameral Conference Committee that will meet on July 9 to 13. MindaNews photo by MANMAN DEJETO

Q. In your speech at the signing of the CAB in 2014, you said importante ito na araw kasi finally what you lost — identity, territory, resources — were restored. But apparently you’re losing all these three that you gained in the peace agreement, through legislation. You are losing what you actually said were restored by the peace agreement.
A. Yeah. Yeah. Well hindi naman sa completely lost but kung titingnan mo, it is … maybe very diluted na talaga. Very diluted.

Q. It is lower than ARMM. Maraming nagsasabi niyan. Very much lower than ARMM.
A. Oo maraming nagsasabi ng ganon pero gaya ng nasabi ko you can still compare kasi meron din sa (Autonomous Region in the Bangsamoro) na nandyan sa BBL na wala sa ARMM halimbawa … ministerial form of government is still there

Q. But you lost your powers.
A. There are powers lost.

Q. You actually lost so much powers.
A. Kaya nga kung ma restore natin ito, we will try to

Q. Will you do a Nur Misuari? Misuari in the sense that they objected to RA 6734 and they also objected to RA 9054
A. But they accepted the ARMM

Q. They rejected 9054 because it would render the ARMM less autonomous than the autonomous region (under 6734). So ganon din mangyayari sa inyo, the Bangsamoro?
A. Well that will be decided later … We cannot decide on it now unless we exert all the efforts na kailangan

Q. Boycott the plebiscite or reject are also options of a revolutionary group, right?
A. Yes, Yes. Well, all of these, we have vast experience. Nangyari din na we boycotted the plebiscite, nangyari din yung sinabi mo na ginawa nila Nur – they objected to the law pero ultimately tinanggap din niya yung ARMM … All these will give us lessons.

Q. Nur accepted to run for governor of the ARMM because the President at that time promised them that within two years yung enhanced ARMM ay lalabas.
A. Kaya nga … pero hindi rin nangyari.

Q. Quite a number of the reactions now… talagang watered down siya.
A. Meron mga grupo ngayon na.. ano nga yung.. All Moro Consensus

Q. Meron ding Bangsamoro National Congress, etc …
A. Kaya nga these are signs that nandyan pa rin yang problema … But gaya ng nasabi ko, for now we will try to exhaust everything in our disposal then when everything is exhausted … we decide.

Q. So you will decide only after.
A. After the final version comes out, we will decide

Q. Are you going to accept even if the Bangsamoro people will not accept?
A. No, because.. No. We will do the process. Always the process of the MILF is we will consult our people. So maybe before we accept, we will conduct consultation.

Q. So before you will decide on whether to accept or reject this final version, you will consult the Moro people?
A. We will consult not exactly the entire Moro people but we will consult. We will have our own mechanics of the consultation.

Q. In short, the final decision will be something that is a consensus.
A. Yeah, because even if we accept, if people also don’t accept, don’t support us then we cannot do much if people will not support us.

Q. You said before that you will only accept a BBL that is CAB-compliant, that is acceptable to the Bangsamoro people
A. Kaya nga ang nangyari ngayon, kung hindi mapapapalitan ito,hindi ma-improve, then partially compliant, partially non-compliant. So now we have to decide from which, what will be the bigger advantage .. for the Bangsamoro people, for our struggle.

Q. Are you seeing the end of the MILF here? Because
A. No. The MILF will continue … will continue

Q, you might end up like … if the MILF will accept a final version of the Bangsamoro law that is not compliant with the CAB, bakit pa kayo nag peace negotiations? Eh di sana tinanggap na lang ninyo yung inoffer sa inyo noon pa to lead the ARMM?
A. Hindi naman completely na not compliant with the CAB. There are provisions which violated the CAB, pero not the entirety of the CAB also. So yun ang basis ng analysis. How big is taken out from the CAB?

Q. But you lost your powers. In the Senate wala ka nang delineation, sa House .. ang daming nilipat including yung sa Sharia ginawang concurrent, yung supposedly exclusive ninyo. So what kind of a Bangsamoro entity will that be?
A. Kaya nga we will still struggle, we will continue to struggle. Titingnan natin kung anong mangyayari. Because … maraming concern na legitimate … na kailangang siguro na if they really want to solve the problem, they have to consider

Q. So kung hindi man lang naman maa-adress ng batas na yun, para ka lang ding gumawa ng ARMM?
A. Kaya yun na nga, we will try to see. Mahirap mag-conclude ngayon kasi ongoing pa rin ang effort natin and we do not want to

Q. Are you not bothered about Sahali saying wala nang dagdag-bawas doon sa bicam kasi kung ano lang yung nakalagay? In short you cannot expect that the bicam will restore what you lost in the two versions?
A. Well I think she is speaking on normal process but alam mo naman na there are some process … that can be done so we are still hoping na merong mga process that can restore

Q. Okay may pinapatanong si (name withheld).Sabi niya meron ba daw kayong kasunduan with the President that he would use his powers and authority to make sure that the BBL that is FAB and CAB compliant would be passed despite the apparent watering down of BBL especially by the Senate and do you find the Senate BBL unacceptable? Have you expressed your opinion to Senator Zubiri?
A. Unang-una wala namang formal na kasunduan sa Presidente but he always assured us na he will try his best na yung BBL na mai-pass is compliant to the agreement

Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, chair of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, talks about the Bangsamoro Basic Law versions that the House of Representatives and the Senate passed last week in a sit-down interview with MindaNews late Thursday afternoon, June 7, 2018, in the MILF’s Camp Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat in Maguindanao. MindaNews photo by MANMAN DEJETO

Q. Where were you on May 29 and 30? Because (BTC chair Ghazali) Jaafar and (MILF peace implementing panel chair Mohagher) Iqbal were in the Senate. Where were you?
A. I was in Manila

Q. Did you monitor it livestream? Did you watch the Senate and House proceedings?
A. We are always having a meeting with Ghazali (Jaafar). Ako hindi lahat (napanood) pero some … Ang nangyari sa house, nandoon ang BTC so they tried to argue (for) all these provisions na ayaw namin but then they were outvoted. Sa Senate ganon din ang nangyari. So our BTC representation there … they opposed yung proposed amendments. Sa Senate nagbotohan sila so kagaya noong alisin yung

Q. Self determination
A. Oo then nagbotohon sila

Q. Yung six towns
A. Oo. So natalo. Wala rin. so ang ginawa na lang ng BTC representation, sabi nila … wala ding mangyari but we will manifest na we disagree with these all. I-register namin yung disagreement

Q. So nag manifest na lang sila?
A. Nag manifest ng disagreement. So all those voted (on), meron kaming manifestation of disagreement. Kasi mas mahirap yung pagbotohan nila because it becomes final already. So when we manifest … na-register namin na hindi kami sangayon.

Q. Do you not find it difficult for instance, kasi andyan na? As you said, you did not expect na papasa in two days
A. Actually ang tingin nga namin, in fact during that meeting, ang initial speech ni President (on May 28) … parang it implies na ayaw muna niyang ipasa ang BBL. Merong implication na ganon but at the last part of the speech, doon na niya sinabi na … you have to pass this bill so yung … pipirmahan yung urgent certification

Q. But even the certification did not mention the CAB
A. Hindi nga

Q. How can you have a Bangsamoro that will no longer resemble your dream Bangsamoro?
A. Dito sa Preamble sa Senate (reading the matrix filed in his computer), inalis nila yung

Q. Self determination
A. Our right to self determination. Ang nilagay our right to chart our political future through a democratic process. And then eto in consonance with the Constitution inalis yun but pinalitan “within the framework of the Constitution and national sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of the Philippines and in consonance with the accepted principles of the human rights”

Q. Yung opt in, you lost opt in.
A. Sa House once na lang ata.

Q. Pareho Senate and House
A. I will try to review first.

Q. So you will have a territory that cannot be expanded and powers that have been removed. Marami pong powers may ginawa akong matrix, marami pong powers na nasa ARMM na at nasa 6734 nasa 9054 na nawala sa two versions
A. Isa .. yung natural resources and ancestral domain. From exclusive naging concurrent. Then yung education, also from exclusive to concurrent. Then yung health. Actually dito sa education, ang nag-argue dito si Bai Sandra (Sema) mismo. She was arguing that based on her experience (she once served as ARMM Education Secretary)pagka yung education is given solely exclusive power of the autonomous government, ang mangyayari is we will not enjoy the benefits in the national government, merong mga benefits na hindi natin ma-enjoy because … education is only exclusive to the (autonomous government). So yun ang argument niya ang naging

Q. You also lost your power of eminent domain. Nasa ARMM yun. Ano pang natira sa inyo?
A. Kaya nga titingnan natin afterwards but definitely … we will continue to struggle. Not the end of the struggle. Alam mo kasi if this problem will not really be addressed, from generation to generation nandiyan … pa rin yan. Hindi na kami pero andyan pa rin yan.

Q. I know everyone was so optimistic when President Duterte took over. Mindanawon with Moro blood tapos in two years napasa ang BBL but … no cause for celebration yet?
A. Yeah wala pa. There’s no (cause for celebration yet)

Q. Noong napasa siya, syempre nalaman mo agad yung sa House kasi hapon pa yun. Wednesday afternoon yun. Mga 5 oclock yun eh.
A. Before that nagkausap nga kami kasi nakauwi na yung mga BTC commissioners so nagkausap kami na na-irelay sa amin na napakaraming provision na

Q. Nawala
A. They tried their best to oppose pero walang nangyari. Pati na yung plebisito. The MNLF (Moro National Liberation Front) also, very discouraged din sila sa mga provision na gusto nilang mapasok na walang nakapasok so sabi namin it’s not in our hands. But we will still try to do whatever is possible so yun ang unang plano namin. We will contact the President para kausapin namin.

Q. Are you going to meet with him again?
A. It depends kung ano yung maisasagot niya sa isu-submit namin kay (Sec. Dureza). Kung kailangan niya mag usap kami, then we will talk again before the bicam.

Q. Okay, can we move forward. Let’s say na napasa ang final version and the President has signed it into law, nag plebiscite according to Sen. Zubiri November or December. What happens now if somebody will questions its constitutionality in the Supreme Court? That means made-delay na naman
A. That’s another scenario that can .. possibly happen.

Q. I asked you this back in December 2016 or April 2017. Are you not afraid that the BBL approved, whatever that version maybe, however that may look, will be overtaken by events, overtaken by the federalism track?
A. Actually we already sensed na kahit si Presidente parang napansin namin na parang he was already influenced by some group na instead of passing the BBL… we go to federal first. They are even arguing that mas madali ipasa ang BBL pagka federal na tayo. Pero hindi ganon ang pananaw namin and that’s the reason why we keep on reaching out to the President, reminding him na ang tingin pa rin namin is kailangan maunang mapasa yung BBL, gaya ng naipangako niya. Anyway, as far as federalism is concerned, supportive naman kami and we hope na if there is a federal set up, it can strengthen the Bangsamoro autonomous region.

Q. Sinabi mo dati na .. kung pwede ipasa muna ang Bangsamoro law and then whatever is passed will be the state constitution of the Bangsamoro. But clearly watered down version na nga itong ipinasa ng dalawang houses so hindi ba mas convenient na lang … para siyang bumalik sa scenario last year na maiiwanan ang BBL ng federal express train so masa-subsume yung BBL doon.
A. Well that can happen also. Kaya nga gusto natin na (mauna BBL) kasi ang mangyari kung mauna yung federalism, wala pa yung BBL, then we will be negotiating again with the federal set-up para sa Bangsamoro. Now if the Bangsamoro government is already there. we are assuming na pag may federal, it will already be absorbed to the federal system so mas madali yung ganon rather than we will have another negotiation because we will be repeating the

Q. But the President has also made public in his statements, that parang hindi rin pwede yung isang region lang for the Bangsamoro dahil parati niyang binabanggit si Nur na “we will also provide you your own.” He has said that several times, not just once.
A. Sinabi rin niya sa amin noon and ang sagot namin sa kanya, this is not about tribalistic tendencies kasi gusto namin yung meron kaming parang common identity. That’s why we promoted this Bangsamoro. Now the moment that we go back, kasi yung dalawang region nasubukan na ito noon pa sa panahon ni Marcos… wala naman counter, effectively counter na bakit hindi maganda yung iisa lang? Meron mga politicians sa island provinces, they were arguing na it could be that ma-dominate ng mainland Moro ang government. Pero ang sabi namin, if you look at the ARMM, mas marami pa ang leader ng ARMM na nanggaling sa island provinces kaysa mainland Mindanao. So it’s not a reason. So we maintain that decision na iisa lang ang

Q. Forty-two years na yung Tripoli Agreement of 1976. In the last four decades, we’ve had four peace agreements signed and the question has always been implementation. Given the situation now — violent extremism, etc. — you were hopeful then that if a CAB-compliant BBL will be passed then you can address the problem of violent extremism. But given .. a very watered down Bangsamoro law, how can this address the problem of violent extremism? Isn’t this going to drive more people into violent extremism kasi apat na dekada yung peace agreements wala namang nangyari? That’s the argument.
A. That is always our fear. Noon pa man sinasabi namin kaya nga we are pushing very hard na maipasa yung BBL na compliant sa agreement. Because we see na if the agreement itself will be implemented faithfully, yun ang magiging solusyon sa problema, magiging weapon natin against extremism… One time during our meeting with the (Congress), ang appeal lang namin is we have to implement the peace agreement kasi sabi ko marami na ang peace agreements … from 1976, 1996, (2012), 2014 nandiyan yung mga agreement but nothing was implemented faithfully and completely, 1976 agreement hindi na implement, 1996 ganon din, so 2014 agreement hindi rin. Although, if you look also at the agreements, there are some advancement but there are some loopholes also. Halimbawa sa 1976 meron nang nakuha pero naalis pa sa 1996, meron namang naidagdag sa 1996 so ganon din ngayon ang nangyari 2014 CAB, merong nadagdag, maraming nadagdag sa 1976 at 1996, pero meron din nawala sa provisions. So it’s a cycle na nangyayari.

Q. But will this not make the Bangsamoro people say a negotiated political settlement is not also a solution pala because after all the years of negotiations and signing peace agreements wala din naman kayong nakuha na close to what you envision to be an autonomous region?
A. That is the very (argument) ng mga opposed sa peace process. Yun talaga ang ginagamit nila na campaign and even these extremist groups kaya nga sinasabi nila “you have no hope sa peace process because peace process has been four decades already pero wala namang nangyari”

Q. Hindi ba kayo lalapit doon sa the mechanisms doon sa peace process in case na ang mapasa na final version is really not acceptable … aren’t you going to sit back with government …
A. Ang hindi pa natin ma predict ngayon what will really happen kasi halimbawa ano ang magiging decision ng MILF when the law is already there, mapirmahan? If we do not accept, then what will be the position of the MILF? … Are we going to participate in the plebiscite? … This all depends on how we will weigh the situation… Now if we participate, then we have to continue the structure of the peace process and then yung UBJP (United Bangsamoro Justice Party) namin anong gagawin …

Q. May mga criticisms din na the reason why the MILF will accept whatever version will be produced in the bicam kasi may mga vested interest daw yung mga taga BTC kasi wala naman sa provision, wala naman sa CAB at saka sa EO na sila pala ang uupo in the interim. It’s supposed to be the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA). Bago ito na provision na pinasok and it raises a lot of questions
A. Ang nangyari doon … during their discussion (BTC), nakita nila na there will be a gap between the term of the ARMM elected officials (until June 30, 2019) sa ratification ng BBL … so ibig sabihin if the plebiscite will be conducted in November or December 2018, meron doon gap…

Q. BTA will be there for how many years?
A. Ang provision ng BTA it has to be not less than one year kasi it gives us preparation for the regular government … but it can be more than one year. So ang seeming na decision ngayon … ng Presidente the BTA will be up to 2022, three years kasi sabi niya … the regular government for the Bangsamoro will be elected sabay sa national election. So the BTA will be from 2019 hanggang 2022.

Q. Three years transitory. So you will have a Bangsamoro that’s appointed by the President and who will be beholden to the President.
A. But beholden to the Parliament. The President will appoint the Parliament and then there will be interim Chief Minister.

Q. Will you be the Chief Minister?
A. That will be decided by the Central Committee … It depends also on what is the

Q. I think you said before that you’d rather be head of MILF?
A. Actually the option for me is I will take the BTA as chairman and then also when the regular government will come, I might join the parliamentary election … so as President of the party, I will also be the Chief Minister of the regular government. But then I can also be — kasi ang decision din ng Central Committee is we will continue — the MILF will exist side by side with the government. So … that will depend now on the Central Committee (what) our collective decision will be

Q. What will the MILF be at that point?
A. It will be a non-government organization engaged more on socio-economic … so it will be parang side by side with the government in implementing socio-economic programs. The Central Committee will decide which … if we decide that we need to strengthen the organization, then I might just stay in the organization or if we need to strengthen the governance, then I need to be in the governance.

Q. So iba na pala ang tawag sa iyo, Minister na?
A. Hindi pa, wala pa (laughs). It depends … lalong-lalo na ngayon kung titingnan natin, what will be the BBL is also a factor. How strong is the BBL?

Q. Pero yung Nur Misuari option na boycott, that’s not actually Nur, that’s MNLF option before, because even the MI, you also rejected the RA 6734 di ba nag boycott din kayo noon?
A. Yeah. No participation.

Q. So no participation is also an option?
A. Yes it can also be an option.

Q. Para din yang boycott, reject.
A. Yes, almost. No participation.

Q. But that decision will come when you’ve seen the
A. The final outcome and then after consulting our people also

Q. So if the people will say no but leadership says yes, sinong masunod?
A. (laughs)

Q. Are you going to accept something that, yung criticism ninyo noon kay Nur that he accepted something that’s not what they really wanted, babalik din iyan sa inyo.
A. But ah… yun na nga. Itong sa amin because it will undergo … rigid na consultation. It is not a decision of one person.

Q. Ah, see this is the problem. The bicam is on July 9-13 and the SONA (State of the Nation Address) is July 23. You only have 10 days
A To decide.

Q. That’s a very short period. How can you convene all these mga dapat i-convene
A. We have pre-arranged already

Q. Parang yes or no na lang?
A. We have already pre-arranged mechanism immediately after we get the final version of the bicam, then we will decide, we will consult and decide.

Q. Basahin ko na lang yung may nagpadala ng tanong kasi bihira ka lang makausap eh, yung iba actually paulit-ulit.
A. The question always is “how much is the dilution?”

Q. Anong parating tinatanong sa inyo ngayon after the passing of the versions?
A. “Ano ba ito, tatanggapin na ba natin ito?” Always ganon. Kasi ang question nga … is this BBL now passed by the House and Senate lower than ARMM? Or is there any benefit na nakuha which is beyond the benefit of the ARMM?

Q. Paano niyo sinasagot?
A. Sinasabi namin na we will wait for the final version kasi we are struggling to improve this version.

Q. Paniwala talaga kayo na meron pang pag-asa yan sa bicam?
A. We will … continue .As a revolutionary, we will be always persistent kasi alam mo kung titingnan natin if the President will really work, malaking bagay (goes off the record)

Q. Initial assessment ninyo, ano ang may matinding changes? Ang Senate?
A. Sa Senate ngayon ang mas problematic because it practically changed the framework. Although sa House marami nang … pero sa specially on principle of self determination, dito sa Senate ang talagang nawala, sa House hindi pa masyado at least nandoon pa rin yung..

Q. Pero silang dalawa pareho silang hindi compliant to the CAB?
A. Oo, hindi compliant pero yun na nga … the principle of self-determination at least nasa House, diluted but not completely …

Q. But you know the composition of the 28 legislators in the bicam. Karamihan doon may mga issues sa BBL and they will definitely make sure… Lobregat, Drilon, etc… may objection talaga doon
A. Kasi hindi yan sila papayag na wala sila doon.

Q. There are grumblings on the ground na you really got something that is not acceptable at this stage. How are you addressing these grumblings?
A. I will be issuing a statement .. for our people… we will try to let them understand na itong process ngayon hindi pa conclusive … We will have to struggle … and then we will decide after we have exhausted all the efforts. … Yung mga youth group I am going to meet them personally

Q. When? Saan? Dito?
A. Maybe within next week. Yung mga grupo nila. Kasi yun ang mainit yung..

Q. You were young once. You know how it is to be part of the
A. Yes, we were young before when we started the struggle … but we became mature in the struggle. .. we gained so much in our experience, we gained knowledge on how to handle situations

Q. But part of this knowledge on how to handle situations is really also compromise. Up to how much can you compromise, will you compromise?
A. Well, always … when you agreed to negotiate, you already agreed that you will compromise but how much do you compromise … You cannot compromise principle … you can only compromise maybe strategy and maybe ways on how to achieve…

Q. You still have your non-negotiables as an organization?
A. Yes of course You cannot remove that.

Q. Ano yung non-negotiables… what are your non-negotiables now, now that you have matured?
A. What is important is the struggle will survive. The struggle of the people will survive.

Q. Mas challenging pa ba ito kaysa sa pinagdaanan doon sa CAB? Is this the most challenging in the history of the MILF?
A. Ang challenges ngayon very different yung nangyari sa CAB, yung hindi pumasa yung BBL (under Aquino administration) because outrightly wala nang magawa … The challenge today is what will be the option of the MILF.

Q. After the final version is out?
A. After the final version. Kung ano yung final version, what will be the option?

Q. And history will judge you and history may be very cruel to you long after you’re gone. Are you prepared for that?
A. Our people will also judge us.

 

 

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