Amid dismay over BBL’s non-enactment: MILF tells Moro people to ‘let reason prevail over emotion’

OZAMIZ CITY (MindaNews/19 February) — In a strong display of diplomacy and statesmanship, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has called for calm and sobriety in Bangsamoro communities amid growing resentment over the failure of Congress to pass the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

“The MILF calls upon the Bangsamoro people and the other people in the area to remain patient. We urge you to become the beacons of hope in the advocacy for peace with justice,” MILF chief Murad Ebrahim said in a statement issued Thursday.

“This impasse should not lead anyone of us astray and be swayed by elements unreasonably instigating for radicalism. Let us always make reason and wisdom prevail over emotion,” he added.

This is the first time Murad came out with an official statement after the 16th Congress adjourned last Feb. 3 for the election campaign without putting the BBL to a vote.

Congress resumes session on May 23 to June 10 to act as the national board of canvassers for the May 9 presidential and vice presidential elections.

Murad said that “as a gesture of good faith and sincerity, the MILF has done its part by faithfully complying with all its obligations and responsibilities under the signed agreements.”

He pointed out that the rebel group “has entrusted the passage of the BBL to the government since the process was entirely internal to the latter, and all its concerned structures had the obligation to deliver the law that could have truly implemented the terms of the agreements in letter and spirit.”

After enactment and ratification by the affected population, the BBL would have set into motion the major portions of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) which the MILF forged with the government last March 27, 2014 after 17 years of negotiations.

Murad said the entire membership of the MILF felt “deep disappointment and grave dismay” over the failure of Congress to pass the BBL.

He added that a similar sentiment “is mirrored by the tangible frustration of the great majority of the Bangsamoro people, the peace loving populace not only in Mindanao but also in the entire country, and even those in other nations who have been closely following and keenly observing the unfolding of the more than 17 years of (the) peace process.”

But Murad remains hopeful the BBL will still see light and eventually be enacted by Congress.

“It is at moments like these that we call upon all our Bangsamoro brethren and all peace loving people to join hands, consolidate and vigorously rally behind the cause to pursue with persistence the passage of the BBL and the full implementation of the CAB, be it in the present government or the upcoming administration,” he said.

He called on those sympathetic to the peacemaking effort in Mindanao “to continue and intensify their efforts in supporting the advancement of the peace process and use their influence to ensure that the next Philippine government will uphold and faithfully implement the CAB in accordance with the agreed roadmap.”

He particularly addressed the call to the Malaysian government, which is facilitating the political negotiations, the 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation, and other countries and international organizations supporting the peace process in Mindanao in various capacities and involvements.

Murad gave assurance the MILF “will continue to uphold the peace process and ensure that all the gains will be preserved.”

“Towards this end, the MILF will endeavor to sustain the relevant infrastructure of the peace process and our military forces will, at all times, maintain its defensive posture. It will remain as a revolutionary organization until it officially joins the government in accordance with the agreed road map in the implementation process of the CAB,” he explained.

Based on the peace accord, the establishment of the Bangsamoro, through the BBL, would have kicked off the full decommissioning of MILF combatants and their firearms, and its transition from a revolutionary organization to a social movement pursuing political goals through democratic means like elections.

Murad said the MILF’s military and political leaders “are tasked to uphold the primary of the peace process while maintaining their vigilance and perseverance as they continue the consolidation and capability building programs of the organization.”

In the statement, he enjoined “all officers, commanders and members of the MILF political wing and the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF)” to “strictly follow and abide by the instructions and guidelines of the MILF central committee.”

Former government negotiator Camilo Montesa, now country head of the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, said he is confident the MILF leadership is capable enough to handle the recent situation facing the peace process and its Moro constituency.

“They have acquired sufficient political wisdom from the lessons of history and the experience of the Moro revolution,” Montesa said.

The recent impasse with the BBL is not the first that the peace agreement between government and Moro rebels hit a snag.

Montesa pointed to three previous instances starting with the neglect of the 1976 Tripoli Agreement with the Moro National Liberation Front; the disregard of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement; and the thrashing of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain in 2008. (Ryan Rosauro/MindaNews)