SULTAN KUDARAT, Maguindanao (MindaNews/26 July) — The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) said on Saturday that it will continue to demand for the implementation of the peace agreements it signed with the government (GPH) even if the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is not passed within President Benigno Aquino III’s term.
But MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim maintained that the “ideal time” to pass the BBL is under the Aquino administration which has only 11 months left until June 30, 2016.
He called the passage of the BBL as an instrument to execute what had been earlier agreed upon under the Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro (FAB) and the Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamaro (CAB). But he added that with or without BBL, they will continue to press the government to implement the other aspects of the agreements and their annexes.
An acceptable version of the BBL “means in accordance with the CAB and FAB and their annexes because it’s the bottomline. We cannot renegotiate,” he told some 50 Mindanao and Manila journalists in Camp Darapanan on Saturday afternoon.
The journalists gathered in Cotabato City for the two-day forum, “Beyond Mamasapano: Reporting the Bangsamoro Peace Process” organized by the Mindanao Media Forum. They also visited Barangay Tukanalipao in Mamasapano, site of the tragedy on January 25 that left 44 members of the elite Special Action Force of the Philippine National Police, 17 from the MILF and five civilians.
Murad said the MILF is open for any changes and improvements in the provisions in the original draft, but these should be made in accordance with the FAB and the CAB.
“We may allow improvements in some provisions that are not yet hinged on the agreement,” he said.
Appeal to Congress
He appealed to both chambers of Congress to expedite the approval and come out with a final and acceptable version of the BBL immediately because it will be uncertain if the next administration will have the same interest as Aquino on the ongoing peace process.
Congress will resume sessions this week, after the President’s State of the Nation Address on July 27. The House of Representatives will resume the period of interpellation on HB 5811, the substitute bill approved by the Ad Hoc Committee on the Bangsamoro Basic Law.
In the Senate, Senator Ferdinand Marcos has yet to release copies of the substitute bill he promised to submit before they resume sessions, as SB 2408, the proposed BBL drafted by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) in its present form and substance, according to Marcos, “will lead us to perdition.”
Murad said the delay in the passage of BBL will also mean delay in the decommissioning process, which kicked off with 145 MILF soldiers and the initial 75 high-powered firearms and crew-served weapons in June.
Should the BBL be passed, thousands more of MILF troops will be decommissioned while the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) is transitioning into the Bangsamoro government.
“What is ideal is BBL will be passed as it is now,” he said.
On the first day of the media forum on Friday, ARMM executive secretary Laisa Alamia, Cotabato City, said the version that the Senate and House of Representatives will pass should not be anything less than the ARMM, which has often been referred to as a “failed experiment”.
Alamia acknowledged that the BBL will not solve all the problems that are hounding the entire region, but said it is a necessary first step to achieving peace and development on the back of good leadership and governance.
“The only solution to the problem is to continue the peace process,” Murad said.
The MILF chair said he hopes whoever succeeds President Aquino will not be anti-peace.
The MILF chair said what’s keeping the MILF members intact is the fact that there’s still hope that their struggle will soon come to an end if they continue the peace process.
“We are trying our best to control our people for as long as they will see that’s there’s still hope for the peace process to move on,” he added.
“Having BBL is not the end of struggle. Even if we have the perfect BBL in place but we cannot sustain it, we are going back to zero again,” he said.
Murad also addressed those opposing the BBL by saying that the peace process is not only for the MILF, as the draft BBL was jointly crafted both by peace panels of the Philippine government and the MILF.
“We’re trying to work out that people will not see BBL as BBL of MILF,” he said. (Antonio Colina IV/ MindaNews)