DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 24 February) — “Navigate the hindrances and obstructions. Hanapin ninyo ang daan hanggang patungo sa kapayapaan” (Find a way to peace), President Rodrigo Duterte urged members of the expanded Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) at the launch late Friday afternoon at the Garden Pavilion of the Waterfront Insular Hotel.
It will be difficult, he warned the 21-member Commission that will draft the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL). “Mahirap ‘yan. It’s going to be a long journey but if there is a product that is acceptable to all, makikita ninyo ako” (I will be around), the 16th President of the Philippines and the first Mindanawon to lead the nation said.
“Ang gusto ko talaga mangyari ay kapayapaan (What I really want is peace) but it must be as one country, one nation and one flag,” said Duterte, who has repeatedly vowed to address the historical injustices committed against the Bangsamoro people.
He described himself as “a man in a hurry,” citing the threat of “extreme terrorism” of the Islamic State type. “We must avoid extremism or even entertaining or accommodating them because it will destroy all of us,” said the first President with a Moro bloodline.
Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza explained that BTC will “craft a new draft of what would be another enabling law that will implement the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) but more than that it will attempt also to converge all the different laws that we have in order that at the end of the day, we have only one Bangsamoro in a very enlightened Filipino nation.”
Dureza said this is the first time that the President is a Mindanawon, the Senate President and House Speaker and the Chief Justice “who hails from Sulu and whose husband is from Davao City” are Mindanawons. Sereno was born in Manila but her father is from Siasi, Sulu. Dureza is also a Mindanawon.
Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, chair of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), referred to the event as “re-launch” as this is the second BTC in four years that will draft a new BBL.
The BBL is the legal expression of the political agreement (CAB), signed by the government (GPH) and the MILF on March 27, 2014 and its passage will pave the way for the creation of the Bangsamoro, a new autonomous political entity that will replace the 27-year old Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
Four Februarys ago — on February 25, 2013 — then President Benigno Simeon Aquino III named the 15 members of the MILF-led BTC that would draft the BBL. The BTC started work in April 2013, submitted its draft to the Office of the President (OP) in April 2014, received a copy of the OP-reviewed and revised draft in late June, formally rejected the draft in early July and after a series of meetings of the peace panels and the OP, came up with an “agreed version” that was submitted to Congress on September 10, 2014. The House and Senate committees that handled the draft came up with their own versions of the law that were criticized by the BTC as “watered down” versions that would make the future Bangsamoro even less autonomous than the ARMM. Congress adjourned in February 2016 without passing the law.
“As we re-launch the BTC today, we rekindle the hope of thousands of our people for a peaceful and progressive Bangsamoro even if we are occasionally gripped by sadness at the failure earlier to pass the BBL,” Murad said, as he urged stakeholders to “look back at those experiences, not with bitterness, but with an examining eye so that we may dissect the problems and address them.”
“We must come out better prepared this time to respond to the challenges of legislation. The Filipino people must equally stand prepared to accept us as partners in achieving peace and progress, not only for this region but for the entire country,” she said.
“Perhaps, this second chance is the best second chance anyone could possibly have,” Murad said, echoing what Dureza said about the Mindanawon-led Presidency, Senate, House of Representatives and Supreme Court.
He said they are “more confident” now in achieving a lasting solution to the Bangsamoro Question than at any other time in their struggle “because we have a President who understands the history and the root cause of the Moro Question.”
“Taga rito ako and alam ko yung agony na dinaanan natin (I am from here and I understand the agony that we went through), the suffering that we had to undergo, the Christians, the Filipinos and the Lumads. We must have peace at all costs,” Duterte said.
Addressing the 21 members of the BTC at the launch at the Garden Pavilion of the Waterfront Insular Hotel here that gathered around a thousand guests from the MILF, government, and other sectors, Duterte said: “You know the history, you know the equation here, you know the composition of the population, you know the religions here, you know the idiosyncrasies of the tribes.”
Federalism and BBL
At a certain point, however, Duterte’s statements confused the crowd as he was apparently referring to the Constitution of a Federal Philippines instead of the BBL.
In the latter part of his speech, he said violent extremism will destroy the country “pero kung marunong kayo and you must hurry, because if there is I said, on the third year meron kayong produkto at naipasa ng Congress, we will implement it.”
“And there will some changes there, and an election for and I advise you, maski na papaano do not forget at this time because of the so many islands and so many political parties and persons, sabihin ko na lang sa inyo, most of the people from Luzon guys, they don’t understand and they do not want it.”
“So you must in a newly formed set up, just choose in the mean time, you can do away with the Presidency, maybe a pure parliament but at this time, I would suggest go for the parliament of just like France. Have a good President, hindi na ako ‘yan. Because if you finish it in three to four years, there will be an election and it will provide an Office of the President, I will be automatically disqualified,” Duterte said.
He has repeatedly said federalism is the centerpiece of his administration. But he also promised during his visit to the MILF’s Camp Darapanan on February 27 last year that he would push for the shift to a federal system but “if it takes time, and if only to defuse tension, in my government I will convince Congress to pass the BBL then make it as a template for federal states.”
At the Cotabato City plaza hours later, he vowed “we will try to go federalism. Yang Bagsamoro sa mapa ngayon, wag nang galawin yan. Gawin na lang nating example na makopya sa lahat. Ang mangyayari nito, uunahin ko na lang pakiusapan ko ang Congress na we will pass the BBL (The Bangsamoro on the map now, let’s not touch that anymore. Let’s make it an example for the rest to copy. I will immediately ask Congress to pass the BBL).
The Bangsamoro Peace and Development Roadmap of the Duterte administration actually targets the submission of the draft BBL by July 2017, before Duterte delivers his second State of the Nation Address on July 27.
The next ARMM elections is on May 13, 2019. If the BBL is not passed by then, the ARMM elections in 2019 will proceed as scheduled.
BTC chair Ghazali Jaafar on February 18 told MindaNews in Sultan Kudarat Maguindanao that he is confident they can submit the draft BBL before the President’s SONA on July 27.
At least nine commercial buses for the MILF delegation that assembled at Camp Darapanan in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao, traveled early morning for Davao City.
Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III was a no-show and did not send a representative. House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, Jr. was a no-show, too, but Maguindanao Representative and Deputy Speaker for Mindanao Bai Sandra Sema was present. Sema said she counted around 18 representatives who attended, most of them from Mindanao. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)