DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 17 July) — “Within the context of the Republic of the Philippines, there shall be a Bangsamoro country,” President Rodrigo Duterte declared Monday after receiving a copy of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).
Duterte committed to “support and husband” the proposed BBL in Congress to ensure the passage of the law that would create the Bangsamoro, a new autonomous political entity that would replace the 27-year old Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
The creation of the Bangsamoro is in accordance with the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) signed by the government (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on March 27, 2014.
The agreement envisions a new entity that would realize the aspirations of the Bangsamoro people for genuine self-determination under a ministerial form of government and ensure autonomy far more than what the present ARMM provides.
But nowhere in his speech did Duterte mention the CAB. He reiterated “there will be no objections (to) the provisions of all that is consistent with the Constitution and the aspiration of the Moro people.”
“I am for this. Within the context of the Republic of the Philippines, there shall be a Bangsamoro country,” Duterte said.
He noted that after decades of armed struggle and violence, “we will soon come up with a constitutionally consistent legal instrument that will lay the foundation for establishing real and lasting peace in Mindanao.”
The proposed BBL, according to Duterte, “puts into life and spirit the constitutional mandate provided in the 1987 Constitution for the establishment of a truly autonomous region in Muslim Mindanao.”
The entire country, he said, will benefit from this new autonomous political entity which he hopes will be marked by “good governance, equitable sharing of wealth and generation of revenue, and normalized, stable environment.”
Congress under the Aquino administration adjourned in 2016 without passing a Bangsamoro law.
The two houses of Congress filed substitute bills after their respective committee hearings, both titled Basic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region (BLBAR), which the MILF and even the government peace panel then agreed did not comply with the CAB and instead envisioned a Bangsamoro less autonomous than the ARMM it sought to replace.
Correcting historical injustice
Monday’s submission of the BBL is exactly a week before Duterte delivers his second State of the Nation Address. The country’s first Mindanawon President with Moro blood (his grandmother is a Maranao) is expected to certify as urgent the proposed BBL in Congress whose two houses are headed by fellow Mindanawons — Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III and House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, Jr.
Pimentel and Alvarez witnessed the submission of the draft BBL in Malacanang.
Duterte said the draft BBL, jointly written by Muslims, Christians, and Lumads “shall give rise to a genuine autonomous region as well as bring forth healing and reconciliation to the historical injustices committed against the Bangsamoro people.”
MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim said Duterte has been “given the unique privilege of correcting that historical injustice (against the Bangsamoro) by entrenching the Bangsamoro Government – the embodiment of the legitimate aspiration of our people, through the enactment of this Bangsamoro Basic Law.”
“We trust you. We trust that you will shepherd the passage of this law and see through the establishment of the Bangsamoro Government,” he said.
Murad stressed that in passing the BBL, the Duterte administration “would have taken the first step in correcting the historical injustice committed against our people and laid the foundation for a more just country.”
“By this joint action, we have co-founded a new Philippines-a new country firmly set on the unshakable foundation of justice and truth, and bequeath upon our succeeding generation a country united but respecting and drawing strength from its diversity,” he added.
Violent extremism, Murad warned, is rearing its ugly head and this is evident in what is happening in Marawi, where clashes between government forces and violent extremists such as the Maute Group, entered Day 56 on the same day teh draft BBL was submitted.
“These misguided people have filled the vacuum created by our failure to enact the Basic Law and fed into the frustration of our people,” he explained.
Ghazali Jaafar, 1st Vice Chair of the MILF and concurrent chair of the BTC, said their draft BBL is “the best antidote to violent extremism that has wrought havoc” in the country.
He said their draft is “more inclusive being a product of a commission whose composition also reflects the widest inclusivity” and that it “reflects the diversity of interests of the Bangsamoro people, non-Bangsamoro Indigenous Peoples and settle communities.”
“This BBL is our new formula for the very elusive peace in Mindanao,” Jaafar added.
The Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) faction under Yusoph Jikiri and Muslimin Sema, participated in the crafting of the draft BBL, with three commissioners among the 21-member BTC.
The MNLF faction under Nur Misuair, however, has a separate peace implementing panel which is drafting along with its government counterpart, a draft amendatory law that would strengthen the ARMM.
The BBL on the other hand will lead to the abolition of the ARMM once the BBL is ratified in a plebiscite.
The Bangsamoro peace roadmap that the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) proposed in July 2016 and approved by the President, was for a convergence of the peace agreements government signed with the MNLF (1976 Tripoli Agreement and 1996 Final Peace Agreement) and the MILF (2012 Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro and 2014 CAB).
The BTC membership was precisely increased from 15 to 21, purportedly to get the MNLF factions to participate in crafting the BBL. Misuari’s faction did not participate.
Secretary Jesus Dureza, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, said Congress will do the convergence of the BTC’s draft BBL and the MNLF-Misuari faction’s draft amendatory law.
The MNLF-Misuari peace implementing panel has yet to formally meet although they have conducted at least five informal meetings.
In a statement, ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman reiterated the region’s support to the ongoing peace process and its commitment to serve the Bangsamoro people.
He expressed hope that the President, who will set the legislative agenda of the national government during his SONA on July 24, “will use this important platform to push for legislation that acknowledges and addresses the historical injustices committed against the Bangsamoro people, and to pursue restorative justice and lasting peace in the region.”
He said he hopes the new draft BBL “will also renew the commitment not only of the peace panels, but also the commitment of our legislators in congress to pursuing peace in the region.”
Hataman noted that the proposed law “comes at a time when we are reminded of the costs of delaying our efforts towards peace in the region, as we continue to hurdle old and familiar obstacles along with new challenges.”
“Delays in our collective struggle towards peace make it easy for fear to take root in the hearts of our people. Delays in our shared pursuit of justice make it easier for terror to thrive,” he said. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)