DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 22 July) — Members of the Central Committee of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and commanders of its armed wing, the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) are “inclining to accept” the final version of what the Bicameral Conference Committee on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law now refers to as the Organic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (OLBARRM).
“Initial outcome from consultations with our Central Comittee members and top commanders is inclining to acceptance of BARMM. Majority agrees that it is very much above ARMM.” MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim told MindaNews late Friday night.
The Bicameral Committee (bicam) approved the proposed law that would create a new autonomous political entity that will replace the 28-year old Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), naming it the “Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao” (BARMM).
An “enhanced” or “strengthened” ARMM had earlier been offered to the MILF across several administrations: Ramos (1992 to 1998), Estrada (1998 to 2001), Arroyo (2001 to 2010) and Aquino (2010 to 2016), which the MILF all rejected.
Under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte, the first Mindanawon to lead the nation, the MILF is accepting a “very much above ARMM” BARMM.
Murad, MILF peace implementing chair Mohagher Iqbal and Ghazali Jaafar, MILF 1st vice chair and chair of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) that drafted the proposed Bangsamoro law, will attend the President’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday, July 23, Iqbal told MindaNews.
The bicam had worked overtime for six days to come up with their final version of the proposed Bangsamoro law that it expected the President to sign into law on July 23.
MindaNews asked Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza Sunday night if the proposed law will be signed by the President before or after delivering his SONA. “Let’s wait when it actually happens,” Dureza replied.
“Not completely what we want”
Late Wednesday night, a few hours after the proposed law was approved by the bicam, Murad told MindaNews: “It is the product of sustained engagement, hard bargaining and negotiation.”
“We appreciate the efforts of the members of the bicam to conclude the process. We did not get completely what we want for our people but we exhausted our best effort and we thank the members of the bicam for being generally receptive. Probably this is the best they can give to our people for now.”
In the early hours of July 13, after the bicam completed a four-day session deliberating on House Bill 6475 and Senate Bill 1717 and suspended the session until July 17 with “99%” work done, according to Senate Majority Leader and bicam co-chair Juan Miguel Zubiri, Murad said the Bangamoro law that was shaping up by then was “80 to 90% CAB-compliant.”
Iqbal, who led the MILF peace panel in signing the 2012 Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro and the 2014 CAB, told MindaNews on Saturday that the OLBARMM is “85% CAB-compliant.”
CAB refers to the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, the peace agreement signed by government (GPH) and the MILF on March 27, 2014. The Bangsamoro law is supposed to be the enabling act of the CAB.
“We will conduct extensive consultation with our people and finally decide. We believe it can be a good start if our people support us,” Murad declared.
He also extended the MILF’s “expression of sincere gratitude and appreciation to our beloved President for his manifestation of very strong support to the passage of the law that will bridge the implementation of our political agreement with the government,” adding that without the President’s support, the process would not have moved forward.
Murad on June 7 told MindaNews in a sit-down interview in Camp Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat town in Maguindanao, that they will consult the people before accepting what Congress will pass.
“Always the process of the MILF is we will consult our people so maybe before we accept, we will conduct consultation,” he said, noting that “even if we accept it, if the people don’t accept it, don’t support us, then we cannot do much if the people will not support us.”
Would four days – July 19 to 22 – be enough for consultations with the Bangsamoro people before the President signs it into law? MindaNews asked Murad.
“We can start at the top level of our organization and continue even after the signing of the President. Our final decision will not necessarily be before the signing of the President,” he said.
“We understand that with the overwhelming support of both Congress in the draft Law, the President will sign it and on our side we will continue to engage, cooperate and participate in the process,” he said.
“But we will continue our consultation if not completed even after the signing of the President,” Murad said.
The ARMM will be deemed abolished upon ratification of the OLBARMM in a plebiscite that will be held likely in January 2019.
1 year, 21 years
The proposed law was approved on July 18, one year and one day after the BTC submitted its draft law to the President in Malacanang, in the presence of then Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III and House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, Jr.
The 21-member BTC, composed of 11 nominated by the MILF and 10 by the government (GPH) was tasked through an executive order to craft the draft law, then referred to as Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).
The bicam’s approval on July 18 came exactly 21 years after Jaafar, the MILF’s first peace panel chair, signed in Cagayan de Oro City, the “general cessation of hostilities” agreement with his government counterpart, then retired General Fortunato Abat. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)