Lawmaker warns diluted BBL won’t resolve Mindanao conflict

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/25 August) — A partylist representative on Monday warned against passing a version of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) that would not adhere to the provisions of the peace agreements signed between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Bayan Muna Rep. Karlos Isagani Zarate said passing the BBL just so President Benigno S. Aquino III could cite a legacy of his administration will not address the root cause of the long-standing Moro unrest.

“What’s the use of passing a law that cannot solve the problem?” he said.

Zarate said the government peace panel should have considered at the outset that Congress may object to the provisions of the agreements they deem unconstitutional and that it would be better if they included some lawmakers in drafting the BBL.

He said the substitute bills filed in the Senate and even in the House of Representatives have excluded several provisions in the original draft, which is a result of the 17-year negotiation between the government and MILF peace panels.

The MILF cannot accept a version of the BBL with provisions that are only 50-percent compliant to the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) and the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB), he said.

He said it is doubtful the BBL could be passed before Aquino leaves office, as most lawmakers will be “busy” after filing the certificate of candidacies in October.

Zarate said it will be difficult to muster a quorum as the election period draws near. He cited that no sessions were held in the past days due to lack of quorum.

1BAP partylist Rep. Sylestre Bello III recently said the lawmakers skipped the sessions to avoid discussions on the Freedom of Information bill, Anti-Dynasty bill and the BBL.

Since July 17 when Congress resumed its sessions, only two lawmakers were able to interpellate the BBL in the plenary with 28 items still up for deliberation.

“If and when the interpellation of the BBL resumes, more congressmen will attempt to dilute it further, for example, the provisions on the control of resources,” Zarate said.

He said the substitute bill filed by Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has failed to live up to the provisions of the CAB and FAB.

He said Marcos’ bill rejected the “request of the MILF to reconsider the provisions that have been omitted” from the original draft. He called Marcos’ version of the BBL less than the existing Republic Act 9504, which amended RA 6734, the law creating the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

Zarate said the Makabayan bloc in Congress is not amenable to Marcos’ substitute bill as it will not provide a long-term solution to the conflict.

He warned that passing a version of the BBL that would fail to address the problem will only result in more problems.

He cited, for instance, the Final Peace Agreement entered into by the government and the Moro National Liberation Front in 1996.

He said the next administration should also honor the CAB and the FAB or risk losing credibility in the international community.

“An agreement must always be respected,” he said. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)