Congress urged to pass BBL to address “growing threat of religious extremism”

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/13 January) — Congress must pass the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law to meet “the growing threat of religious extremism not only locally but even among international communities,” Secretary Teresita Quintos Deles, of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process said Wednesday.

“[T]he success of the Bangsamoro peace process can help us arrest the spread of extremism around the globe by showing clearly that an Islamic movement can address its grievances and pursue its interests through a legitimate mode of democratic political engagement while still remaining within the country’s territorial integrity and constitutional framework, and without losing their culture and identity,” Deles said in a message during the Regional Consultative Meeting for Heads of Posts in Europe delivered by Undersecretary Luisito Montalbo.

The event was organized by the Department of Foreign Affairs in Manila.

Deles said passing the BBL would show to the world that the Philippines recognizes and respects Islam.

“[The completion of the peace negotiations] can show the global ummah that even Muslim minorities can thrive and contribute to development through the mutually-beneficial interaction of distinct cultures,” she stressed.

The OPAPP head cited the support of the international community to the peace process, especially the passage of the BBL, as a solution to the decades-old Bangsamoro armed struggle in Mindanao.

“[J]ust in October of last year, top diplomats representing at least twenty-four (24) countries led by ambassadors from the European Union, United Kingdom, and the United States released a strong statement of support for the peace process,” she noted.

She added that late last year, the EU pledged 275 billion pesos “to allow for a smooth transition and to create conditions for the establishment of the autonomous region of the Bangsamoro, through the BBL.”

Deliberations on the BBL in both chambers of Congress were stalled after the Mamasapano encounter on Jan. 25 last year which left 44 police commandoes, 17 Moro Islamic Liberation Front guerrillas and five civilians dead.

On that day, close to 400 members of the police’s Special Action Force sneaked into a village in Mamasapano, Maguindanao to get Malaysian bomber Zulkipli bn Hir alias Marwan and his Filipino aide Basit Usman.

Late last year, attempts to resume deliberations on the BBL again failed due to lack of quorum in the House of Representatives.

In the Senate, Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. introduced a version of the proposed Bangsamoro law that the MILF said has departed from the essence of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro.

In a media forum in Iloilo City on Dec. 4 last year, MILF chief peace negotiator Mohagher Iqbal he was no longer optimistic that the BBL would be passed before President Aquino’s term ends.

Deles, however, said she remained optimistic the BBL would be passed under the Aquino administration despite the quorum woes in Congress that have caused the delays.

“Delays are, understandably, of great concern for communities on the ground. With every passing day of delay, they grow more anxious. With each new unmet deadline, they ask – will this mean a return to war? With firm hope and unwavering courage, we say: no, not under our watch,” she said. (MindaNews)