Rep. Arroyo to back BBL draft of BTC

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 28 March) – Former president and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will withdraw the Basic Act for Bangsamoro Autonomous Region she filed on August 3 last year and will support the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC).

MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim. MindaNews file photo by MANMAN DEJETO

This was announced by Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza in a statement Wednesday, following the meeting between President Rodrigo Duterte and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim on Tuesday night at the Matina Enclaves, Davao City.

Dureza said Arroyo will withdraw [her] bill to allow for the speedy approval of the BTC draft of the BBL sponsored by House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez.

Senate sub-committee chair Juan Miguel Zubiri said the chamber would act on the bill before Congress goes into sine die adjournment on May 15, according to Dureza.

Arroyo served as president from January 2001 to June 30, 2010.

In 2008, her government and the MILF were set to sign the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain. But the signing was aborted after the Supreme Court ruled that the agreement was unconstitutional.

Present during the meeting in Davao were Palace officials, BTC members, government peace panel members and other MILF leaders.

Dureza said the meeting was held as “part of the previously agreed arrangement that there will be periodic and regular meeting of both sides as efforts for the eventual passage of the BBL are underway in both the House of Representatives and Senate”

He said Duterte assured the MILF leaders of his commitment to address the root causes of the Moro rebellion and the historical injustice committed against the Bangsamoro people.

He said Duterte vowed to assist even to the extent of relaying to both chambers of Congress his desire for the passage of a BBL that is compliant with the 2014 Comprehensive Agreement of the Bangsamoro (CAB) and as close as possible to the BTC’s version.

The BBL will create a political entity that will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

“In the event this does not take place in Congress, he said he would go to the extent of even exercising his residual powers through administrative directives to fulfill this commitment,” Dureza said.

Composed of 11 members from the MILF and 10 from the government, the BTC submitted the draft BBL on July 17 last year to Malacanang, which transmitted it to Congress the following month.

Dureza said the meeting was timely to dispel the “negative speculations following the visit of President Duterte the other day in Jolo, Sulu” where he mentioned about the reported objection of some Bangsamoro leaders in Sulu, Basilan, and Tawi-Tawi to the draft BBL.

The President explained the draft BBL is inclusive and will benefit all tribes and sectors, including non-Muslims, he said.

During the handover of loose firearms and presentation of Abu Sayyaf surrenderees in Sulu, Duterte said he wanted the draft BBL to be passed this year.

“I want to have a result of this by the end of the year. I want it solved to the best way that is acceptable to everybody,” he said.

Dureza said the MILF doubted if they will still get the chance to have the BBL passed if this is not done under Duterte’s term.

“If this does not get done during the presidency of President Duterte, we seriously doubt if we can do it at all, in the future. President Duterte is now our only and last card,” Dureza quoted Murad as saying. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)