Duterte commits to support new BBL

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President Rodrigo Duterte vowed to support the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law submitted by the 21-member Bangsamoro Transition Commission on Monday, as long as it remains faithful to the Constitution.

“I commit to support—in front of everybody—my covenant with you that I will support and husband this instrument as it goes in the legislators for its consideration,” the President said in his speech at Malacañang.  “And there will be no objections of the provisions of all that is consistent with the Constitution and the aspiration of the Moro people.”

Duterte, who later signified to certify the BBL as “urgent” said the draft bill stands as proof of the government’s resolve to “set aside our differences and stand united to achieve a common goal of peace.”

“This moment is a significant step forward in our quest to end centuries of hatred, mistrust and injustice that caused and affected the lives of millions of Filipinos,” the President said.

“The draft Bangsamoro Basic law embodies our shared aspiration of a peaceful, orderly, and harmonious nation. After the age of armed struggle and violence, we will soon come up with the constitutionally consistent, legal document that will lay the foundation to establishing the real and lasting peace in Mindanao,” he added.

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front-led Bangsamoro Transition Commission on Monday submitted to Duterte its proposals for a draft Bangsamoro Enabling Law, which is a “20 to 30-percent improvement and revision” of the previous bill which failed to pass in the 16th Congress.

MILF Implementing Panel chairman Mohaguer Iqbal said. “All provisions of the BBL are up for revision, as long as it answers our calls for inclusivity in the peace process,” he said.

SIGNING FOR PEACE. Photo shows (from left) Al-Hajj Murad, chairman of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, President Rodrigo Duterte and Ghazali Jaafar, vice chairman of MILF, make the peace sign with other officials during a ceremony where a draft of the Bangsamoro Basic Law was submitted to the President at the Malacañan Palace in Manila on July 17, 2017. Duterte offered ‘genuine autonomy’ to Muslim minority to help him defeat Islamist militants who seized the southern city of Marawi. AFP

Giving important highlights of the draft BBL, Iqbal said that the BTC has taken into account the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro inked between the Aquino administration and the MILF in March 2014 and the 1996 Final Peace Agreement between the Ramos administration and the Moro National Liberation Front.

Iqbal said that among the important revisions were: inclusion of a provisional government or the Bangsamoro Transition Authority  which will serve as the “bridge” replacing the ARMM to a Bangsamoro Federal Government after the BBL passes in Congress, co-management of metallic and non-metallic resources between the Bangsamoro Federal Region and the national government, socioeconomic reforms, provisions for a plebiscite, in deference to the 1996 Final Peace Agreement and—creation of offices for Christian Communities, Women and Youth.

The submission of the new BBL to Duterte will be the end of MILF’s active role in its formulation of the new bill, as all stakeholders would have to wait for the discussions in Congress, which Iqbal expects to be finished at the first quarter of 2018.

“The BBL would have to be presented to Congress during President Duterte’s [State of the Nation Address] and we do not have a direct deal on how it will shape up,” Iqbal said.

Despite this however, the MILF leader expects the government to actively push for its legislation.

Meanwhile, both the government and the MILF panels signed a massive nationwide information campaign to rally public support behind the new Bangsamoro autonomous region.

Irene Santiago, who oversees the Bangsamoro peace accords, said that a successful communications strategy will help overturn the negative public opinion against the BBL, which rose highest following the deaths of 44 members of a special police unit in an encounter with Moro groups, including MILF combatants, in Maguindanao province.

Iqbal rejected rumors that the Bangsamoro people would secede from the Philippines if “given the authority or the opportunity to rule” themselves, but rather this will be the “antidote” to end the years ofinjustice against the Moro people.

“The BBL is the menu for solidarity and unity of this country,” Iqbal  said. “The BBL is the antidote to the dismemberment of this country.

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