“There shall be a Bangsamoro country.”
President Duterte yesterday fulfilled the wish of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) for him to certify as urgent the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), which was submitted to him in ceremonies in Malacañang on Monday.
“I commit my support (for BBL),” Mr. Duterte said in a speech that came after MILF’s two highest ranking leaders—Al Haj Murad and Ghazali Jaafar— presented BBL as the “best antidote” to extremism in Mindanao.
A copy of the BBL bill was presented to Mr. Duterte by government and MILF representatives who sat in the Bangsamoro Transition Committee (BTC), the panel that drafted the BBL.
Mr. Duterte said the submission of the BBL bill was a “new milestone” in the quest for peace in Mindanao.
In a statement on Sunday, MILF said a certification by the President of the bill as urgent was needed to ensure its smooth sailing in Congress.
“Less than that would only bring back old memories when the previous BBL was never formally certified as an urgent bill by President Aquino,” the MILF statement said.
In a speech before Marawi evacuees in Iligan City three weeks ago, Mr. Duterte promised to ask Congress to pass the BBL to establish a new autonomous region in place of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) which, Mr. Duterte said, could serve as template for federalization.
The current draft was the second produced by the BTC. The first one was produced under President Aquino and was handed over to the Congress in September 2014. The measure made it out of Senate and House committees but didn’t make it to the plenary sessions of either chamber of Congress.
While acknowledging Aquino’s push to have the first BBL draft enacted, the MILF said “a formal certification would provide the necessary kick that can set Congress in real motion.”
The MILF leads the 21-member BTC that drafted the proposed charter of a Moro autonomous entity to replace and have greater powers than ARMM.
MILF said it was confident that with the President, Speaker and Senate President all coming from Mindanao “(where) the problem is,” there was a “greater chance” for the BBL’s enactment into law.
The MILF also said that given Mr. Duterte’s widespread popularity, he was in a better position to sway legislators toward positive action on the proposed law.
The group had given assurances that the current BBL draft “is more inclusive both in process and content because at least one-half of the MNLF (Moro National Liberation Front) is already on board.”
At least 70 leaders from different sectors in Mindanao, gathered by the Bishops-Ulama Conference in Cagayan de Oro City last week, pushed for BBL as a “strong foundation” for defeating extremism.
In earlier statements, MILF had said “there is no logical way forward except the way of peace and for the government to comply with its commitments.”
“The longer the conflict protracts, the better chance for violent extremists like the Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups to recruit and strengthen, because they feast on our failures,” MILF said. —Ryan Rosauro and Nico Alconaba
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