BBL transmitted to Congress this week

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By Ian Nicolas P. Cigaral

MALACAÑANG ON Monday, Aug. 14, announced it will submit to Congress this week the new version of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), adding that it is up to lawmakers to harmonize other measures related to the peace process in Mindanao.

L to R) Philippine Secretary of the Peace Process Jesus Dureza, Al-Hajj Murad, chairman of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and Ghazali Jaafar, vice chairman of MILF, join hands holding a proposed draft of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) during a ceremony at the Malacanang Palace in Manila on July 17, 2017. AFP

The BBL will serve as the legal foundation of the future Bangsamoro government in Mindanao. It was approved by the 21-member Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) last June 6 and was formally turned over to the Palace last month.

In a press briefing yesterday, Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto C. Abella said the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office (PLLO) will officially transmit the draft BBL to Congress anytime this week so lawmakers can act on the bill with “dispatch.”

The Palace spokesman said it is now the solons’ task to “consolidate” the Executive’s version of the BBL and the Bangsamoro bill separately filed last week by former president and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

“I’m sure she has certain positions regarding the matter and it will be up to Congress to consolidate that, which is pertinent to the BBL,” Mr. Abella said of Ms. Arroyo’s proposal.

According to a statement on Aug. 11, Ms. Arroyo filed House Bill No. 6121, or the “Basic Act for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region,” in response to President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s call for a “just and lasting peace for a unified nation.”

Under Ms. Arroyo’s bill, a new political subdivision called the “Bangsamoro Autonomous Region (BAR)” will be established that will be composed of the present geographical area of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

BAR will remain a part of the Philippines while its Bangsamoro Regional Government (BRG) will have a parliamentary system with the right to “self-governance that is free to pursue its economic, social and cultural development.”

Nonetheless, under Ms. Arroyo’s measure, the President has the power to “exercise general supervision over the BRG to ensure that all laws are faithfully executed.”

Mr. Duterte’s predecessor, Benigno S.C. Aquino III, championed the previous BBL but lost support after a highly controversial manhunt operation in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, whose aftermath became the biggest political crisis in Mr. Aquino’s presidency.

While the raid on January 25, 2015, did neutralize its terrorist targets, it also claimed the lives of 44 elite police officers, 18 Moro fighters, and five civilians.

Mr. Duterte, who hails from Mindanao, earlier said he will certify the BTC’s version of BBL as urgent to “give rise to a genuine autonomous region as well as bring forth healing and reconciliation to the historical injustices committed against the Bangsamoro people.”

Originally consisting of 15 members, the “expanded” BTC under the Duterte administration has 21 members — of whom 11, including the BTC chairperson, are from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), and 10 are nominated by the government.

The government previously said Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founding Chairman Nurulaji “Nur” P. Misuari agreed to join the peace process, but will not take part in the predominantly MILF-composed BTC. The MILF broke away from the MNLF in the 1980s.

According to Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus G. Dureza, Mr. Misuari will work on drafting an amendment to the 1996 final peace agreement his group had forged with the government of then president Fidel V. Ramos.

That peace deal paved the way for Mr. Misuari’s leadership of the ARMM until the early 2000s.

In a mobile phone message yesterday, Mr. Dureza said Mr. Misuari’s MNLF faction has yet to submit its own proposal, but noted that the “42 consensus points” that appeared in a tripartite review of the 1996 peace agreement have been “inputted” in the new BBL of BTC.

Asked if Mr. Misuari’s faction still has plans to present any proposals, Mr. Dureza said: “We cannot say that with certainty but that is what we have been informed.”