Factions of Moro rebel group dispute benefits of proposed parliamentary gov’t for Bangsamoro

Posted on January 21, 2015

LEADERS of several factions of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) acknowledged the need to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), but questioned if the planned parliamentary government would do good for Mindanao.

Coming forward to represent a subgroup of the MNLF, faction leader Datu Abul Khayr D. Alonto yesterday pushed for a federal government in lieu of the planned Bangsamoro parliament, saying the former is the better option to secure autonomy for the region.

“I believe it is the political will of change that can come to this country. This centralized form of government, it’s not working. It’s a failure,” Mr. Alonto said in an interview on the sidelines of a committee hearing at the House of Representatives on Tuesday. “In terms of development also, it will be more equitable... That will be more suited to the needs and the requirements of this country.”

Mr. Alonto added to say that he is supportive of a move for Charter change to accommodate federalism for Mindanao, and in the long run, for the entire Philippines.

“If there are any constitutional infirmities in the BBL, then let us raise and address them now, so that our nation can be made aware that the time to amend the Constitution has come,” he told lawmakers.

For her part, government peace panel chief Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, can only say: “Let us pass BBL first and talk about federalism afterwards.”

Datu Muslimin G. Sema, head of another MNLF faction, likewise doubted the viability of a parliament for the Bangsamoro.

“The Philippine state adopted the presidential parliamentary form of government under the 1973 Philippine Constitution and under the Martial Law Regime, and it is safe to assume that it did not work,” Mr. Sema said.

There is no need to repeal existing laws involving peace agreements earlier forged with the MNLF with government to give way for the Bangsamoro, Mr. Sema added, as the new law should be crafted as an “enhancement” of earlier efforts.

He is referring to the 1976 Tripoli Agreement and the 1996 Final Peace Agreement earlier entered into by the government with the MNLF, which he said is not being implemented to this day.

Nevertheless, the two factions said they are still supporting the passage of a “stronger” BBL. The MNLF’s Nur Misuari faction and the rebel group Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, meanwhile, skipped Tuesday’s hearing.

The hearing is the 35th in a series of House panel deliberations and public consultations since the BBL was filed before Congress in September as House Bill 4994.

On Wednesday, the last public hearing will be held at the House with heads of local government units in Mindanao.

Executive sessions will be held by the 75-member ad hoc panel from Jan. 26-28 and Feb. 2-4 to finalize provisions of the bill. Committee approval is set on Feb. 9 to give time for plenary discussions and final reading approval of the House by Feb. 25, Rep. Rufus B. Rodriguez (Cagayan de Oro, 2nd district) said.

Meanwhile, as the House draws the BBL deliberations to a close, the Senate is scrambling to finish its own discussions on the proposed law, eyeing to have it finished by the third month of the year.

On Monday, Senate President Franklin M. Drilon said that the Senate could finish the deliberations by the second week of March as what was initially planned last year.

“We’ll work on it double time, we’ll work on it extra hard [so that we can meet] our self-imposed deadline on the first quarter of this year,” Mr. Drilon told reporters.

Mr. Drilon also said that they are seeking the counsel of the framers of the 1987 Constitution to weigh in on the constitutionality of the draft law.

“It is our belief that the framers of the 1987 Constitution are in the best position to assess the constitutionality of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law and determine its conformity to the vision, spirit and core principles of the Constitution they had penned nearly three decades ago,” he said in a statement released separately.

The 1986 Constitutional Commission members include legal luminaries such as former Chief Justice Hilario Davide, former Justice Adolfo Azcuna, former Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Christian Monsod, Fr. Joaquin Bernas, and former Comelec Commissioner Rene Sarmiento.

In Malacañang, Communications Secretary Herminio B. Coloma, Jr. said the earlier delay in the proposed law’s approval will not affect the government’s timetable of putting in place a new political entity in Mindanao by 2016 as it remains a Palace priority.

Nanatili naman tayong on-track doon sa schedule na inaasam natin na pagpasa ng Bangsamoro Basic Law. Nasa huling yugto na ng mga konsultasyon at pagsasa-ayos nung ihahain sa Kongreso. (We remain on schedule regarding the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law. We are on the last chapter of consultations,)” he said in a radio interview Tuesday aired over state-run DZRB. -- Melissa Luz T. Lopez, Alden M. Monzon and Imee Charlee C. Delavin