MNLF faction won’t participate in proposed Bangsamoro Law

Posted on August 17, 2015

ONE of the several factions within the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) has rejected the move to include their group in the recently drafted substitute bill to the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), saying they do not see any fruitful talks happening between them and the current administration.

“It is already too late for us to expect anything honest out of this administration. Perhaps in the next administration, there would a possibility if the sitting president will be more open and friendly to the MNLF,” MNLF Spokesperson Atty. Emmanuel C. Fontanilla, spokesperson of the Misuari-led MNLF Faction, told BusinessWorld in a phone interview earlier last week.

Under Senate Bill No. 2894, the substitute bill to the draft BBL proposed by Malacañang, the MNLF will be a part of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA), the interim governing body during the transition period from the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao to the new Bangsamoro region.

The substitute bill was authored by the chairman of the Senate committee on local government -- Senator Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr.

“We are happy with the intentions of senator Marcos, however, we cannot participate on these actions of the Senate,” he added.

In previous statements, Mr. Marcos said the MNLF was not given any participation under the original BBL version, hence, the need for the substitute bill which changed some of the provisions in the draft law including the composition of the transition body.

There are at least three recognizable factions within the MNLF, namely the groups led by its founding Chairman Nur Misuari, the Central Committee led by Muslimin Sema and the Islamic Command Council led by Habib Mudjahab Hashim.

Mr. Fontanilla said their group is supported by a 160,000-strong armed force with a support base of about eight million civilian and unarmed contingents.

Marcos told vice-governors in Mindanao on Saturday the substitute bill to the original BBL was “inclusive and fair to all: Moros and non-Moros alike.”

“I believe we tried very hard to be fair to everyone concerned,” said Mr. Marcos in response to allegations that the substitute bill waters down the powers of the Bangsamoro government that will be established once the Basic Law on the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region is enacted.

Mr. Marcos was a guest speaker in the Mindanao Vice-Governor’s Conference in Cagayan De Oro City.

Mr. Marcos said that provisions of the Senate’s version of the BBL “treated the Bangsamoro government similarly to other local governments in the country, in order to draw them closer to mainstream Filipino society instead of treating them as a separate group.”

Meanwhile, problems in attendance at the House of Representatives may hinder the passage of the proposed Bangsamoro law.

“At the rate we are going, it will really be very hard. It’s really of primary importance now that there should be a quorum and the quorum stays until probably 10 p.m.,” Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus B. Rodriguez (2nd district), chairman of the House ad hoc committee on the BBL, said in a dzBB interview on Sunday.

“We should really look at this problem. The Speaker and the Majority Leader should be able to appeal to all the congressmen to at least come to have a quorum and stay until the deliberations are finished.”

After Congress resumed sessions on July 27, the House has been able to muster a quorum only twice. A quorum requires at least 146 lawmakers present for their Monday to Wednesday plenary sessions which start at 4 p.m.

Since the President’s last State of Nation Address, a quorum was only reached again last week, which effectively delayed the resumption of the floor debates on the Bangsamoro bill by two weeks.

Mr. Rodriguez said it is working to the advantage of lawmakers against the BBL to question the quorum, as they cannot proceed with the day’s agenda if there are not enough warm bodies present.

The chamber is targeting to approve the controversial BBL by mid-September, or just before budget deliberations reach the plenary. As a rule, no other bills can be tackled once the budget talks are opened on the floor.

“We appeal to the Speaker, we appeal to the Congressmen to be present. After all, if they are against it, in the voting they can vote against,” Mr. Rodriguez said, adding that they must be finished with the BBL before Sept. 28 when the proposed P3.002-trillion spending plan for 2016 is expected to be taken to the plenary.

The Senate, meanwhile, is expected to start their own plenary debates on their version of the BBL on Monday afternoon after Mr. Marcos’s committee came up with their new version of the proposed law.

Congress leaders have tagged the budget and the BBL as the two key priorities of the chamber for the ongoing stretch of sessions until Oct. 9, when they adjourn for the filing of candidacies for the upcoming May 2016 elections. -- -- Alden M. Monzon, Elizabeth E. Escaño and Melissa Luz T. Lopez