Malacañang assures BBL part of legislative priority

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Muslim students arrive for a rally in support of the peace agreement with the government in Cotabato City, on the southern island of Mindanao on March 27, 2014. — AFP PHOTO/TED ALJIBE

THE draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) remains an executive priority, Malacañang assured on Tuesday, Sept. 5, citing President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s meeting the previous day with leaders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC).

Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto C. Abella in a press briefing said of the BBL, “The President assures this is high priority and vital to the future of Mindanao and the nation.”

To recall, the MILF forged a peace agreement with the government in 2014, on the watch of President Benigno S.C. Aquino III. From that agreement, a proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) would have led to the organization of a new Bangsamoro political and geographic entity, in place of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. But the BBL was derailed in Congress in the aftermath of the Mamasapano killings of Jan. 25, 2015, amid an encounter with police forces and members of the MILF and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.

Last July, Mr. Duterte formally received the new draft of the proposed BBL. Although the draft law itself is not listed among the legislative priorities of the 17th Congress as identified by the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council, the move toward federalism, which is complementary to the BBL, tops the said list, or what is called the Common Legislative Agenda.

If passed, BBL will focus on developing Mindanao’s “agricultural potential” and its mining industry, which can be “mid-term or long-term activities” and will be “co-managed” by the national and future Bangsamoro government.

In his meeting with MILF Chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, MILF Peace Implementing Panel Chair Mohagher Iqbal, BTC Chair Ghazali Jaafar, BTC Commissioner Abdulra of Macacau, and BTC Executive Director Esmael Pasigan, Mr. Durtete said he will ask Senate President Aquilino Martin L. Pimentel III and House Speaker Pantaleon D. Alvarez to facilitate the legislative process on the BBL.

Mr. Abella for his part said: “The President also thanked the MILF for its strong support in the fight against violent extremists in Mindanao. He has cited the humanitarian efforts to save civilian lives in Marawi and the continuing operations against armed groups and enemies of the state throughout Mindanao.”

Mr. Duterte in his meeting with the MILF and BTC, was also joined by Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus G. Dureza, Defense Secretary Delfin N. Lorenzana, National Security Adviser Hermogenes C. Esperon, Jr., Acting Interior Secretary Catalino S. Cuy, and Mr. Abella. — Rosemarie A. Zamora