Bangsamoro office opens amid very tight security

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MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal. AP FILE PHOTO

COTABATO CITY, Philippines—Security was unusually tight here Saturday as Interior Secretary Mar Roxas and Presidential Peace Adviser Teresita Deles arrived for the inauguration of the office of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC), a body that will draft the proposed law that would consolidate the recently signed framework for peace between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Security personnel along with dozens of policemen and soldiers checked every car and were on the lookout for possible saboteurs of the peace plan.

“The military recently assaulted the camps of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in nearby Maguindanao and there might be some retaliation planned,” a security officer, who asked not to be identified, said.

The BIFF, a breakaway faction of the MILF, is opposed to the peace process.

Roxas and Deles were met by Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Gov. Mujiv Hataman and other local officials.

The BTC, to be headed by MILF chair Mohagher Iqbal, immediately held a close-door meeting in the new office.

The BTC has been commissioned to draft the Bangsamoro Basic Law, which will become the foundation of a future Bangsamoro entity.

Roxas told reporters that the forging of peace with the MILF was among President Aquino’s top priorities.

“The leadership of President Aquino is closely monitoring the process, particularly the passage of a Bangsamoro Law ,” he said.

Roxas said Malacañang was determined to push forward with the peace process by supporting the draft basic law which Congress still has to pass. It will then be subject to ratification by the residents of the areas proposed for inclusion in the Moro territory.

“If it’s necessary, we will undergo debate for 24 hours but we will not delay it as a legislative tactic,” he said.

The peace panels of the government and the MILF are expected to sign the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) in the coming weeks.

The agreement will include four annexes on transitional modalities, wealth sharing, power sharing and normalization, plus an addendum on Bangsamoro waters.

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