Duterte warns of ‘many Marawis’ if Bangsamoro law is not passed
President Duterte has warned of numerous wars similar to the five-month-long Marawi siege erupting all over Mindanao if Congress fails to pass the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri said on Thursday.
The passage of the draft BBL, which would establish a new autonomous Muslim region in Mindanao, was part of the 2014 peace accord between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
“[The President said] if there is conflict [in Mindanao] and we do not pass BBL and war ensues, you are looking at Marawi 10 times or 50 times over,” said Zubiri, who heads a Senate subcommittee handling the proposed measure.
Zubiri told reporters at the Kapihan sa Senado that he spoke on the phone with the President on Monday.
He said the President was concerned that extremist groups in Mindanao would take advantage of the absence of the BBL, which was a commitment by both the government and the MILF to end decades of armed secessionist struggle in favor of Moro autonomy.
He also said Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza had told him that extremist groups continued to recruit people in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, which is comprised of five predominantly Muslim provinces.
Zubiri said he informed the President that he had withdrawn his original proposal that adopted the previous Senate measure and this week filed a bill that adopted the BBL version of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC). He said the BTC version dropped many constitutionally questionable provisions.
The members of the BTC include representatives from the government and the MILF.
“I would like to assure the public … that we will give it utmost priority and my timeline is before March 22, our last day of session. We will try to pass the BBL in third and final reading,” Zubiri said.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said the proposed BBL was “certified urgent” by the President last year.
Quoting House Muslim affairs committee chair Rep. Jun Papandayan, Roque said the bill was expected to be passed by March.
Dureza said Mr. Duterte met MILF chair Murad Ibrahim and other MILF leaders on Monday and assured them that the bill would be passed before any shift to a federal form of government.
He welcomed Zubiri’s decision to adopt the BTC’s version as the working draft to be discussed in the planned Senate hearings.
“We call on Filipinos to all help and contribute to the realization of this long-awaited aspiration of the Bangsamoro,” Dureza said.
Zubiri said he would hold public consultations on the draft BBL starting next week in Cotabato City and Marawi City.
He said he would try to have Congress pass the measure so that the plebiscite on the proposal could be held simultaneously with the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections in May.
Hundreds of extremists and followers of the Islamic State (IS) group attacked Marawi in May last year, battling thousands of government troops for five months. The fighting left more than 1,600 people dead and reduced the city center to rubble.
The siege prompted the President to declare martial law and suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao. The martial law period has been extended twice, the second lasting a year till December 2018.
Several petitions questioning the constitutionality of the latest extension have been filed in the Supreme Court.
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