No details bared in Aquino-Murad meet
MANILA, Philippines–President Aquino met privately with Moro Islamic Liberation Front chair Murad Ebrahim in Hiroshima, Japan, to discuss the status of the draft Bangsamoro basic law, Secretary Edwin Lacierda confirmed Wednesday night.
“It’s reasonable to assume that was discussed,” Lacierda said of the draft law that Malacañang hopes to submit after the President delivers his State of the Nation Address (Sona) on July 28.
The President met privately with Murad at the latter’s request before Aquino addressed an international conference on peace at Hiroshima Sheraton Hotel on Tuesday, the presidential spokesman said.
No Cabinet secretary was around during the meeting, which lasted about 15 minutes, Lacierda said.
“We don’t have the details,” he added.
MILF chief negotiator
Mohagher Iqbal separately confirmed the meeting in a text message to the Inquirer on Wednesday.
Iqbal said the meeting was held shortly past 5 p.m. “It lasted 20 to 25 minutes. I was there.”
He, however, said the details of the one-on-one meeting “cannot be disclosed yet.”
Asked how he feels about the basic law still pending at the Office of the President, Iqbal replied: “I am not very upbeat about the chance of the GPH (Government of the Philippines) upholding the BBL (Bangsamoro basic law) we crafted.”
Iqbal chairs the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, composed of representatives from government and the MILF, which drafted the basic law.
When the bill creating a new Bangsamoro region in southern Philippines is finally filed, it would be certified as “urgent” by the President, Lacierda said. Malacañang hopes it can be approved by yearend so it could be ratified in a referendum the following year.
Senate President Franklin Drilon said he had been informed that the draft law would be submitted in July. He said the late submission should not pose problems as long as the proposed law complies with the Constitution.
The President’s brief meeting with Murad was not on the Chief Executive’s official schedule given to the Philippine media that covered his one-day working visit to Japan, where he also met with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
In 2011, Tokyo also hosted a secret meeting between the President and Murad.
Aquino mentioned the 2011 meeting in his speech at the Hiroshima conference: “I sometimes wonder: If that meeting did not take place, where would we be today? Fortunately, that meeting, my first face-to-face encounter with my brother Chairman Murad, was a breakthrough. We gained each other’s trust—and the trust borne of that engagement was a positive turning point. It allowed us to move toward the realization of our shared aspirations.”
On March 27, the Philippine government and the MILF signed a peace agreement intended to end the decades-long war that has claimed hundreds of lives and displaced thousands of families.