Deles tells bishops: Bill won’t lead to secession
DAVAO CITY, Philippines—Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos Deles on Sunday expressed her appreciation for the support of the country’s Catholic bishops to the provision on genuine autonomy in the proposed Bangsamoro law.
Deles also assured the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) that an autonomous Bangsamoro region in Mindanao would not diminish the Philippines’ territorial integrity and national sovereignty.
The proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law would establish the Bangsamoro region, which would replace the existing Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, as provided for under a peace agreement between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
Earlier in the week, Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas, president of the CBCP, said the conference supported the grant of autonomy to the Bangsamoro people.
Villegas, however, warned that there might be possible threats to the territorial integrity of the Philippines. He stressed that the new Bangsamoro autonomous region should not lead to secession.
Deles assured the CBCP that the Bangsamoro law would not lead to secession.
“We understand the concerns of the bishops about the issue of self-determination and we would like to make the firm assurance that the threat of secession is amply precluded by the letter and spirit of the draft [Bangsamoro law] itself, official statements on the record as far as the parties are concerned, a formal agreement on the decommissioning of MILF fighters, and a recent survey reflecting an overwhelming majority of our Muslim brethren professing their pride in being Filipinos,” Deles said in a statement.
She explained that the process of decommissioning the MILF under the annex on normalization of the peace agreement “effectively demobilizes former combatants and account for their firearms,” which would in turn “bring them into the mainstream of enterprise as well as meaningful social and political participation.”
“I hope that all the foregoing legal features, statements and events would help allay the fear that our nation could be exposed to a serious threat to its sovereignty as a result of the [Bangsamoro law],” she said.
“We are prepared to meet with the CBCP at any time to update the body in the spirit of mutual trust and faith, as we have done in these recent past meetings,” she added.
On the bishops’ call for vigilance and the need for more consultations, Deles said: “A large number of consultations have already been held and are still being held not only by the peace panels but also by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission and both chambers of Congress. The House of Representatives ad hoc committee on the Bangsamoro has recently finished its 36th and final public consultation, while consultations in the Senate are still [going on].”
The government peace panel alone led at least 400 consultations with different sectors since 2010, she said.–Karlos Manlupig
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