‘BBL won’t pass if vote is taken now’ | Inquirer News

‘BBL won’t pass if vote is taken now’

By: - Reporter / @NikkoDizonINQ
, / 04:25 AM February 11, 2015

Sen. Francis Escudero and  Mohagher Iqbal


The proposed law seeking to create a new autonomous government for Muslims in Mindanao, known as the Bangsamoro, would not pass if a vote were held now, Sen. Francis Escudero said, as emotions were running high after the Mamasapano incident in which 44 police commandos were killed.

The Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is a key component of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), which the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) signed last year.


The peace agreement with the MILF is one of the cornerstones of the Aquino administration and it was clear that the President wanted lasting peace in Mindanao to be one of his legacies.


Mr. Aquino has certified the proposed BBL as a priority measure of his administration.

Lawmakers had been deliberating the BBL measure. They earlier promised to enact the law in March and hold a referendum in May.

The House ad hoc committee on the BBL has shelved indefinitely its hearings on the draft law until the MILF has returned all firearms it took from the fallen police commandos.

Support for the measure has waned, said Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, head of a special panel in the House of Representatives that is considering the law.

“I have to admit that there is an erosion of support within the ad hoc committee and members of Congress,” Rodriguez said.

The MILF on Tuesday said the indefinite suspension of hearings in the House on the proposed BBL was not a good sign for the peace process but added that it respected the House decision.


“Well, that’s the decision of the Lower House,” Mohagher Iqbal, the MILF chief negotiator, said on the phone.

But he said the proposed BBL appeared to have become the latest casualty following the bloody Mamasapano incident, in which 44 police commandos, 18 rebels and five civilians were killed.

Iqbal said it was not the MILF that was saddened by the decision of the House ad hoc committee. “Everybody who wants and supports peace is not feeling good about what is going on.”

But Iqbal said that despite the setback, the MILF would continue to pursue peace and “will not resort to any act that will add more trouble in Mindanao.”

“We are still in control of our men on the ground,” he said.

The Mamasapano incident on Jan. 25 appeared to have placed the peace agreement under a cloud of uncertainty.

Malacañang said government would continue to adhere to the CAB and in return it expected the MILF to do so as well as a peace partner to end the protracted war in Mindanao.

“What is important to government is the implementation of the provisions of the CAB. Aside from this, because of the incident in Mamasapano, we are waiting for them to show concrete manifestation on fulfilling their obligations under this (peace) agreement,” Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said in Filipino.

This was Coloma’s reply when sought for Malacañang’s reaction to the statement of Iqbal that the MILF remained a revolutionary group until the peace process was completed with the establishment of an autonomous Bangsamoro region.

MILF obligations

On what obligations he was referring to, Coloma reiterated President Aquino’s statement on

Jan. 28, three days after the Mamasapano debacle, that government expected the MILF to help in the operations against Afghan-trained terrorist Abdul Basit Usman, in identifying the MILF guerillas who were accountable for the encounter with the police commandos and in returning the firearms and other personal effects of the Special Action Force (SAF).

The President earlier said it was “reasonable” to expect this from the MILF.

Asked what would be Malacañang’s recourse should Congress fail to pass the proposed BBL, Coloma said: “We continue to work with Congress in carving a path forward for the peace process, as we face current challenges.”

Peace with justice

North Cotabato Gov. Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza said the suspension of the hearings did not mean the termination of the BBL.

But she said “all Filipinos at these trying times want to know the truth about the Mamasapano incident, especially on the Fallen 44 and other casualties.”

“We are all mourning and sad about it. We deserve peace with justice,” Mendoza said.

But Iqbal said the investigation of the incident could go on even with the hearings on the BBL.

He said the suspension of the hearings would just “add another problem” to the already long line of problems besetting Mindanao.

“The justice system of our country is one-sided and biased. What about our brothers and sisters that were killed since 1974? Thousands of them have died but there were no justice until now,” he said.

Only option

He maintained that passing the BBL “is the only option open to all of us now” and that “any hesitancy breeds more complications.”

On the Senate hearings on the Mamasapano encounter, Iqbal said he would attend it once the MILF had completed its investigation.

Muntinlupa Rep. Rodolfo Biazon, a former chief of staff of the Armed Forced of the Philippines, said on Monday he expected Congress to pass a watered down version of the BBL because of questions about the constitutionality of certain provisions of the proposed BBL.



Ghadzali Jaafar, MILF first vice chair for political affairs, said the MILF could not accept, however, a diluted and watered down version of the BBL.

Jaafar said it was MILF chair Murad Ebrahim who signed “the official communication” addressed to lawmakers in the Senate and the House of Representatives.

“The MILF will not approve or accept a diluted version of the BBL. If that happens, the conflict in Mindanao will continue because we will not have the negotiated political solution to the problem,” he said.

Jaafar said several civil society groups in Mindanao were also not in favor and would not accept any changes in the BBL.

“The MILF is still solid and we are in control of our forces. However, some of them are disappointed,” he said.

Peace rallies

In Cotabato City, hundreds of Bangsamoro people and members of civil society organizations on Tuesday reiterated calls for the passage of the draft BBL.

The group that gathered at the Cotabato City plaza called on the country’s lawmakers not to allow the bloody encounter in Mamasapano to hinder the passage of the draft law.

Led by Mindanao Alliance for Peace (MAP), the rallies were held simultaneously from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Cotabato City, Pikit in North Cotabato, Gen. Santos City, Marawi City, Isabela City, Pagadian City, Davao City, Bongao in Tawi-Tawi, Jolo in Sulu and Quezon City.

“We are expecting at least 1 million BBL supporters in attendance in those rallies,” Raby Angkal of MAP said. Rallies in Zamboanga City and Tacurong City did not push through due to lack of permits.

Angkal urged the government legislators not to sacrifice the 17-year-old peace negotiations, but to decide according to the objective of the peace process and not according to their emotions.

“The BBL is the key to the long-lasting peace in Mindanao,” one streamer said.

“Our people, the Bangsamoro people, are tired of recurring armed conflicts in Mindanao. It is now time to attain peace,” Angkal said.

A similar rally was held in Davao City.

“We are calling on Congress to resume the deliberations of the BBL as soon as possible because it presents the solution to the Mindanao conflict that will allow tragic incidents like what happened in Mamasapano never to happen again,” Jun Aparece said as groups bore placards that read, “We want all-out peace, not all-out war!”

Aparece is the advocacy officer of Maranao People’s Development Center and coconvenor of Davao Peace Movement for the BBL.

Peace caravan dispersed

In Zamboanga City, parents trooped to different schools to get their children following reports of MILF supporters were on their way to the city to hold a peace caravan.

Senior Supt. Angelito Casimiro, Zamboanga City police chief, said about a thousand people from Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga del Norte and Zamboanga Sibugay, on board about 70 vehicles, were “about to get inside the city.”

Casimiro said the caravan participants were led by Abu Sama Salipada, chair of the Western Mindanao Alliance for Peace.

But local police in Zamboanga Sibugay managed to convince Salipada’s group to disperse, according to Supt. William Gadayan, director of the Zamboanga Sibugay Public Safety Battalion.

Pedro Melchor Natividad, the division school superintendent, said private school officials opted to let their students go home early.

In Manila, Hadja Normina Mohammad of Filipino Muslim Women’s Association urged lawmakers to pass the BBL before 2016 to allow the Moro people to live without fear in Mindanao.

“How much longer do we have to wait for peace in our homeland?” Mohammad asked in a press conference. The conflict has been going on for 40 years. With reports from Jeoffrey Maitem, Allan Nawal, Edwin O. Fernandez, Germelina Lacorte and Julie S. Alipala, Inquirer Mindanao; Rima Granali in Manila



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TAGS: Bangsamoro, BBL, cab, Francis Escudero, MILF, Murad Ebrahim

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