44% vs BBL: Gov’t needs Plan B
MANILA, Philippines–Forty-four percent of Filipinos oppose the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), according to the latest Pulse Asia survey, and Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. says the government now needs a “Plan B” for ending the decades-long conflict in Mindanao.
Only 21 percent of Filipinos favor passage of the draft BBL, the March 1-7 survey showed, while 36 percent are undecided about the measure that would establish an autonomous Bangsamoro region in Mindanao as provided for in the peace agreement signed by the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in March last year.
The survey showed that disagreement with the bill was more evident in Mindanao (62 percent) and Metro Manila (52 percent) than in the rest of Luzon (32 percent) and the Visayas (43 percent).
Among socioeconomic groups, disagreement with the bill is the plurality sentiment among Classes ABC (37 percent), D (45 percent) and E (43 percent).
Pulse Asia also found that 88 percent of Filipinos were aware of the BBL, with majority sentiments posted across geographic areas (ranging from 82 percent to 93 percent) and socioeconomic levels (ranging from 82 percent to 92 percent).
The survey found that only 12 percent of Filipinos were unaware of the BBL.
Public and congressional support for the BBL has crumbled in the aftermath of a clash between Philippine National Police Special Action Force (SAF) commandos and Moro rebels in Mamasapano, Maguindanao province, that left 44 policemen, 17 MILF fighters and three civilians dead on Jan. 25.
Belmonte acknowledged Thursday the very real prospect of the proposed BBL being rejected by Congress in the face of stiff public opposition.
“Always a possibility. And politics is the art of the possible,” Belmonte said in a text message.
And what if the BBL is rejected? Does the government have an alternative plan to end the conflict in Mindanao?
“[I] hope, too, that there’s a Plan B,” Belmonte said.
Malacañang has not spoken about an alternative plan, always insisting on the constitutionality of the BBL.
The MILF has said it will work with the next government if the proposed BBL fails to clear Congress under the administration of President Aquino.
In a recent interview with Reuters, MILF chair Murad Ebrahim said the SAF operation in Mamasapano was a violation of the ceasefire agreement between his group and the government.
He acknowledged that the fallout from Mamasapano has eroded President Aquino’s credibility, likely affecting the chances of the BBL to get congressional approval.
But that will not terminate the peace agreement between the MILF and the government.
“The next President, whoever is elected next year, is bound to implement the peace agreement,” Murad said, indicating the MILF would press the peace process.
Belmonte said there was still hope for the BBL, noting that “such moral authorities as [Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio] Cardinal Tagle have spoken in favor” of the bill.
The 75-member ad hoc committee on the BBL will resume discussions on the bill in April.
Belmonte and Senate President Franklin Drilon have agreed to pass the BBL by June, before Congress adjourns.
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