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MILF expects Aquino to push BBL in SONA

Filipino Muslims shout slogans during a rally outside the House of Representatives in Quezon City on Monday, May 5, 2014, to call for support to a recently signed peace agreement between the government and the largest Muslim rebel group in the country. BBL on the sign means Bagsamoro Basic Law.  AP

Filipino Muslims shout slogans during a rally outside the House of Representatives in Quezon City on Monday, May 5, 2014, to call for support to a recently signed peace agreement between the government and the largest Muslim rebel group in the country. BBL on the sign means Bagsamoro Basic Law. AP

COTABATO CITY, Philippines – The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) said it was expecting President Aquino to push for the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law during his State of the Nation Address (Sona) on Monday (July 27).

Murad Ebrahim, MILF chair, told reporters at nearby Camp Darapanan in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao on Saturday that the MILF was also expecting Mr. Aquino “to enlighten more those who are still opposed to the BBL.”

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“We expect the President to reiterate his commitment to pass an undiluted version of the BBL during the Sona,” he said.

During the Eid’l Fitr celebrations, Ebrahim had told reporters that the President phoned him in June and “gave his assurance to us that the BBL will be passed before he steps down.”

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But he said on Saturday that should Congress opt not to pass the BBL before the end of Mr. Aquino’s term, the MILF would continue to demand the implementation of what had been agreed upon under the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro.

“What is ideal is that BBL will be passed as it is now,” Ebrahim said, adding that it was not just for the MILF but the entire Bangsamoro.

“We do not want to fail our people,” he added.

Ebrahim also said the MILF has done everything to help advance the peace process and the Philippine government should now do its part and deliver on what has been agreed upon in the peace negotiations.

“It’s now the responsibility of the Philippine government but we will still continue to do our part so us not to crush the hope of our people for a genuine and lasting peace,” he said.

Ebrahim stressed the importance of keeping the Bangsmoro people hopeful because those losing hope could be recruited by radical Islamic groups.

The BBL hit a snag following the January 25 clash in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, where 67 people – 44 of them elite policemen – were killed.

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Various lawmakers had heavily criticized the MILF for the clash and even threatened to vote against the passage of the draft law, which has been written to establish a Bangsamoro government in lieu of the present Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

Among those who have distanced themselves from the BBL were Senators Alan Peter Cayetano, Francis Chiz Escudero and Grace Poe.

Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on the other hand even threatened to junk the entire proposal and craft an alternative autonomy bill on his own.

Ebrahim said the MILF could not allow the BBL to be diluted although it was open to revisions that could improve its provisions.

But even before Congress could resume deliberations on the proposed law, Cayetano said he might propose the re-opening of the Mamasapano investigation, which had put the BBL under heavy scrutiny.

Cayetano had also said he was open to running for a higher office in 2016.

Imam Ebra Moxsir, president of the Imam Council of the Philippines, urged politicians not to capitalize on the BBL for their 2016 ambitions.

“The Bangsamoro peace process, at its heart, is about social justice for a segment of our population who, for decades, were made to endure gross injustices and discrimination. Using it to further a personal, political agenda will be a form of another injustice,” Moxsir said in a media statement.

He said the issue of the BBL should be detached from political posturing because unlike politics, the BBL has been aimed at closing “the socio-cultural divide among the peoples of the Republic of the Philippines.”

“They should leave the Bangsamoro out of it,” said Moxsir, who was among the non-Catholic religious leaders who had met with Pope Francis during the pontiff’s Philippine visit this year.

“Let us, Filipinos, unite for peace in the Philippines,” he added.

Sulu 1st district Representative Tupay Loong, vice chair of the House Ad Hoc Committee on the BBL, admitted they were aware that the BBL was being dragged into politics.

“As they say, the Philippines has three seasons: summer, rains, and elections. To be honest, we wanted our work on the BBL to be done before election season arrives because we know for a fact that there are those who’d make the basic law another casualty in their quest for power,” Loong said.

But he said the BBL remained pending even as the country was close to the election period.

Loong said to prevent this, at least in the House of Representatives, he would strive to make the “remaining House debates” sober.

“And that the fate of the BBL will be determined on its own merits, not by political forces,” he added.

The House of Representatives is expected to resume the plenary debates on the BBL after President Aquino’s SONA on July 27Monday.

As this developed, a Marawi City-based youth group said national politicians, who would vote down the BBL, were bound to lose at least 500,000 votes come 2016.

“We are giving these signatures to our political leaders to remind them that at least 500,000 of their constituents support the BBL. They should think twice before using the Bangsamoro for their political agenda because they could lose the support of half a million people,” Marjanie Macasalong, chair of the Coalition of Moro Youth Movement (CMYM), said in a statement.

The signatures would be submitted to lawmakers, Casalong said.

“We understand that both the House of Representatives and the Senate are still in the middle of the BBL legislative process. We hope that, with the help of these signatures, they will pass a BBL that responds to the genuine aspirations of our people,” Macasalong added.

(With a report from Allan Nawal, Inquirer Mindanao)

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TAGS: Alan Peter Cayetano, Bangsamoro autonomy, Bangsamoro Basic Law, Coalition of Moro Youth Movement (CMYM), Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, congressional hearing, covert operations, Ebra Moxsir, Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr., Francis Escudero, Grace Poe, House adhoc committee on the Bangsamoro Basic Law, House of Representatives, Imam Council of the Philippines, Legislation, legislative hearing, Maguindanao, Mamasapano, Mamasapano carnage, Mamasapano encounter, Mamasapano massacre, Mamasapano mission, Marjanie Macasalong, Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Murad Ebrahim, news, peace process, Philippine Congress, Philippine Government, Philippine National Police, Politics, Senate, Special Action Force, Tupay Loong
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