Moro peace panelist to presidential bets: Give BBL a chance
BAGUIO CITY—The chief peace negotiator of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has a message for the five presidential candidates in the May 9 elections: Allow some time to think about the Bangsamoro peace accord.
Mohagher Iqbal said the MILF and the government peace panel would pursue the stalled Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) by refiling it in a new Congress or by drafting a new law.
Iqbal and government peace panel chair Miriam Coronel-Ferrer discussed the future of the derailed BBL when they met cadets of the Philippine Military Academy at Fort Del Pilar here on Wednesday.
Iqbal cited the consensus reached at the Feb. 11 special meeting between the government and the MILF in Malaysia, which reaffirmed their commitment to maintaining the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangasamoro (CAB) which was signed on March 27, 2014.
The CAB requires the organization of a Bangsamoro Region that would replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao
(ARMM), but legislators objected to the BBL in reaction to a police operation in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, last year which led to the death of 44 Special Action Force commandos, 17 MILF fighters and five civilians.
No matter who wins in the elections, “the first order of business would be to lay down the BBL,” Iqbal said.
During a news conference that followed, Iqbal said both negotiating panels have been studying how aspiring presidents have dealt with the BBL issues.
“Not every candidate has put forth their idea about the Bangsamoro,” he said.
Sen. Gregorio Honasan, a vice presidential candidate, had said the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) of Vice President and presidential candidate Jejomar Binay intends to pursue “the path to peace as propounded by [former president Fidel] Ramos,” Iqbal said.
Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, presidential candidate of the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban), has been advocating a shift to federalism, Iqbal said.
“But that would take time. It requires a constitutional overhaul,” he said. But in a recent interview, Iqbal said, Duterte had promised to pursue the BBL.
Sen. Grace Poe, whose presidential candidacy had been affirmed by the Supreme Court, wants to pursue an all-inclusive peace deal, which includes all sectors, Iqbal said.
Aside from the MILF, which is the largest group of fighters in Mindanao to date, the province is also dealing with the Abu Sayyaf, which Iqbal described as a kidnap group; the Bangsamoro Islamic Liberation Front which remains in conflict with the government; and armed youths associated with the Islamic State.
Government needs to address the fact that some Mindanao youths are recruited over social media by foreign radicals who finance their operations over social media, Iqbal said. “They are too radical, they also attack the MILF,” he said. With a report from EV Espiritu, Inquirer Northern Luzon
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