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Roque: Don’t force Christians into BBL

President committed but won’t compel non-Muslims to join autonomy, says spokesperson
/ 05:33 AM December 04, 2017

Relatives and supporters of the MILF arrive in Sultan Kudarat for an assembly on the proposed BBL.—JEOFFREY MAITEM

ZAMBOANGA CITY — While President Rodrigo Duterte was committed to the establishment of an inclusive Bangsamoro autonomous territory, predominantly Christian areas in Mindanao, including the cities of Zamboanga and Davao, must not be forced to join the incipient entity.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque told reporters here that Mr. Duterte reiterated over the weekend that he was committed to the passage in Congress of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

“[It is] a means to achieving lasting peace in Mindanao,” Roque said, echoing the remarks of Mr. Duterte when he spoke before the Bangsamoro Assembly in Maguindanao on Nov. 27.

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Roque said the President went to Sulu on Friday to emphasize that the proposed BBL would be inclusive and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) was also part of the consultation process.

Pact with MNLF

The MNLF has entered into a peace agreement with the government that led to the establishment of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), which the proposed BBL seeks to replace.

The Moro rebellion, however, did not stop after the pact with MNLF as another group, now the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), split up from MNLF to initially demand an independent Islamic state in Mindanao.

“So that completes the initial step taken by the President toward pushing for the BBL as a means of attaining lasting peace,” Roque said.

Roque said Mr. Duterte recognized the historical injustices committed against Muslims in Mindanao “and the BBL that he was pushing for was unlike the original version.”

“[It is] equally inclusive and it will cover the MILF, MNLF and the lumad [indigenous people],” Roque said, noting, however, that Mr. Duterte was also concerned over Christian areas in Mindanao.

Faith is not an issue here . . . Mujiv Hataman
ARMM governor

“As a mayor from Mindanao, city of Davao, he is also cognizant that areas, predominantly Christian, that do not want
to be part of the Bangsamoro entity, including Davao and Zamboanga City, should not be compelled (to join the new autonomous territory),” Roque said.

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Plebiscite

Even MILF peace panel chair, Mohagher Iqbal, admitted that “a small minority can’t compel a larger group” to embrace and join the new Bangsamoro entity.

However, Gov. Mujiv Hataman of the ARMM said no area would be forced to join the new Bangsamoro territory because the new entity would have to be put to a vote in a plebiscite.

“It’s not like that, because it will still undergo (a plebiscite). Faith is not an issue here. Even if an area is predominantly Muslim and they won’t join, nothing can be done about it,” Hataman said.

Zamboanga del Sur Gov. Antonio Cerilles said the government should take a “cue from (what) President Ferdinand Marcos (did) when the Tripoli Agreement was signed by Carmelo Barbers and Nur Misuari.”

“The same agreement was submitted to the people in the 13 provinces and nine cities. Everybody rejected it,” Cerilles said.

“That refusal should be respected by all succeeding leadership, except when some provinces and cities are willing to join the so-called Bangsamoro government,” Cerilles added.

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TAGS: Bangsamoro Basic Law, BBL, MILF, Rodrigo Duterte
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