The MILF is open to improvements on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law but its autonomy should be respected, MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal says
OPTIMISTIC. MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal remains optimistic the BBL will be passed but says Congress should respect the proposed government's autonomy. Rappler file photo
The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is still “open for improvements and enhancement” but the “essential elements of a real autonomous government” should be included in the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal explained.
Both chambers of Congress submitted their own version of the proposed law – different from the draft of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) and reviewed by President Benigno Aquino III.
The substitute bills, known as the Basic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region (BLBARs), carry differences mainly on the exercise of autonomy in the proposed region.
According to Iqbal, he respects the power of Congress to legislate but is worried the deleted provisions may affect the region.
“The autonomous government should have powers that would really allow that entity to stand on its feet,” he said during a forum organized by the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP).
Out of distrust?
The various amendments on the proposed law, chief government peace negotiator Professor Miriam Colonel-Ferrer lamented, were made “out of distrust and fear that the Bangsamoro will secede.”
She cited examples such as the word “territory” replaced with “area” to identify the geographic scope of the proposed region despite the use of “territorial jurisdiction” for local government units (LGUs) in the Local Government Code.
Ferrer also pointed out the iterations in the amended Senate bill which emphasize the Bangsamoro as “an inalienable part of the
While protecting the powers of LGUs is legitimate, she clarified that these should not hinder the establishment of a genuine autonomy for the region – pointing out that both local and regional autonomy are mandated by the 1987 Constitution.
Allocation of powers, she noted, should be balanced and objective.
"The autonomous region plays an integrative role over the LGUs,” Ferrer emphasized.
The BTC, however, continues to build trust and counter fear with peace process stakeholders.
“A personal approach is really helping building trust,” he said. “What is important is you need to open communication.”
“There is some improvement in this regard, especially in the Lower House” Iqbal added.
Not giving up
Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPPAP) Secretary Teresita Quintos Deles emphasized there is no giving up on the BBL as the Bangsamoro aspiration for genuine autonomy and self–determination is “within grasp.”
“For the sake of those communities and especially their children, we dare not give up now,” she declared. “After all the tests and trials that this peace process has gone through, we do not give up now.”
Despite the deferred passage of the BBL, they remain “confident and cautiously optimistic” that it won’t take too long anymore and their commitment remains “firm towards completion.”
“Where we are now, I must insist that we are returning to a better place,” Deles said. “With all peace activists left standing – and we are stronger now and joined by far-seeing pillars of society – we are steadfast in laying claim that this dream will not be deferred for long.”