Friday, June 30, 2017

Stakeholders anxious over fate of new BBL draft

From the Manila Bulletin (Jun 30): Stakeholders anxious over fate of new BBL draft

Advocates for lasting peace in Mindanao have expressed anxiety toward seeing the new Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) draft facing similar fate in the past administration that shelved it, citing alleged flip-flapping instances by the national hierarchy on the proposal.

Even the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), whose peace accord in 2014 with the state serves as major a basis of the new draft, indicated a passive stance on the setting of schedule alone of the proposal’s submission to the Office of the President (OP).

An editorial of the, MILF’s official website, “Submission of BBL postponed again” noted postponements of the draft submission to OP on June 1, June 14, 15, 16, 22, 24 and “then finally 28.”


Talking to reporters on June 20 after meeting Marawi evacuees sheltered in Iligan City, President Duterte said: “The BBL has been completed. And the MI (MILF) will give it to me. I will sign it during the Eid’l Fitr.”

He hosted an Eid’l Fitr dinner for Muslim officials at MalacaƱang on June 27. But no signing happened. He just echoed his assurance that government rehabilitation efforts will make war-torn Marawi City “prosperous again.”

On June 28, Presidential peace adviser Jesus Dureza told ANC network the draft was supposed to be submitted by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) to OP that day. But the President reportedly postponed it until Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III and Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez were available.

If you take it from there (postponement), parang ang gusto niyang gawin, pag natanggap nya, i-turn over na agad sa Kongreso [it seems that what he wants to do when he receives the draft, he would immediately turn it (draft) over to Congress],” Dureza told the ANC Early Edition.

Some stakeholders welcomed the decision, saying it would remove another layer of scrutiny, as was the case under former Aquino government when Palace lawyers spent months reviewing provisions of the first BBBL draft in 2014 only to be archived later following controversies spawned by the infamous Mamasapano clash on March 25, 2015.

Many elected officials in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) believe that terrorism threats as exemplified in the Marawi siege could be met squarely if the proposed Bangsamoro government jointly led by the MILF and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF). The MILF once vowed the Bangsamoro entity, when established, would have “no room for terrorism.”

MILF chair Murad Ebrahim, according to ANC, asserted that the new BBL draft is “inclusive” of MNLF concerns.

He was hopeful the new draft would not face many controversies like before. But the MILF official website cited the Marawi siege as another “unhappy” coincidence in the new BBL draft deliberation.

Still, Congress would be faced with the challenge of “converging” or harmonizing the implementation of the MILF 2014 accord and the 1996 MNLF agreement with the government.

Compounding the issue is MNLF founding Chair Nur Misuari’s nonrecognition of the BBL draft and his option, which the president has allowed, to have a separate proposal for the implementation of the 1996 peace accord.

In previous speeches, the President said he would have the BTC draft and Misuari group’s proposal harmonized as one measure for deliberation by Congress.

A Muslim lawyer, who helped the MILF technical working group craft the BBL, said the recent events in the Palace are tantamount to a repetition of the original BBL’s “death” in Congress.

“The President wants the MILF-led BTC version and the MNLF-Misuari faction fused, but his think tanks lack the sincerity to carry out such commitment,” the lawyer, who asked not to be named, told the Bulletin on Friday.

The Bulletin interviewed the lawyer by phone at a time the President was telling soldiers in the Maguindanao-based Army’s 6th Infantry Division that he was “ready to concede” to the BBL and “unconstitutional” infirmities concerning the MILF-proposed regional police and security forces.

Several professionals posted in Facebook their reactions, with majority expressing negative comments and a few asserting that the President should be given the benefit of the doubt.

The reactors expressed a common belief that the BBL would be “sailing roughly” as usual in a climate of anxiety.

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