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Duterte pushes for Bangsamoro Basic Law

President Rodrigo Duterte tells officials of the Philippine Star that they are free to criticize him as long as they are telling the truth during a courtesy call at the President's Hall of the Malacañan Palace on Wednesday, August 3, 2016. ACE MORANDANTE/PPD

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday said he was disappointed that his rivals in the May elections failed to make Mindanao a priority, adding he wants the Bangsamoro Basic Law to hurdle Congress quickly.

In his speech after signing the executive order expanding the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, Duterte said that during the elections, he was appalled that nobody was talking about Mindanao and its problems.

He said other presidential bets focused on infrastructure projects and other programs but never mentioned their plans for Mindanao.

READ: Duterte expands membership of Bangsamoro Transition Commission

“I was the only one talking about it because the rest of the guys without due respect never knew any single issue about Mindanao either they did not know about it or just pretended not to talk about it. Maybe for fear… to alienate the others or not also frank enough to admit that there is a problem which we have to solve,” he said.

Duterte said he was a witness to the deaths in the places where Mindanaoans fight for their land. He said Mindanao was his battle cry aside from corruption, drugs and criminality as he wants to end the cycle of bloody war.

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He said if no one will stand for peace in Mindanao, the country will have another round of almost 45 years of fighting, which he described as a tragedy. He said that that is why he is pushing for the passage of the BBL, which will create a new autonomous area that will have more powers than the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao that it is supposed to replace. Passage of the bill stalled in the 16th Congress due to questions on its constitutionality and because of a lack of warm bodies at the House of Representatives.

“I will be the last to deny na hindi natin kailangan [ang peace process],” Duterte said.

Duterte said he will talk to House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III and other leaders to fast track the BBL. He already said in his State of the Nation Address in July that Congress should pass the BBL.

“If I could get a peace agreement with the communists and hammer out something for the [Moro National Liberation Front, Moro Islamic Liberation Front] and to all the Moro groupings and even to the Abu Sayyaf if I could just extend my hand to them and friendship and just tell them that it is time to just really have a country which is normal and peaceful and for our children to grow in peace then I would have succeeded,” he said Monday.

The government has resumed peace talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army-National Democratic Front and has separate peace agreements with the MNLF and MILF. Duterte has said in the past that there will be no peace talks with the Abu Sayyaf, which has been blamed for a series of kidnappings in the southern Philippines.

Pantaleon earlier said Congress will instead focus on federalism.

President Benigno Aquino III pushed for passage of the BBL before the end of his term but Congress failed to approve the measure in time. Aquino said two senators previously blocked the passage of BBL.

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