Alternative BBL eyed

Non Alquitran - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - A group composed of Muslims and non-Muslims in Mindanao has proposed an alternative solution to the Mindanao conflict through peaceful means amidst the expected delay in the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

Eid Kabalu, former spokesman for the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), said their group is seeking revision of the proposed BBL, which aims to create a new autonomous region in Mindanao.

Kabalu, currently vice-chairman of the newly formed Bangsamoro Transition Council (BTC), said President Aquino would be committing a big blunder if he fast-tracks the passage of the BBL without amending some questionable provisions.

“We need to adopt a new strategy. We at the council are offering an alternative solution. We are not into war but we will be moving and we will take our actions through peaceful means with the involvement of all sectors, including the Lumad,” Kabalu said.

“With all the professionals with us right now, we will organize not only the Muslims in Mindanao but also the non-Muslims,” he added.

Kabalu said the BBL contains provisions that go against the Constitution.

He cited Article X Section 15 of the 1987 Philippine Constitution, which states that there shall be created autonomous regions in Muslim Mindanao and in the Cordilleras consisting of provinces, cities, municipalities and geographical areas sharing common and distinctive historical and cultural heritage, economic and social structures, “and other relevant characteristics within the framework of this Constitution and the national sovereignty as well as territorial integrity of the Republic of the Philippines.”

“We are not pursuing independence, but we are for the amendment of the Constitution,” he said.

Kabalu doubts that the passage of the BBL could be done smoothly as the Aquino government is now running out of time with only one year left before Aquino’s term expires in 2016.

“P-Noy (Aquino) cannot do it alone. It’s a big blunder. I don’t know what happened to the negotiation, why the MILF accepted the offer. In fact twice they met in Tokyo (Japan) and then many underground meetings and backdoor talks and then that resulted in the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB),” he said.

In the wake of the clash in Mamasapano, Maguindanao that left 44 Special Action Force (SAF) commandos dead last Jan. 25, lawmakers have become apprehensive of granting autonomous police powers to the proposed Bangsamoro region, as stated in the draft BBL.

Zamboanga City Rep. Celso Lobregat claimed that there’s a slim chance that lawmakers could pass the BBL before Congress adjourns next month because support for the measure has eroded following the death of the 44 SAF in a clash with Muslim rebels after an operation to arrest international terrorists.

Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez has admitted that support for the BBL has dwindled following the Mamasapano encounter.

The House and Senate have suspended deliberations on the Bangsamoro bill pending results of the ongoing investigations on the Mamasapano clash.

Rodriguez said the proposed BBL is not likely going to pass in the House if the MILF continues to refuse to surrender the rebels responsible for the killing of the 44 police commandos once the Department of Justice (DOJ) files charges against them.

Rodriguez, chair of the House ad hoc committee deliberating on the BBL, said this is also the reason why the DOJ must speed up its case build-up against the MILF guerrillas suspected of killing SAF police.

“We can resume the BBL discussions but the voting should only be after the filing of the cases. Because the congressmen really demand that the wheels of justice should already start,” Rodriguez told radio dzBB.

“If the MILF will not surrender their people, there is a big possibility that BBL will lose in the House of Representatives,” he said.

“That really is the deal breaker, if they will not cooperate to achieve justice in our country,” he added.

He said it was premature for the MILF to announce that it will not surrender any of its fighters involved in the Mamasapano carnage as no charges have been filed yet.

The surrender of MILF members is one of the three conditions imposed by the committee as confidence-building measures to regain lawmakers’ trust in the MILF.

Among the questionable provisions that have been identified by members of the House panel on the BBL is the granting to the Bangsamoro government the authority to create the Bangsamoro Civil Service Office, as well as its own audit body and human rights commission.

The lawmakers also questioned the creation of a police force for the Bangsamoro region.

Meanwhile, Malacañang is open to the possibility of President Aquino meeting with senators to lobby anew for the passage of the stalled BBL.

Aquino met last week with leaders of the House of Representatives.

Coloma explained that the senators are also important stakeholders and the President is apparently open to the idea of meeting with the lawmakers.

Senate President Franklin Drilon has given assurance of the bill’s passage, right after Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. and about 35 other House leaders met Aquino in Malacañang last week.

Despite the killing of 44 elite police commandos in Mamasapano by the MILF and other rebel groups, Aquino is still pushing for the passage of the BBL bill with hardly any changes that would virtually favor the MILF.

Aquino would not even consider suspending deliberations on the BBL in Congress while several investigating bodies have yet to conclude their findings about what really transpired in the operation.

“There is not a better alternative for the rest of the country. How does banditry by the Abu Sayyaf group help anyone? It’s time to make a stand – I am for peace or I am for war,” Aquino told House leaders, directing them to expedite the bill’s passage.

“I don’t think there is any politician who will stand up to say I am for war,” Aquino, who was accompanied by Budget Secretary Florencio Abad in his meeting with the House leaders, said. – With Delon Porcalla











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