Aquino confident no conflict will arise over differences in BBL
Alexis Romero ( - September 8, 2015 - 4:34am

MANILA, Philippines - President Aquino is optimistic that no conflict will erupt because of differences over the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), which has yet to hurdle Congress despite being a priority measure of Malacañang.

Aquino, however, believes peace advocates should work harder in pushing for the bill because there are spoilers who want to drag the country into a conflict.

“Well, I don’t submit to the premise that war will break out. I don’t think there is any interest from the media players to re-engage in a bloody conflict,” the president said in a media forum on Tuesday. 

“Having said that, there will be the spoilers who will want to exploit the current difficulties to show that there are about aims of gaining what they want through violent means is the only way to go about it,” he added.

“So those of us who are advocating peace should really even redouble our efforts to thwart these groups who would want us to plunge again into really a pointless conflict.”

When asked who should be blamed in case a war breaks out over BBL, Aquino said: “I think I leave that up to the Filipino people who will have an opportunity in next year’s elections to gauge the merit or lack of it of the people who will propose themselves to lead various offices.”

The BBL seeks to create a new Bangsamoro entity with greater economic and political powers. The entity will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, which the government believes, did not fulfill its purpose.

The peace agreement signed by the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) last year serves as the basis of the legislation.

The measure, however, is being blocked by critics who are concerned over the extent of the powers of the proposed Bangsamoro government. Opponents of the measure also believe that the BBL will not withstand the legal challenges to be filed before the Supreme Court.

House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. has admitted that time is running out on the BBL because Congress will soon be preoccupied with the budget deliberations and the 2016 election campaigns.

He said the notion that the House and Senate could agree on a BBL version before focusing on the 2016 budget is “really becoming an impossible dream.”

“But we still have to go at it to show that peace in Mindanao as exemplified by the BBL is our continuing concern and it will still get a big chunk of our time,” Belmonte said in an earlier interview.

Aquino said Belmonte and Senate President Franklin Drilon recently enumerated some difficulties in passing the BBL but remains confident that the measure would be enacted.

“So on the Executive’s portion, we would want to continue the engagement of our dialogue partners, specifically the MILF  and programs, through programs like Sajahatra, we want them to experience and the population in general in this region the benefits or the so-called peace dividends arising from this agreement,” the president said.

“So even absent the Bangsamoro law, we are hoping that Congress will support the initiatives that will shower these people with the peace dividends and get them further engage in the process,” he added.

Aquino said he would continue to lobby with members of Congress to enact the law during his watch. He is hopeful that the measure will be passed “at the earliest possible time” so that there will be time to show that the new mode of governance is effective.

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