Congress urged to pass peace deal-compliant BBL

Jose Rodel Clapano - The Philippine Star
Congress urged to pass peace deal-compliant BBL

MANILA, Philippines — The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) yesterday urged Congress to ensure that it would pass a Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) that is compliant with the 2014 peace agreement between the government and the rebels.

The MILF led by its vice chairman Ghazali Jaafar also said the MILF would not decommission its forces until the BBL is passed.

“When there is no BBL, there is no decommissioning for us,“ Jaafar said.

He said a BBL that is not compliant with the 2014 peace accord would be useless and may not be approved by the people in a plebiscite.

He said the rebel group would not be able to help convince other rebel forces like the Maute group and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) to lay down their arms if there is no effective BBL.

“How can we convince them if the BBL passed in Congress is inutile?” Jaafar said.

For his part, Tawi-Tawi Rep. Ruby Sahali, who helped steer the bill in the House of Representatives, asked Jaafar not to call the BBL inutile.

Sahali said that the House retained some 95 percent of the version drafted by the Jaafar-led Bangsamoro Transition Commission. 

Senators and congressmen are set to convene the bicameral conference committee from July 9 to 13 to reconcile their respective BBL versions.

Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri called on the stakeholders of the BBL to accept the fact that they could not get everything they want in the law and that they should learn to compromise for the sake of peace.

Speaking at a forum yesterday, Zubiri expressed confidence that the bicameral conference committee will come up with a consolidated version of the BBL that would be acceptable to all sides and could withstand the test of its constitutionality before the Supreme Court (SC).

Zubiri, who sponsored and defended the BBL, said he believes the version of the Senate would be able to hurdle the test of constitutionality before the SC, which he said is almost certain to happen once it is enacted into law.

In defending the Senate version, Zubiri said the amendments introduced by his colleagues were meant to address the provisions that they felt could be declared unconstitutional by the SC, particularly those that were similar to the ones contained in the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain introduced during the Arroyo administration.

“Our version was very well thought out. We still have a long battle ahead of us. There were many amendments introduced (in the Senate version), but these were harmless,” Zubiri said.

Presidential adviser on the peace process Jesus Dureza urged the groups to manage their anxiety over the present status of the BBL. 

Dureza said difficult provisions could eventually be accommodated under a federal Constitution.

“I’m not saying that let’s just take it easy now because federalism will be the end game. Let’s move forward and work hard towards getting something very close to the aspirations of the Bangsamoro, but we have a stop gap,” Dureza said.

The policy group Institute for Autonomy Governance (IAG) said yesterday that the BBL and the federal system of government are the twin pillars for peace.

The IAG was one of the groups that co-hosted the conference on the BBL and determine how the new law would fit into the envisioned Federal Republic of the Philippines. – With Marvin Sy

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