A group of Muslims and Christians on Sunday accused President Benigno Aquino 3rd of mangling the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), an act that showed his administration’s “insincerity” in pushing for lasting peace
The Aquino administration’s peace negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) are “insincere, dishonest and deceptive. [President] Aquino cannot flaunt in his fifth State of the Nation Address the success of the GPH-MILF peace talks,” the Moro Christians Peoples Alliance (MCPA) said in a statement posted on luwaran.com, the official MILF website.
GPH stands for Government of the Philippines.
“Two months after the MILF-led Bangsamoro Transition Commission [BTC] submitted the draft [BBL] to Malacanang, Aquino failed to certify and submit the draft as an urgent bill to Congress. Instead, Aquino’s legal team mangled the BBL draft. The MILF declared as unacceptable the ‘diluted Malacanang version’ of the BBL,” the group said.
The MCPA also questioned the secrecy of the discussions regarding the supposed revisions of the BBL, saying that keeping the developments away from the public eye naturally draws suspicion.
“Until now, the people are kept blind [on]the contents of the BBL and Malacañang’s revisions. It is [in]Malacañang’s interests that the contents of the BBL remain confidential to conceal its deception, dishonesty and insincerity in negotiating peace,” the group said.
The MCPA issued the statements as Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. on Sunday again gave assurances that the government and MILF panels crafting the final version of the BBL are working full-time to ensure that each line in the measure conforms with the Constitution.
“According to Professor Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, the head of the Philippine panel, they are discussing how to put to law the provisions of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro. They are working hard to reach an agreement with regard to the proper language to ensure [its]constitutionality,” Coloma said in a radio interview.
This way, the Palace official explained, the two panels will avoid lengthy debates in Congress that could eat up much time before it can be passed.
“Both panels know that the BBL will have to pass through Congress so they are working very hard to ensure that it will not require changes in the Constitution to hasten the [peace]process according to the peace process roadmap,” Coloma said.
But the MCPA, one of the largest people’s networks in southern Philippines, said Aquino “conjured [up]the illusion that peace now reigns in the Bangsamoro homeland, [but]now considers the BBL as unconstitutional that needs major revisions.”
“The Aquino regime will not enter into any agreement that is contrary to the Philippine Constitution, which guarantees and protects the current social system. More so, if the agreement concedes even limited power and benefit [to]the Moro people. Aquino’s rejection of the BBL is beyond the question of constitutionality. Aquino’s main objective is to preserve the interests of the ruling elite,” the group added.
It said Malacanang should not have tinkered with the submitted draft bill because it was formulated based on the agreed and signed Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) and its four annexes and the CAB that were approved by the government and MILF panels.
“Aquino also conducted his peace negotiations in bad faith.
In the midst of the GPH-MILF peace negotiations, President Aquino publicly declared the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao [ARMM] a failed experiment that has to be abolished and replaced with the Bangsamoro in 2016. In spite of this declaration, President Aquino used more than P8 billion from the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) to resurrect the failed experiment,” the MCPA noted.
With the way Aquino conducts his peace initiatives, genuine and lasting peace remains elusive in the Bangsamoro homeland, it said.
“It appears that the objective of the Aquino regime in entering [into]the peace process is merely to pacify and quell the people’s armed resistance instead of addressing the root causes of the conflict. The MILF and the [communist]National Democratic Front share the same experience,” the group added.
It claimed that the “reforms” instituted in the ARMM were only a “political ploy” and part of a strategy to tighten the government’s control and influence in the region even beyond 2016.
“The move is to consolidate political patronage in the resource-rich and vote-rich Muslim Mindanao. Aquino is preparing the current local government officials and loyal allies to challenge the MILF leadership and candidates in the 2016 elections for the Bangsamoro National Assembly. This is the highest form of treachery against the Moro people,” the MCPA said.
The group also scored Presidential Peace Adviser Teresita Quintos Deles and ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman for their “shameless admission” that the reforms in the ARMM were made possible by billions in DAP funds.
It said that the dangling of the DAP funds to achieve peace “exposes Aquino’s hypocrisy and dishonesty in the GPH-MILF peace negotiations.”
But Coloma maintained that Aquino and MILF Chairman Al Haj Murad are determined to conclude the crafting of the BBL and to submit it for congressional approval soon.
“This is determination in the highest level so that this should send out the signal to all to work for the immediate submission of the draft BBL,” he said.
“Suffice it to say that each chapter, every step is being scrutinized by both panels to ensure that the draft law will also conform with the CAB… constitutional questions in the future could further delay the passage of the law,” Coloma added.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), meanwhile, called on the MILF to be more patient amid reports that MILF commanders were getting restless over the delay in the submission of the draft BBL.
Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala, chief of the military’s Public Affairs Office (PAO), also on Sunday said the military leadership fully supports the peace talks and has instructed all military commanders in Mindanao to hold dialogues with their MILF counterparts.
“We stay positive. We don’t want [violence]. That’s the last thing we want. We are fully supportive of the peace process,” Zagala added.
The GPH and MILF peace panels are in the thick of discussions to thresh out problematic provisions in the draft BBL.
The two panels agreed to sit down from August 1 to 10 in Davao City after they failed to agree on a mutually-accepted version of the draft BBL during their workshops in Kuala Lumpur and Manila.
The 10-day meeting is one of the longest working sessions in the peace process.
Chief government negotiator Ferrer had said the two sides will submit the draft BBL to Congress this month.
With WILLIAM B. DEPASUPIL