THE Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) should be open to changes in the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) because the revisions that will be introduced by lawmakers will make the bill withstand legal scrutiny, senators said on Sunday.
Sen. Francis Escudero said revisions are inevitable because many lawmakers believe that some provisions of the proposed law that seeks to establish a Bangsamoro region that will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao are unconstitutional.
The senator added that the Citizens’ Council on Bangsamoro Law that President Benigno Aquino 3rd wants established should not only work on helping the public understand the proposed BBL but explain to the MILF that changes are needed to make the bill acceptable.
“I hope the council together with the government peace panel will help sell the congressional amendments to the BBL to the MILF and for the MILF to accept them,” Escudero said.
The council, according to him, should convince the MILF that a revised BBL is a better alternative than going to war.
MILF leaders earlier renounced plans to revise the BBL, saying their group will not accept a watered-down version of the bill drafted by a joint panel of MILF and government negotiators.
Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who heads the Senate committee on local government, said the council should be fair in presenting the BBL to the public. He noted the need to win the people’s trust in the BBL and the MILF that was eroded because of the killing of 44 police commandos in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, in January.
Marcos said the proposed council should show the people positive and the negative sides of the BBL, particularly its constitutional infirmities, for them to have an idea on what needs to be done to the measure.
President Benigno Aquino 3rd wants the council to be composed of Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, former Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr., Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, Howard Dee and Bai Rohaniza Sumndad-Usman.
“There is no denying that there is distrust not only in the MILF but also in the BBL and the entire peace process, so the council needs to be objective and fair, and not focus only on the pros but also on the cons,” Marcos said in an interview aired over radio dzBB.
The local government panel is scheduled to resume its hearings on the proposed BBL on April 13 but proceedings will focus on ceasefire mechanisms.
Some members of the House of Representatives also on Sunday said the creation of a National Peace Summit is no guarantee that the BBL bill will be passed.
Congressmen Ferdinand Romualdez of Leyte, Lito Atienza of Buhay party-list and Jonathan dela Cruz of Abakada party-list said Congress will decide whether to pass the BBL bill but the ultimate judge will be the Supreme Court.
“No matter what the President says, he has lost the trust of the public with regards to the BBL because the SAF members died amid too much distrust in the MILF and in government agencies. It’s for Congress, then the Supreme Court, to decide,” Romualdez said in a news conference.
“Even if Congress passes it, it will eventually be taken up before the Supreme Court. These convenors are not elected officials. They won’t be accountable to the people,” dela Cruz said.
“Everything they [in Aquino administration]do now is suspect, so they want to deodorize it with this new council. They are borrowing the credibility of these persons and clutching on straws here,” Romualdez said.
“They want to temper the MILF [with the peace summit]because they realize that this can’t be an all or nothing approach [to BBL passage], They can’t scare Congress in passing this. This formation of a council of eminent persons is already a last-ditch effort to save the BBL, a propaganda roadshow since there have been a lot of negative sentiments about it because of the Mamasapano incident,” dela Cruz said.
Meanwhile, anti-corruption advocates are studying the possibility of filing criminal charges against Aquino, former Philippine National Police chief Alan Purisima and sacked Special Action Force commander Getulio Napeñas for their actions in the Mamasapano operation.
Dante Jimenez, founding chairman of the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption, also on Sunday insisted that Aquino should be held liable because he allowed the operation that sent the SAF commandos to their deaths.