After months of delay, President Benigno Aquino 3rd on Wednesday turned over to Congress the final draft of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) that seeks to create a new autonomous government in Mindanao.
Aquino personally endorsed the BBL draft to Senate President Franklin Drilon and Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. in a simple ceremony in Malacanang. The event was witnessed by Bangsamoro Transition Commission Chairman Mohagher Iqbal, Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. and Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos-Deles.
Aquino justified the delay in the submission of the document, saying the “long and thorough process” was to ensure “every detail involved in fulfilling our shared desires for the Bangsamoro region.”
“I assure you, The Bangsamoro Basic Law was crafted to be fair, just, and acceptable to all, whether they are Moros, Lumads or Christians,” he said.
Moros refer to the Filipino Muslim minority in Mindanao and Lumads, to the region’s indigenous Filipinos.
The President called for the immediate passage of the measure.
“We understand the need to thoroughly review the bill. We ask Congress, however, to pass this bill in the soonest possible time. If we are able to legislate this, we can give our Moro brothers enough time to prepare, thus enabling them to nurture the seeds of meaningful governance [that]were planted for the Bangsamoro,” he said.
Aquino and MILF Chairman Al Haj Murad met last week to clarify and resolve issues in the draft BBL.
The BBL embodies the comprehensive peace agreement signed last March by the MILF and the government peace panels to end the decades-long armed conflict in Mindanao.
The bill intends to create a new Bangsamoro political entity that will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). It will stipulate power-sharing and wealth-sharing arrangements between the national government and the new political entity.
Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, head of the government peace panel, said the proposed law provides that the Bangsamoro government shall be “parliamentary in form.”
“This institutional design would allow for a broader base of political representation and participation in governance. It would compel the formation of competitive and sustainable political parties in the region,” she explained.
Ferrer said the Bangsamoro government will enjoy significant powers over and above the powers granted to the ARMM today. It will also have fiscal autonomy but it will still receive additional funding from the national government to hasten socio-economic development in the region.
“With more powers and resources come more responsibilities. This is the advantage as well as the duty of those who will be leading the Bangsamoro in the years to come. It is an opportunity that must be made available for the common good, but also one that must not be squandered,” she added.
The United Nations lauded the transmission of the BBL to Congress.
“We celebrate this remarkable achievement and are proud to have accompanied both sides on this journey. The United Nations System in the Philippines welcomes the finalization of a consensus draft. This is a critical milestone in the implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), and a crucial achievement in ensuring lasting peace and sustainable development in Mindanao and in the wider Philippines. The United Nations System stands ready to support further implementation of CAB,” it said in a statement.