The passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) hinges on the Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s (MILF) willingness to surrender the rebel fighters responsible for the massacre of 44 police commandos in Maguindanao, according to a lawmaker.
Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, the chairman of the ad hoc committee handling the BBL, on Tuesday said just because Congress has set a timeframe by which the proposed law should be passed does not mean that it is a done deal.
Rodriguez noted that the passage of the BBL depends on the MILF’s confidence- building actions.
The proposed law, once ratified, will pave the way for the establishment of a Bangsamoro territory that will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
Senate President Franklin Drilon earlier said lawmakers have agreed to pass the BBL in June, before the end of the second regular session of the 16th Congress.
The new deadline was set after President Benigno Aquino 3rd met with members of the House of Representatives to discuss the BBL weeks after the killing of 44 Special Action Force (SAF) commandos in Mamasapano, Maguindanao by MILF fighters and members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.
Aquino had hoped that Congress will approve the measure in March.
But Rodriguez said the passage of the BBL largely depends on the MILF.
He pointed out that the rebel group should first surrender those who were involved in the carnage in Barangay Tukanalipao, Mamasapano, on January 25 and at the same time help the government capture local terrorist Abdul Basit Usman.
“The passage [of the BBL]depends on whether the MILF is able to show and perform confidence-building measures,” Rodriguez said in an interview aired over 105.9 Balita FM.
“If we want peace, there has to be justice. We cannot approve the bill when there is no justice for the 44 SAF members,” he added.
The June schedule, the congressman said, is only a timetable.
“It does not mean the proposed bill will be approved in June,” he noted, saying the MILF “is facing the tough job of proving itself and its sincerity to keep the support of the members of Congress and Senate.”
While it accepted the timetable provided by Congress, Malacanang appealed to lawmakers not to “dilute” the measure.
Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said Aquino wants the final version of the BBL to keep the substance of agreements entered into by the government and the MILF.
“Ang sinasabi lang naman ng Pangulo, intindihin naman natin ang buong sustansya ng ating ihinahain na BBL. Ang kanyang panawagan lang naman sa mga mambabatas is ‘Don’t dilute’ [The President’s appeal to lawmakers is ‘Don’t dilute],” Coloma told reporters.
“Don’t dilute to such an extent of losing the substance of CAB [Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro] and FAB [Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro],” said added.
Coloma was reacting to a statement of Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. that the measure that Congress will pass will not be the version drafted and submitted by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission headed by Mohagher Iqbal, the chief peace negotiator of the MILF.
Marcos, who headsthe Senate Committee on Local Government, said the BBL is “still alive” but will need changes to conform with the Constitution.
The MILF has also asked Congress to pass the BBL without amendments but this was opposed by lawmakers who believe that the measure should undergo scrutiny in light of the Mamasapano incident.
“This is not to gloss over the plenary power of Congress over legislation, but rather it has to be taken in the context of an appeal to the higher sense of statesmanship of legislators–in the exercise of their collective wisdom–to pass a good BBL,” it said.
The MILF described the BBL as “the end product of 17 long and hard negotiations” between government MILF negotiators.
“The problem is political; it is to restore back to the Moros their right to govern themselves, which they lost when they were made part of the Philippines–against their will–in the grant of independence in 1946,” it said.