‘BBL to turn South into terror haven’

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A member of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has warned President Benigno Aquino 3rd and the leaders of Congress against the passage of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), saying that its approval would make Mindanao a haven for Islamic revolutionaries, including international Muslim terrorist groups.

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Fr. Jerome Secillano, executive secretary of the CBCP’s Permanent Committee on Public Affairs, said on Sunday the enactment of BBL into law and the subsequent creation of a Bangsamoro Autonomous Region would only create more troubles.

“The worse that can happen is to make Mindanao a haven of revolutionary Muslim groups, both local and international, that harbor the aspiration of establishing a Muslim caliphate through terroristic activities or Islamic revolution,” the priest added.

Secillano’s position was given credence by the statement earlier made by government peace panel head Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, who admitted that “passing the draft BBL into law will not totally solve the conflict in Mindanao.”

But President Benigno Aquino 3rd maintained that the BBL is the “only way to peace.”

“These [rebel groups]operate through a network. The ties that bind them are soaked in blood. They may employ different means or strategies but surely they are motivated by the same goal, that of self-determination and eventually independence,” Secillano said.

He cited a provision of the draft BBL, which gives the Bangsamoro government primary responsibility over public order and safety.

The BBL requires that the central government must “coordinate and cooperate” with the Bangsamoro government before arresting dubious characters in the region, the priest said.

Secillano raised doubts about this provision, noting that the arrest of wanted criminals can hardly be done even with “coordination and cooperation” between the parties.

“The government is seemingly held hostage to deliver in toto without any substantial changes the draft BBL. Peace, under [this proposed law], would seem to be a mere consequence of power, financial stability and the ‘autonomous’ government granted to the Bangsamoro under most probably the MILF,” he observed.

“After reading the draft BBL, I got the impression that the Bangsamoro’s right to self-rule seems to be favored, with the Central Government maybe consciously and slowly allowing the island of Mindanao to slip from its grip,” Secillano noted.

Congress has given itself until June, or after the lawmakers returned from their Holy Week break, to pass the draft law. The BBL’s enactment into law will pave the way for the establishment of a new autonomous region that will replace the existing Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

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