BTC members urged to be united in purpose, direction

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SHARIFF AGUAK, Maguindanao: Members of the expanded Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) were urged to be “united in purpose and direction” as they began drafting the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

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New BTC Chairman Ghadzali Jaafar told the 20 commissioners he considers them “brothers and sisters in a common struggle” even if they are from the side of the MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) or the GPH (Government of the Philippines).

“We all aspire for a system of life and governance suitable and acceptable to us. We are one in this endeavor,” Jaafar said in his message that formally began the first plenary session of the BTC under the Duterte administration.

The two-day session was held on March 6 and 7 in Cotabato City, 10 days after BTC’s formal launching last February 24 in Davao City where President Rodrigo Duterte was the guest of honor.

The new BTC aims to finish the draft BBL by July 2017, in time for the opening of the second regular session of the 17th Congress.

Jaafar is confident the Commission will be able to meet the timeline, saying “we would be able to finish the draft BBL. After all, we are not starting from scratch. We must build on the achievement of our predecessors in this Commission, some of whom are still with us”.

On November 8, 2016, the President signed Executive Order No 8 which reconstituted the Commission expanding its membership from 15 to 21, composed of 11 from the MILF and 10 from the government, including

3 representatives from the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

The agenda of the sessions included review of the BTC internal rules and administrative matters.

MILF Chairman Alhaj Murad Ebrahim, during the launching of the expanded BTC in Davao City recently said “we feel more confident in achieving a lasting solution today to the Moro Question than at any other time in our struggle, because we have a President who understands the history and the root cause of the Moro Question.”

The BTC re-launch was describe by Ebrahim as “rekindling the hope of thousands of our people for a peaceful and progressive Bangsamoro.”

Meanwhile, Ebrahim appealed to the Filipino people to “embrace not only democracy but justice and equity as well.”

He said the Filipinos, many of whom still harbor deep-seated biases against the Moros, must equally stand prepared to accept the latter as “partners in achieving peace and progress, not only for this region but for the entire country.”

Meanwhile, leaders of the 1-Bangsa, a Moro civil society organization (CSO), are happy with the turn of events and thanked President Duterte for appointing the new 21-members of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission.

Alan Balange-Amer, president of the 1-Bangsa told The Manila Times he lauded President Duterte for starting to fulfill his promise when he said “we have to correct the historical injustices committed against the Moro people.”

Balangi also stressed that with the new BTC under Chairman Jaafar, he is confident that the roadmap to peace in Mindanao will finally move forward and be realized under the Duterte administration.

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