The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) wants the Bangsamoro measure passed now because the group is not looking at the approval of the proposed law in the next administration.
Showing impatience at Congress’ foot dragging, MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal stressed that the bill that seeks to establish a Bangsamoro region should be passed under the Aquino Administration because the Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro was forged under the watch of President Benigno Aquino 3rd.
“As far as the MILF is concerned…and I think all those supporting the Bangsamoro law, the day is now, not the next administration. We are not looking at the next administration,” Iqbal told reporters after attending the plenary debates on the proposed law at the House of Representatives.
He did not say though if his group will no longer seek the approval of the measure when a new president has been elected.
“I don’t want to imagine scenarios. Inubos na namin lahat panahon at pagsisikap. Kailangan maipasa ang Bangsamoro law (We have exhausted all our time and effort for this. We need to pass this Bangsamoro law). The day is now,” he added.
Although the House of Representatives had failed to finish its deliberations on the controversial measure before its Christmas break, Iqbal remains hopeful that the chamber will be able to pass the bill next year.
“It is not an issue of believing, but a question of hope. We’re still hoping until now that the Bangsamoro law will move forward. I don’t believe my presence would really have some kind of push for congressmen to push for Bangsamoro law in Congress, but my presence here is an expression on the part of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) and MILF that we really want the Bangsamoro bill to really pass Congress,” he stressed.
“The main reason why I’m here is [to show]we are serious [in pushing]that the Bangsamoro law should pass Congress. We still trust the President, that at the end of the day, the Bangsamoro law will be delivered,” Iqbal said, referring to Aquino.
The MILF leader warned that the non-passage of the controversial measure may prompt extremists to mount attacks.
“We expect it to pass despite the hardships. I agree with (Secretary Teresita Quintos-) Deles (that) if BBL is not passed, (the) situation becomes volatile,” Iqbal told The Manila Times.
He explained that their “frustration” will embolden those who have been opposing the peace process since the very beginning.
“The radicals, such as the BIFF (Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighter) will have their day,” he warned, as he noted the violent activities of the MILF splinter group founded by Ameril Umbra Kato.
Deles, in a statement released through the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) on Wednesday, also lamented lawmakers’ lack of interest on the BBL despite the President’s challenge for them to pass the measure.
“It is a very critical period for peace advocates to let their voices be heard loud and clear by our representatives in Congress. More than ever, we are called to stay the course in this time of great challenge and possible peril, which is also a season of great faith, immense hope – of peace, joy, and good will for all,” said Deles.
The official hopes that the House leadership will fulfill its promise to “complete their task” with the immediate target of completing and closing the interpellation period this month.
“We continue to hope that Congress will rise to the challenge and seize this historic opportunity to make a difference and radically shift the landscape not just for now but very especially for future generations,” Deles stressed.
Last week, Aquino summoned lawmakers to a luncheon gathering in Malacañang, where he “clearly and thoroughly laid out the challenge as well as the historic opportunity that lie before Congress in enacting the BBL.”
“That is, the challenge and opportunity to change the Bangsamoro narrative from one of deprivation, despair, and violence to one of justice, new opportunities, and hope; also the challenge and opportunity to bring a just and peaceful resolution of a long-drawn and vicious armed conflict in a world that is in search of respite from violence and hungry for a way out of the current quagmire of intolerance and terror that is taking over more and more spaces of our globe,” Deles said.
Palace Communications Seretary Herminio Coloma Jr. hinted that Congress can no longer act on the BBL this month and that deliberations will resume in January.
“We are in close coordination with Congress to thresh out concerns about the proposed BBL. We have been informed by Congress leaders that efforts will be exerted to pass the BBL when Congress resumes its sessions in January,” he said.