PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte will not allow the creation of a regional armed and police forces under the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) calling for greater autonomy in Muslim Mindanao.
Duterte said his commitment was only for the establishment of a federal system of government.
“What I can really assure you is it would be a federal system where we [in the national government]do not lose control [of the Bangsamoro Region]. And for that one, as early as now, I am objecting to an independent regional armed forces and police,” Duterte said during a speech in Davao City over the weekend.
“We only have one Republic of the Philippines. There should only be one Philippine National Police and one Armed Forces. I cannot compromise on that,” Duterte added.
The Bangsamoro Transition Commission—a panel whose members are from the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF)—had submitted a draft BBL to Congress.
No lawmaker has agreed to endorse it, however. The bill needs a sponsor in the plenary for debates and approval.
The BBL was first proposed during the Aquino administration, after a peace agreement between the government and the MILF in 2014.
It will abolish the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and replace it with a Bangsamoro Region that will enjoy fiscal autonomy and be governed by the Bangsamoro Parliament elected by the region’s inhabitants.
Now or never
President Duterte said the proposed Bangsamoro bill would be passed during his term, or the country would face “trouble.”
“Passing Bangsamoro law is really my commitment. I gave them my word. That’s the centerpiece of my campaign, [it]actually was Mindanao,” Duterte said.
“Because if you are not…if you are not going to fix it, I said, there is trouble. And I have been very frank with you. Ever since, dating back to the campaign, I saw that there are looming of dark clouds that would involve the Moro of Mindanao,” Duterte added.
Still, the Chief Executive cannot give a timeline for the bill’s passage.
“We don’t have a timeline. I hope that the MILF would understand that in a democracy, there is always a process, and sometimes it gets very hard to just move,” Duterte said.
“With the sentiments involved, the vote is not an automatic no or a yes. I am asking for their patience. I already said it is a personal commitment because I know what will happen if it is not given to them,” Duterte added.
Under President Benigno Aquino 3rd, the BBL failed to hurdle congressional approval in the aftermath of the ambush attack of the combined forces of rebels and the MILF on government troops that killed 44 Special Action Forces men in Mamasapano, Maguindanao in 2015.
Proponents of the BBL had justified the proposed structure of the new autonomous region, describing it as having an “asymmetric relationship” with the central government.
Critics however claimed it was tantamount to carving a sub-state out of the Philippines, which is against the Constitution.
Some of Duterte’s congressional allies favor amending the Constitution first to allow a shift to a federal system of government, but the MILF wants the BBL to go ahead of constitutional reforms.