A measure that will create an autonomous Bangsamoro region should be passed in 2017 because it will serve as a “case study” for the planned shift to a federal system of government, Malacañang said on Wednesday.
Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said the Palace wants Congress to approve the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) by next year so that the region’s leaders can already be voted upon during the 2019 mid-term elections.
“That’s (in) our wish list that it can be approved by next year so that it can be included in the 2019 elections,” Andanar said, warning that any delay in the BBL’s passage will again give rise to some problems, including the budget and funding for the new region.
“The BBL will then serve as a starting point, a case study of the federalism. It will not be a prototype but a working concept already,” he said at the weekly media forum Kapihan sa Manila Bay held in Ermita, Manila.
President Rodrigo Duterte has also given Congress two years to set in place the legal framework for the transition from the present unitary system to federal form of government.
Andanar said passage of the BBL and the shift to a federal system were among the priorities of the government because these will be the basic foundations for the achievement of peace and economic prosperity.
“There’s a big chance that the peace talks will be successful. Many have lost hope on the peace talks but if we become so jaded and pessimistic, then who else will carry the torch of optimism but us?” he added.
The government peace panel led by Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace negotiators recently met in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Andanar said the two-day meeting was “very fruitful.”
He added that the MILF panel has agreed to increase the members of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) from 15 to 21.
“The fact that the MILF has agreed to change the terms of reference of the (proposed) Bangsamoro Basic Law, which was proposed by the past administration but failed and the fact that the MILF agreed to increase the members of the panel from 15 to 21, these are good signs that we are moving forward,” the Palace official said.
“And we should not look back at the sins of the past because it might slow us down. So we just have to look forward and build on the confidence that was won in Kuala Lumpur a few days ago,” he added.
The BBL was crafted by the BTC following the signing of a comprehensive agreement between the Aquino government and MILF peace panels in 2014.
But passage of the BBL measure was stymied because of the killing of 44 members of the Philippine National Police-Special Action Force by members of the MILF in Barangay Tukanalipao, Mamasapano, Maguindanao.
Duterte earlier warned that chaos will return to Mindanao if the BBL is not enacted into law.