The Philippine government is set to meet with members of the rebel Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) panel in Kuala Lumpur this week to thresh out issues in the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law.
The meeting was an apparent response of the government to Mohagher Iqbal recently describing the Malacañang version of the measure as “heavily diluted.”
Iqbal, MILF chief negotiator and also head of the Bangsamoro Transition Commmission (BTC), the body that crafted the draft law, said the government was worse than the law that created the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
“We know that the review process conducted by the Office of the President on the proposed law submitted by the [BTC] has raised some apprehension over some content where modifications were recommended by the OP review team. That is why we are taking the necessary steps to ensure better understanding of the concerns, and to find a good resolution through frank and open discussion,” government peace panel head Miriam Coronel-Ferrer said in a statement.
A product of the final peace pact between the government and the MILF, the proposed basic law hopes to replace the ARMM with the Bangsamoro, a political entity that is envisioned to have a unique form of government with greater fiscal powers.
The meeting in the Malaysian capital, which the government referred to as a “workshop,” will help sort out “gray zones” in the proposed basic law, according to Ferrer.
She, however, did not identify the “gray zones.”
Aside from the peace panels of the MILF and the government, Malaysian facilitator Tengku Ghafar and international observers will be in attendance. Members of the BTC will also be present, Ferrer said. Malaysia serves as the third-party facilitator for the peace process.
The BTC submitted the proposed law to Malacañang one month after the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro between the govenrment and the MILF in March.
The Palace has repeatedly said the ongoing review process seeks to ensure that the draft law will pass muster both in Congress and the Supreme Court, in case it is questioned before the court.
Neither the BTC nor Malacañang has released a copy of the proposed law.
Ferrer said the government wants to resolve “substantive issues” before the bill is transmitted to Congress since it will be certified as urgent by the President.
“A well-processed bill that goes through the legislative mill, with the certification of the President as urgent, will stand much better chances of smooth-sailing passage in both the Senate and the House of Representatives,” she added.
Despite the apparent delays, Ferrer pointed out that both parties are not backtracking from the peace agreement.
“As we said many times in the past, this partnership between the [government]and the MILF is not for the faint-hearted. It is also not for the impatient and the impetuous who, in the face of difficulty, immediately throws in the towel,” she said.
“Rather, it is for those who persevere so that when the going gets rough, they get going. They do not turn back on their old comfort zones, or to the familiar sound of their war cries,” Ferrer added
The government remains optimistic that the proposed Bangsamoro law will be submitted before Congress reopens sessions on July 28 in time for the President’s fifth State of the Nation Address.
“We appeal to the understanding of all sectors who have accompanied this process and who like us desire to institutionalize a Bangsamoro that is grounded on a solid foundation and enjoying very strong people’s support,” Ferrer said.
“Let our peace process continue to be the bright spot amid the violent conflicts that beset many countries in other parts of the globe today,” she added.