Malacañang on Thursday confirmed that President Benigno Aquino 3rd met with Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Chairman Al Haj Murad Ibrahim in Japan to discuss the “progress of the peace process.”
Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said Aquino sat down privately with Murad before he addressed an international conference on peace at Hiroshima Sheraton Hotel on Tuesday.
“It was a one-on-one meeting with no Cabinet members present,” Coloma told reporters in a news briefing.
According to him, it is “reasonable to infer” that the two leaders “discussed the progress of the peace process and how this may be brought to full fruition in accordance with the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB)” signed last March between the government and the MILF.
Citing the President’s speech at Hiroshima also on Tuesday, Coloma said Aquino’s “first face-to-face encounter” with Murad in Tokyo in 2011 “was a breakthrough.”
“The trust borne of that engagement was a positive turning point as it allowed us to move forward toward the realization of our shared aspirations,” he quoted the President as saying.
When asked whether Murad asked about the apparent delay in the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), Coloma said he has no details on the one-on-one meeting.
The President received last April 14 the BBL drafted by the 15-member Bangsamoro Transition Commission.
The draft was supposed to be signed by Aquino last May 5 after a battery of government lawyers reviewed it to ensure that nothing in its provisions violates the Constitution.
The BBL, once signed by the President, can be ratified and implemented in time for the 2016 local and national elections.
It will then pave the way for the establishment of the Bangsamoro region in 2016 that would replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
The creation of Bangsamoro autonomous region would have to be decided in a referendum in the ARMM and in areas where there are large Muslim communities probably before the year ends.
Coloma said the Palace legal team is still reviewing the draft basic law to ensure that provisions are compliant with the 1987 Constitution and will pass legislative scrutiny.
“It is enough to say that the ongoing study by the Office of the President aims to ensure that what will be submitted to Congress will be aligned with the provisions of the Constitution,” he added.
“Our principle is that the real battleground is in the preparation. That is why we deemed it more proper to prepare thoroughly before submitting a final draft to Congress,” Coloma said.