Passage of a revised Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) by Congress will mean war, Ghazali Jaafar, vice chairman of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Central Committee, said on Wednesday.
The MILF, according to Jaafar, may deal with the next administration if the 16th Congress fails to pass the BBL.
He warned that his group will not accept a watered-down version of the bill.
If Congress passes an unacceptable BBL version, Jaafar said, the MILF may opt to negotiate with the next administration since President Benigno Aquino 3rd is on his way out.
Aquino, who has repeatedly called on Congress to pass the BBL, will step down in July next year.
“We will go to the United Nations. That is one of our options,” Jaafar said in a forum held in Manila.
When pressed if the MILF will declare a full-blown war against the government if a revised bill is passed, he commented that Congress and the government will have declared war by passing a BBL that is different from what was approved by the joint panel.
Jaafar said the MILF Central Committee will decide whether the group will go to war or to the UN.
He added that the Central Committee will make a decision after two or three weeks.
“We are neither dictating [on]nor threatening the Philippine government, but we feel a watered-down BBL is both toothless and powerless,” Jaafar said.
He noted that the proposal has been delayed long enough mainly because some lawmakers have declared that some provisions of the measure that was drafted by a joint panel of MILF and government officials are unconstitutional.
The Senate and the House of Representatives deferred deliberations on the BBL shortly after 44 police commandos were massacred by MILF fighters and members of other rebel groups in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, in January this year.
The BBL seeks to establish a Bangsamoro region that will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
During the forum, Jaafar showed a short video of the MILF’s vision of a new Mindanao. The presentation showed a progressive city complete with high-rise buildings and modern infrastructure.
He said the MILF and the government have agreed to a one-year transition period.
“At present, we are conducting capacity-building. We are sending people to various countries for training. Many lawyers, engineers and other professionals are volunteering to help us in the transition period,” the MILF official added.
But Jaafar expressed hopes that the BBL will still be passed so that a referendum may be held by May next year.
“We are closely monitoring what is happening in both the House and the Senate. At the right time, it will become a law. Then we will ratify and implement the negotiated political solution,” he said.
Meanwhile, Jaafar announced that his group may suspend MILF commanders who figured in the deadly clash in Mamasapano, especially those who knew of the presence of Malaysian bomb expert Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan and Abdul Basit Usman.
“We might suspend the commanders because they failed to report the presence of Marwan and Usman in their area of operation,” he said.
In the same forum, Christian Monsod, a member of the 1986 Constitutional Commission, said the passage of the BBL now depends on the outcome of investigation of the Mamasapano tragedy, constitutional issues and timing.
Monsod also noted that almost all peace agreements were preceded by bloody encounters.
“There is so much trust now among the leaders. If we do not do it now, when? They might lose their political capital,” the former Commission on Elections chairman said.
He added that the proposed establishment of a Bangsamoro region is not akin to the creation of a “sub-state” that will effectively “dismember” the Philippines.
Monsod appealed to Congress to give a more objective outlook on the proposed BBL when it resumes its committee hearings on the measure in April.
He said the public should also give the MILF more credit for giving up its dream of pushing Mindanao’s secession when it signed a peace agreement with the Philippine government.
“The BBL will provide just enough power for self-determination within the bounds of the Constitution. The region needs the resources to accomplish its goals,” according to Monsod.
He insisted that the proposed parliamentary form of the Bangsamoro regional government is allowed under the 1987 Constitution and fits more the Bangsamoro culture.
Monsod scored critics for not looking deeply into the “vision, spirit and core principles of the BBL,” which he contended were completely in line with the 1987 Constitution’s provisions on human development and social justice.
“If we are going to have a new social order as mandated by the 1987 Constitution, then we must start with these areas [Muslim Mindanao and the Cordilleras] that are our biggest failure in terms of human development, oppression and neglect for centuries… because of armed conflicts,” he pointed out.