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Next block for peace pact: Close congressional scrutiny

With the agreement creating the Bangsamoro now signed, Congress must see to it that draft law covering the pact is carefully examined and analyzed to sharpen its focus on bringing peace and prosperity to Mindanao, Senate President Franklin Drilon said on Thursday.

Drilon added that the Senate and the House of Representatives had already agreed to include the Bangsamoro Basic Law in their priority agenda, and are committed to pass it by the end of the year.

“Soon, the ball will be in Congress’ hands. It is Congress that will ultimately shape and mold the piece of legislation that will breathe life to the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro [CAB],” he said.

Drilon stressed that the Bangsamoro law needs to be responsive to real and distinct problems particularly in resolving social tensions, poor infrastructure and lack of economic development in Mindanao.

Congress must ensure that the law fall within the ambit of the Constitution and withstand judicial scrutiny, he said.

Other senators weighed in on the peace deal.

Loren Legarda said the signing of the agreement signals the next phase of the process of peace building, as well as the process of social and economic inclusion for all Filipinos in Mindanao—the drafting and consideration of the Basic Law of the Bangsamoro.

Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano agreed with Drilon that Congress is committed to make the passage of the Bangsamoro law a priority but said there is no assurance that all the provisions in the annexes will be adopted in the final version.

Cayetano added that there is a possibility that some of the draft law’s provisions may be revised.

“We can assure the public that this will be prioritized in the Senate because everybody wants to have peace and progress, but I cannot assure them that all provisions in the annexes will be favored,” he said.

Opposition Sen. Nancy Binay said she would give highest priority to the proposed Bangsamoro law.

But like Cayetano, Binay saw the need to thoroughly review its provisions.

“Peace in Mindanao means saving many lives, especially women and children trapped in the conflicts. Peace in Mindanao also means saving the future of the people, Christian, Muslim and lumad, from the cycles of strife and displacement,” she said.

Another opposition member, Sen. Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada, said while there is still a long way to go he looks forward to witnessing the birth of a new Mindanao.

Vice President Jejomar Binay sees the signing of the agreement as the first step “in our long and determined journey to peace and progress in Mindanao.”

The head of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) prayed that the signing of the agreement will be followed by more steps toward “true and lasting peace” in Mindanao.

“We pray that this first courageous breakthrough will be followed by more steps leading to true and lasting peace in Mindanao,” CBCP President and Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas said in a message also on Thursday.

Villegas added that the government should continue “an honest, open and trusting dialogue” with the Moro National Liberation Front and other groups in Mindanao.

“It is also important for peace to be sustainable, that it be inclusive and all-embracing,” he said.

The World Bank Group also lauded the signing of the peace deal.

In a statement, the World Bank said it has been “supporting peace and inclusive growth in Mindanao through various programs and projects including social protection, community-driven development, upgrading of community infrastructure, and, lately, the formulation of the Bangsamoro Development Plan.”

The Makati Business Club said the signing of the peace pact “was conducted with utmost respect for the principles of fairness, transparency and inclusivity.”

British Ambassador to the Philippines Asif Ahmad said the agreement’s signing “will demonstrate the Philippines’ increasing political maturity, its ability to accomplish things that have been intractable in the past and its potential to emerge as one of the world’s economic powers.”

With reports from Robertzon F. Ramirez and PNA

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