No Need to Abandon BBL for Federalism, Peace Panel Chair Says

Manila, Philippines, 16 Sya’ban 1437/4 May 2016 (MINA) – Federalism and the Bangsamoro Basic Law can go together, chief government negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer said Monday as she urged the next Congress to pass the BBL while preparing for a shift to federalism.

The statement came after Davao Del Norte Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez said Congress will instead focus on federalism, which he said will address provisions in the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro that passage of the BBL is supposed to implement. The CAB is the peace agreement between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA) reported, quoting Philstar.

“Any move to change the charter requires a lot of study and consultations. It will take several years since such a major change is not a mere amendment to the constitution and is best done through a constitutional convention,” Ferrer, who chairs the government panel in peace talks with the MILF, said.

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She said that the BBL can be enacted in the meantime so the peace agreement can be implemented and to continue to bring peace and development to conflict-affected areas in Central Mindanao.

“Passing the BBL as soon as possible will help stabilize the situation in the Bangsamoro. It will pave the way for the full-scale decommissioning of the MILF’s weapons and combatants, the delivery of the socio-economic programs, and greatly enhance security cooperation between the government and the MILF,” she said.

The decommissioning process has already begun and the MILF has conducted a symbolic turnover of weapons to a third-party monitoring team, but full decommissioning will require implementation of the CAB through passage of the Bangsamoro bill, according to negotiations between the two panels.

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Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, set to be proclaimed president-elect once Congress canvasses votes cast in the May 9 elections, expressed support for the BBL during the campaign period and visited the MILF’s Camp Darapanan in Maguindanao earlier this year. He said that conflict in Mindanao is caused by “historical injustices.”

“Everything will fail (If you cannot talk it out in the peace talks, everything will fail). And I am telling now, the Republic of the Philippines, nothing will appease the Muslims, the Moro people if we do not give them the BBL,” Duterte said in a televised presidential debate in April.

Passage of the BBL was stalled in Congress because of concerns that the creation of the new entity to replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao might violate the Constitution.

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Public sentiment about the Mamasapano clash – where elite police officers conducting an operation against international terrorists in a remote Maguindanao village were killed in a firefight with armed locals, including members of the MILF – also affected the chances of Congress passing the bill. (T/R07/R01)

Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA)