MANILA, Philippines – An independent body monitoring the implementation of the peace deal between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) decried the slow and “uncertain” passage of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).
Chairman Alistair MacDonald of the Third Party Monitoring Team expressed concern about the “delays in the legislative process” and the “increasing uncertainty” of the BBL’s passage under the Aquino administration.
Last December 8, President Benigno Aquino III urged lawmakers to pass the measure that will lay the groundwork for long-term peace in Mindanao and in the country.
The House of Representatives has also finished its period of interpellation and opened the bill for second reading.
MacDonald described these developments as “encouraging,” but noted that in the Senate, the BBL has not made significant progress.
”It is difficult to look forward, at a time when there are so many uncertainties as to whether a BBL will be passed, ” MacDonald said in a letter sent to Philippine government peace panel chairperson Miriam Coronel-Ferrer and MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal.
Compliance with CAB
MacDonald also expressed concern about whether the measure that will be passed will be “acceptable to the MILF” and to the “broader Bangsamoro community,” and if it will be compliant with the existing Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB).
“Many of the concerns mentioned were speculative, given the lack of clarity on what might eventually come out of Congress, or on what might be amended in plenary or in the bicameral conference. However, press reports that Congress would further amend the House Committee version to remove the opt-in provision had been given wide circulation,” he wrote.
One of the major changes of the House’s version is the removal of the controversial opt-in provision that will allow government units to belatedly vote to be part of the region after the plebiscite.
MacDonald thus urged the government and the MILF to intensify their efforts to promote the passage of a CAB-compliant BBL.
He also called both peace panels to “manage public expectations in the event that Congress is not able to complete its legislative work on the proposed law” and prepare a “Plan B” agreement. (READ: Marcos: Bangsamoro law won’t be passed under Aquino)
Congress vows passage
The Senate and the House have repeatedly moved the deadline of the bill’s passage between June and December. But both chambers pledged to work on the measure when sessions resume on January 18. (READ: Homestretch: Will FOI, Bangsamoro, anti-political dynasty bills be dead in 2016?)
In his yearend message, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Jr said that he remains confident that the 16th Congress will pass priority bills, including the BBL.
Senate President Franklin Drilon, for his part, assured the public that senators will not allow “election fever to paralyze” their work.
Drilon said they will resume tackling the BBL and 66 other bills pending on second reading.
Despite the lack of a BBL, MacDonald noted several developments in the peace process, including:
- the ongoing implementation of large-scale Joint Peace and Security Team (JPST) training;
- the work of the Joint Task Force for the Decommissioned Combatants and their Communities (TFDCC) and Task Force Camps Transformation (TFCT);
- completion of the Department of Social Welfare and Development-MILF (DSWD-MILF) profiling of the 145 former combatants;
- and the strengthening of the organizational coherence and footprint on the ground of the International Decommissioning Body (IDB)
He also lauded the “coming-together” of different stakeholders in the Bangsamoro.
“Further efforts have been made to confirm support of the BBL from other factions of the MNLF (Moro National Liberation Front), most notably that led by Abdulkhayr Alonto, but reaching out also to Nur Misuari,” MacDonald said. – Rappler.com