MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday, July 17, promised to certify as urgent the new draft of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) that will create a new Bangsamoro region in Mindanao.
“Yes, certify and I have requested both the Senate President and the Speaker to consider it immediately,” said Duterte during a media interview on Monday in Malacañang.
Duterte is hopeful the proposed law creating a Bangsamoro region will be passed by the end of the year.
“It takes time but I will also try to hurry up so that we can have something to show the people before the year ends,” said the President.
The new Bangsamoro region is envisioned to replace the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and complete the peace process with the rebel group Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
MILF vice chairman for political affairs Ghadzali Jaafar handed the draft law to Duterte in a well-attended ceremony in Malacañang that gathered MILF leaders, lawmakers, peace advocates, the diplomatic community, and representatives of the rival group Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).
Duterte, the first president from Mindanao, committed to push the legislation before Congress. In the presence of MILF chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, Duterte also said he will certify it as urgent to send the signal that it is a priority bill.
The MILF signed a peace agreement with the government in 2014, but the Aquino administration failed to complete the process when Congress withdrew support for the bill. Questions were raised on the constitutionality of powers given to the new region.
Jaafar said the revised bill is “faithful to letter and spirit of the Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro” that was signed in 2014. Sources said the controversial provisions were revised.
Passing the bill
Duterte promised during the campaign to make sure the law would be passed – a commitment that the rebel group and peace advocates are counting on.
He reiterated this promise on Monday, although he said the draft law must conform to the limits of the Constitution. Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III and Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez both attended the ceremony in Malacañang.
During the turn-over ceremony, in the presence of leaders of Muslim separatist groups, Duterte promised to “husband” the bill.
“May I say to you, my brother Moros, that I commit to support – in front of everybody – my covenant with you that I will support and husband this instrument as it goes in the legislator for its consideration,” he said in his speech.
He gave assurances there would be “no objections” to all of the BBL’s provisions which are “consistent with the Constitution and the aspiration of the Moro people.”
“I am for this. Within the context of the Republic of the Philippines, there shall be a Bangsamoro country,” he said, in closing.
Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, the leader of the Muslim rebel group that has fought violent wars in the past decades, said he trusts the government will finally fulfill its promise to the rebel group.
“We put our trust and confidence in the process of government. We hold on to our covenant with the government,” said Murad.
Murad underscored the urgency of the creation of the new Bangsamoro region. He said the war in Mindanao is partly a result of the frustration over the peace process. (READ: MILF, Maute Group battle for legitimacy) – Rappler.com