Duterte promises expanded Bangsamoro region
MAGUINDANAO, Philippines (UPDATED) – President Rodrigo Duterte Monday, November 27, vowed he would ensure the passage of the long-stalled Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) that would create an expanded Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), with one condition.
"It must be inclusive. No one should be left out," Duterte told the crowd attending the Bangsamoro Assembly at Maguindanao's old provincial capitol in Sultan Kudarat town here.
This means, he said, that the government engages not only the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) – the only party that the past administration negotiated with – but also the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the non-Muslim indigenous peoples within the ARMM.
The President also shot down the prospects of secession. The expanded Bangsamoro entity, he said, would also mean the region will remain part of the Philippines.
"One republic. No condition. Govenrment must be the sole authority, and we desire it. You'll have the elected leaders. Whether you like it or not you must have representatives in Congress," said Duterte.
Special session of Congress
Duterte proposed a special session of Congress that would allow groups with their own drafts of the BBL to present their respective versions.
"So my proposal is this: I will ask Congress. I said, one day, one session, Nur, Kagi (MILF chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim) and all should be there to present their platform. And then we will work out if it can," said the President.
The session would allow all parties to "work out" a consolidated version for Congress to pass.
"At least Congress and the Filipino people should be given a day to hear you out on what we intend to do. Me? I support you. That is my promise," said Duterte.
Duterte was guest of honor at the event, where he stressed that the administration is doing its best to achieve progress in its peace negotiations with the Moro people.
The President said he would ask Congress to provide him and the rest of the parties involved in the crafting the BBL time to discuss how they could meet halfway.
MILF Chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim welcomed Duterte's plan. "We are very open to that. We also engage other Bangsamoro groups, including stakeholders," Ebrahim told a press conference after the event.
Ebrahim noted, however, that in the MILF's last communication with the MNLF, the party's founder Nur Misuari was no longer taking part in the lobby for a Bangsamoro entity.
He told reporters Misuari is instead focusing on MNLF's support for a shift to a federal system of government.
"That helps, though, because that will reduce complication. They will no longer push for their version [of the BBL]," said Ebrahim.
Last September, the President gave assurances to the MILF leaders that the passage of the BBL remains a priority of his administration.
The MILF has taken the stand that before the Duterte government even discuss the proposal to shift to federalism, it should first ensure the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law. – Rappler.com