Palace downplays apprehensions over BBL citizens’ council
MANILA, Philippines – The Palace on Saturday, March 28, downplayed apprehensions over an “independent council” that would conduct an “objective evaluation” of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).
In an interview on state-run dzRB, Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte reiterated that only Congress has the power to pass the proposed law, which would pave the way for the creation of a new autonomous state in Muslim Mindanao.
“No summit will be able to do that,” she added.
“We do not see why the people should be excluded out of discussions that concern matters that affect them as well,” said Valte, reacting to statements that the National Peace Summit, which will be convened by business and civic society leaders, was an attempt to get back public approval for the proposed law.
On Friday, March 27, the government commemorated the first anniversary of the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), two months after a botched police operation in Mamasapano town sparked opposition to the government’s peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
“Think of this as an additional discussion. This will not replace discussions in Congress nor will it replace the system that the BBL will have to go through for it to become a law. This is just an additional space wherein stakeholders, community leaders and other citizens can take part in rational discussions about the BBL,” added Valte. (READ: OPAPP hopes to convince the 'misinformed' to support BBL)
A lot has happened in the year since the CAB was signed in Malacañang.
Council of elders
On January 25, 2015, some 400 elite cops entered Mamasapano, a known bailiwick of the MILF and its breakaway group, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters. The cops, who were on a mission to neutralize two terrorists, encountered fighters from the MILF and the BIFF as they made their exit.
At least 67 people died as a result of the operation, including 5 civilians, 18 MILF fighters, and 44 members of the Special Action Force (SAF). [Editor’s note: The Philippine National Police’s official report on the clash says 18 Muslim rebels died, while the MILF’s own report says 17 of their men were killed.]
In a speech on Friday, President Benigno Aquino III said the council of elders that will evaluate the proposed law was formed because recent events in the Mindanao, the Mamasapano clash included, have “sowed doubt in the minds of our countrymen.”
The members of the council will be Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, former Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr, businessman Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, former Philippine Ambassador to the Holy See and Malta Howard Dee, and founder of Teach Peace, Build Peace Movement Bai Rohaniza Sumndad-Usman.
Aquino said the council will “gather other responsible and respected leaders to spearhead a National Peace Summit to deliberate on and discuss the BBL. They will dissect the proposed law in a calm and reasonable manner that will not incite anger and hopelessness.”
The President, who sees the proposed BBL as his administration’s biggest accomplishment, hopes the council will improve the proposed law.
“In this manner, we will be able to advance a reasonable decision as regards the Bangsamoro Basic Law,” added Aquino.
Valte emphasized it will ultimately be up to legislators to listen to the suggestions of the citizen leaders in the summit. – with reports from Bea Cupin/Rappler.com