MANILA, Philippines – With less than two weeks left before Congress resumes its session and takes up again the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte gave advocates conditions before he supports the creation of an expanded autonomous Muslim region in Mindanao.
Peace advocates and Moro leaders from the group All-Out-Peace (AOP) urged Duterte to support the passage of the BBL, and the mayor of Mindanao’s biggest city said he would fully support the proposed law if all parties, including Nur Misuari’s Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), are consulted “to find a win-win solution for lasting peace and development” on the island.
The long-time Davao mayor had previously shared his concern regarding government peace negotiators “who were not from Mindanao” and lacked an “in-depth understanding” of the problems in Mindanao.
The 17-year-long peace talks between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) led to the signing in 2014 of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, which would serve as the basis for the proposed BBL.
The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) was mandated to oversee the implementation of the comprehensive peace process.
Duterte, known for his iron-fisted leadership, was also concerned about a provision of the BBL allowing the Bangsamoro government to create their own police force.
The mayor said there should only be “one horizontal chain of command with no detour, parallel or lateral command within.”
However, Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, OPAPP’s chief peace negotiator with Moro rebels, clarified in March that the Bangsamoro police “will still be under the control and supervision of the National Police Commission.”
Apart from this, Duterte said that he was all-out for BBL.
All out for peace
Duterte echoed AOP’s call for a sustained “all-out peace” campaign.
He said that those who push for an “all-out war” were detached from the reality of war and “must be watching or acting in the movies so much.”
Former president and now Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada had persistently called for an “all-out war” against the MILF during his presidency. Estrada waged war against the MILF in 2000 resulting in the fall of Camp Abubakar at the cost of hundreds of lives.
Federalism as solution
Duterte also expressed anger over what he considered hate and bigotry of many Filipinos against the Moros, saying that these haters do not understand a thing about culture, society, religion, and human relationships.
He said earlier this year that the problem in Mindanao “was not about religion” but of warring tribes. Duterte added that the Muslims must be organized like sultanates before, and he plans to solve this through federalism.
The mayor has been going around the country conducting “listening tours” to push federalism as a solution to the conflict in Mindanao.
The BBL and federalism have similar aspects, according to Duterte. He added that the proposed law could also be a “precursor for a change in the government system.”
Duterte again rejected the idea of running for president but said that he will continue to support the cause of the Bangsamoro.
“Kung ako ma’y magiging presidente, makakaasa kayong ang isang paa ng Bangsamoro ay nasa Malacañang na,” Duterte said to the group.
(If I become the president, I can assure you that the Bangsamoro will be one step closer to Malacañang.)
Time is running out
In a lobby paper submitted by the AOP to the Davao mayor, the group said they are pushing for a CAB-based BBL which will not be “diluted” like that of the version currently pending in Congress.
The lobby paper noted that the current version of the bill “will not sufficiently realize the call for a real, sustainable and meaningful autonomy in the Bangsamoro.”
“Time is running out and we urge the lawmakers to contemplate on their positions on the BBL before they resume their sessions. What is at stake is the state of peace not only of Mindanao but of the whole country,” Gus Miclat, convenor of the AOP, said.
The group said they will submit a copy of the lobby paper to Congress before President Benigno Aquino III’s State of the Nation Address on July 27. – Rappler.com