With BBL 'dead', Aquino to strengthen Mindanao peace gains

MANILA, Philippines – As Congress leaders announced the imminent death of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) in the 16th Congress, President Benigno Aquino III will continue to strengthen the gains in the Mindanao peace process, Malacañang said on Friday, January 29.

Palace Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr made the statement in a news briefing on Friday, when asked about the pronouncements of Congress leaders – and even BBL advocates in the House of Representatives – that it would be impossible to pass the bill before Congress adjourns early next month.

"Kung ano man ang pinal na kahihinatnan ng panukalang Bangsamoro Basic Law, hindi natitinag ang determinasyon ni Pangulong Aquino na itaguyod ang prosesong pangkapayapaan, at patuloy pa rin ang paghimok sa lahat ng sektor ng ating lipunan at sa lahat ng mga stakeholders to give peace a chance," Coloma said.

(Whatever happens to the Bangsamoro Basic Law, President Aquino remains determined to pursue the peace process, and to continue to urge all sectors of society and all stakeholders to give peace a chance.)

Lanao del Sur 2nd District Representative Pangalian Balindong had earlier waved the white flag on the BBL, saying Congress "wasted time" and did not pass the important measure.

The measure was gaining ground in Congress until the Mamasapano encounter on January 25, 2015,  which sparked public outrage. This prompted a number of lawmakers to reconsider their support for the proposed law that would give wider autonomy and bigger resources to the Muslim-dominated region in Mindanao.

Senate President Franklin Drilon said as much in an Interview on ANC on Thursday, calling the BBL a "victim" of the botched police encounter.

"We were on the way to approval of the BBL. The committee hearings were going smooth until the Mamasapano incident took place. In fairness to the legislative, we did our best but you can operate only in a political environment conducive to the passage of this bill....The environment became very toxic," Drilon said.

Next leader to sustain momentum

Coloma said Aquino "cannot be faulted for lacking in determination to see through the peace process" because of the fate of the BBL.

Malacañang is confident that even if the BBL is not passed during the 16th Congress, the peace process is unlikely to revert "back to zero," considering that a peace agreement was signed with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front under Aquino's  watch, after 17 years of negotiations. (READ: 'This is the crowning glory of our struggle')

"Napakalayo na nang narating, at sinoman ang magiging susunod na Pangulo ay tiyak na kikilalanin niya na...malaking progreso na ang natamo rito at hindi nga magiging makatuwiran na aatras pa tayo. Dapat lang ay isulong at ipagpatuloy ‘yung naumpisahan na para maging ganap ‘yung pagtamo ng mga layunin ng prosesong pangkapayapaan," he said.

(We've come so far. And anyone who succeeds the President would surely recognize the huge progress achieved in this regard, and it would not be rational to backtrack from it. Just continue what was started so that the goals of the peace process would be achieved.)

He said the government can undertake "confidence building measures" to show "good faith" to the other party, but did not elaborate.

Coloma also said that the government will "do all that it can" to sustain a high level of public awareness on the importance of the peace process to Mindanao. – Rappler.com