Bangsamoro draft bill due Monday
MANILA, Philippines – Philippine President Benigno Aquino is set to receive Monday, August 18, a completed draft bill to create a Muslim autonomous area, aimed at ending decades of fighting that has claimed thousands of lives.
Receiving the draft bill would allow Aquino to quickly submit it to Congress so it could be quickly passed into law and implemented before the president's term ends in mid-2016, Palace Communications Sec. Herminio Coloma said.
Aquino will be handed the draft forged by government negotiators and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the country's main Muslim rebel group as part of the peace process, Coloma told reporters.
"The president will prioritize and give his attention to this bill so it can be passed by Congress... as soon as possible in accordance to the roadmap and timetable," he said.
Coloma said they wanted the law passed quickly so the election of the leaders of the Muslim self-rule area could be held alongside the 2016 national elections.
The peace panels of the government and the MILF last Sunday, August 10, failed to finish the final draft of the law after a 10-day meeting in Davao City, but both sides agreed to submit the much-awaited measure to Aquino on Monday.
In a joint statement, the panels said "they have reached agreement on substantial portions of the document and have developed a shared understanding of the remaining challenges and unsettled issues, which they will bring back to their principals for further guidance."
The 12,000-strong MILF has been fighting since the 1970s for an independent or autonomous homeland for the nation's Muslim minority in a conflict which has claimed tens of thousands of lives.
The group signed the peace agreement with the government in March where both sides would work to create an autonomous area in the southern Philippines which they consider their ancestral home.
However the process ran into difficulties after the draft bill was submitted to Aquino for review in April by a joint commission of MILF and government representatives.
The president's legal team later ordered a series of changes that frustrated the MILF, which last month accused the government of trying to renege on the terms of the peace agreement. (READ: MILF still unhappy with draft law) – With reports from Rappler.com