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‘House panel OK a done deal’

Opposition lawmakers said that voting on the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) was a mockery of the legislative process with the assured approval of a version of the law approved by the Palace and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

“It’s obvious that the ongoing voting on the supposed amendments to the BBL is a moro-moro,” said Abakada party-list Rep. Jonathan de la Cruz, using a Filipino term for pretense.

Continuation. Lawmakers raise their hands as they continued voting
for or against the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law at the
House of Representatives on Tuesday. Manny Palmero
He said some lawmakers opposed to the BBL wanted to stop the voting by the ad hoc panel and jump straight to the plenary, so as not to waste time and effort.

Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Carlos Zarate said it was obvious that President Benigno Aquino III, who had met twice with House leaders over the weekend, wanted to have the BBL as part of his legacy at the expense of the Constitution.

The majority in the ad hoc committee continued to dominate the second day of voting on amendments to the BBL.

The ad hoc panel, chaired by Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, was able to discuss proposed amendments to more than half of the 109-page BBL.

Zamboanga City Rep. Celso Lobregat, the most vocal critic of the BBL, continued to propose many amendments, almost all of which were voted down by the majority in the panel.

As the approval of the Palace-backed draft seemed certain, Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo urged lawmakers not to pass the BBL in haste.

In his statement posted at the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) website, Pabillo also called on lawmakers not to allow themselves to be dictated upon, simply because the Palace had set a deadline for the BBL’s approval.

“We need a law to achieve peace but it should be effective and acceptable to all and not something that will just create more problems in the future,” Pabillo said.

He also urged Aquino to stop pressuring lawmakers to pass the BBL by June and allow them to do their job properly.

“Peace will never come out because of a piece of paper,” Pabillo said.

He reminded the President and the lawmakers that the BBL should be discussed thoroughly as it would affect not only those inside the Bangsamoro or Mindanao, but the entire country.

Senator Ferdindand Marcos Jr., who heads the Senate committee on local government, said more problems with the draft law were cropping up with each hearing of the panel.

He also said it was time that the Palace stopped talking about deadlines for the BBL’s passage.

As the House rushed headlong toward meeting Aquino’s June 11 deadline, Marcos said he has not heard any sufficient justification for the rush.

“The more we study it the more complicated it turns out. And that is the nature of what we are trying to do. And we do not shirk from the responsibility of taking us through the details, the historical perspectives and the different agreements that have been arrived at in many many years of negotiation after the fighting,” Marcos said

“But we need the time to do it in properly. So I think it is time to stop talking about deadlines, it is time to stop talking about rushing the legislative process on something so complicated, so complex, so noble and so important,” he added.

Marcos said that the hearing of the panel on Monday, for instance, showed that the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), the first Moro group to sign a peace agreement with the government was not consulted in the process that culminated in the drafting of the BBL.

“The Framework Agreement, the Comprehensive Agreement (on Bangsamoro) and the drafting of the BBL were done with very little involvement by the MNLF,” Marcos said.

He said MNLF leaders are concerned that the gains earned through their struggle that led to their signing of the 1976 Tripoli Agreement and the 1996 Jakarta Agreement with the government are not incorporated in the draft BBL and in the structure of the Bangsamoro government.

Marcos noted too that the peace negotiations were exclusively done between the government panel and the MILF.

“Clearly, the MNLF feels that they have a part to play; it is an opinion that I agree with,” Marcos said.

In addition, Marcos said the MNLF raised concerns about the apparent bias for MILF in the formation of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority and, eventually the organization of the Bangsamoro government.

In general the MNLF feels the BBL to be a “partial implementation” of the provisions of the Tripoli and Jakarta Agreements, but Marcos said the group wants the final version of the law as “inclusive” as possible so as to address the concerns of all the stakeholders.

As far as his committee is concerned, Marcos said, the right time to present its version of the BBL is “when we feel we are comfortable that we have gotten it right.”

Marcos said he will conduct another hearing on May 25 for the Sultanates and the indigenous people of Mindanao, and another one at a latter date for local executives in areas within or near the core territories of Bangsamoro before they can sit down to prepare the committee report on BBL.

MNLF spokesman Absalom Cerveza, meanwhile, said the MILF is best by growing discontent among its rank and file, with some of its top commanders bolting over disagreements over the BBL.

He said many of the MILF’s internal problems arise from the refusal of the majority to surrender their firearms, which they acquired for themselves, to a third party that would oversee the decommissioning of the MILF.

The MNLF spokesman also said that the rank and file were unhappy that they were not consulted about the BBL.

Some reports said Samer Hashim Salamat, the brother of then MILF chairman Hashim Salamat, and about a dozen other commanders have left the MILF in dismay.

The disgruntled commanders have forged a partnership with the MNLF, the reports added.

In 2013, at least three top MILF commanders, including Abdulwahid Jianalan, along with an estimated 6,000 followers, defected to the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), an MILF splinter group. – With Florante S. Solmerin, PNA  Sara Susanne D. Fabunan

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