THE Palace said Tuesday time is running out for the passage of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law, the centerpiece of the Aquino administration’s peace efforts in Mindanao.
“Communication with leaders of Congress on the timely passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law continues. We understand that time is running out to achieve this objective, but we need to acknowledge the importance of upholding the peace process,” said Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr.
As part of the peace process, Aquino recently created a national task force for the disbandment of private armed groups in areas of the proposed Bangsamoro and adjacent regions.
The task force included representatives from the military, the Justice Department, the police and various law enforcement and intelligence agencies, and the head of the government negotiating panel with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
The task force will be in charge of formulating policy, planning and and implementing a program to disband private armed groups.
In an interview on state-run PTV-4, Aquino said he did not believe war would break out if the BBL is not approved.
“I don’t submit to the premise that war will break out. I don’t think there is any interest from the major players to re-engage in a bloody conflict.” he said.
“Having said that, there will be the spoilers who will want to exploit the current difficulties to show that their avowed aims of gaining what they want through violent means is the only way to go about it. So those of us who are advocating peace should really even redouble our efforts to thwart these groups who would want us to branch again into really a pointless conflict. So, who should be blamed? I think I’ll leave that up to the Filipino people who will have an opportunity in next year’s elections,” Aquino said.
Still, the President said he was confident the bill would be passed soon.
“I did ask recently both the Senate President and the Speaker of the House and they both laid out, shall we say, some of the difficulties currently in passing the BBL but they both expressed confidence that the BBL will be passed,” said Aquino.
“So, on the Executive’s portion, we would want to continue the engagement of our dialogue partners, specifically the MILF… we want the population in general in this region to experience the so-called peace dividends arising from this agreement,” Aquino said.
“So even absent the Bangsamoro law, we are hoping that Congress will support the initiatives that will shower these people with the peace dividends and get them further engaged in the process,” he added.
Aquino also said the government will continue to lobby members of Congress to pass the law during their watch and pass it at the earliest possible time.
The Moro National Liberation Front under Nur Misuari on Tuesday rejected the position of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in favor of the BBL, and accused it of conspiring with the govenrment to pass an illegal law.
At the close of the Tripatite Review Process, most of the MNLF delegation privately expressed opposition to OIC Ambassador Sayed Kasem El-Masry over its supposed affirmation to the BBL.
“Despite the amendments of some senators we find also that the government and leaders of Congress are optimistic that we are going to have a strong version not a diluted version of the BBL,” Sayed said.
The government panel, through Jose Lorena, acknowledged that the BBL is facing some challenges and that many amendments have been introduced.
“Nevertheless the government is confident that in the plenary session and bicameral meeting of the two houses, the BBL would reflect the original BBL,” he said.
The TRP adjourned with an assurance from the OIC that the three unresolved provisions of the MNLF’s peace agreement with the government in 1996 would be tackled in the ministerial meeting in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia in November.
Talking to his emissary through a cell phone, Misuari conveyed a message of disgust after Sayed came out with a position insisting that the Philippine government had already fulfilled its obligations to the 1996 final peace agreement and the BBL is a partial implementation of it.
“Misuari was terribly mad at the OIC position,” said MNLF spokesman Absalom Cerveza on the sidelines of the TRP meeting.
Misuari also said Cerveza was insulted twice during the two-day meeting after the OIC refused to recognize him as part of the MNLF delegation.
Sayed said the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro is a partial implementation of the MNLF peace agreements, since it covers partial territories embodied in both MNLF agreements.
However, Sayed also gave importance to the 1976 Tripoli Agreement, which led to the 1996 final peace agreement, and insisted that both be linked to the BBL.
Sayed urged all parties to redouble their efforts to reach a consensus on the convergence of the two peace tracks—the MNLF and MILF peace accords.
But Cerveza said the negative outcome of the TRP meeting might trigger a resumption of hostilities in Mindanao.
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