THE government’s chief peace negotiator admitted Sunday that the Bangsamoro Basic Law was dead and urged the next administration to pick up where the Aquino administration left off.
In an interview over radio dzBB, Miriam Coronel Ferrer, who headed the peace negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, said there was no hope that Congress would pass the Palace-backed BBL with only three session days left.
She also urged the MILF not to use its 10,000 firearms during the coming elections.
The MILF has committed not to wage war and to continue observing the ceasefire, and urged government troops not to engage the rebels in firefights.
Despite appeals from President Benigno Aquino III, only 50 of 292 lawmakers showed up at the plenary last week, bogging the BBL down by the lack of a quorum.
Ferrer said without the BBL, the MILF could not be compelled to surrender their 10,000 firearms.
Only 79 high-powered firearms have so far been turned over to the government as part of the decommissioning process under the peace deal.
Also without the BBL, Ferrer said, the Palace could not release the agreed P70-billion block grant intended for development projects in Mindanao.
House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte and Deputy Speaker Pangalian Balindong of Lanao del Sur earlier gave up on efforts to get their colleagues to attend sessions to pass the BBL.
“Today, with a heavy heart and a disturbing sense of foreboding, I close the book of hope for the passage of the BBL,” Balindong said in a privilege speech. “Fifty-one public hearings, 200 hours of committee-level debates and eight months of consultations are all put to waste—thrown into the abyss of uncertainty and darkness. This is the lowest and saddest day of my legislative work.”
“There’s one more week left. But it’s not wise to pin our hopes [on that],” Ferrer told dzBB.
She was particularly saddened that only 50 congressmen were present at the session hall last week.
“Can you believe that? There were more than 200 legislators who were absent,” she said.
It did not help that members of the opposition kept questioning the quorum and who were active in the sessions just to raise these objections.
“The intention was really to stop the BBL from moving forward,” she said.
Among the 40 amendments to the BBL, the MILF had wanted some 28 provisions reinstated, but these were rejected by the House special ad hoc committee on the BBL chaired by Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez.
Ferrer said it was the hope of the MILF that the 28 rejected provisions be reconsidered during the period of amendments in the plenary.
“The problem is, we did not get there [period of amendments] because those who oppose the measure consumed the time for the sake of opposing it,” Ferrer said.
She cited the case of Zamboanga City Rep. Celso Lobregat, who spent the most time questioning every single provision of the BBL.
Lobregat also delivered the longest “turno en contra” speech against the BBL last week.
Ferrer said it was the obligation of the next administration to continue implementing the peace agreement.
However, she said there was no stopping the next administration if it chose not to do so.
A spokesman for President Benigno Aquino III said Sunday that the President has ordered that extra efforts be made to ensure that a peace agreement with the Muslim rebels is carried out even after his term ends in June.
Aquino had ordered “consultation and meetings with the stakeholders as well as meaningful action so we can continue the peace process,” his spokesman Herminio Coloma Jr. told reporters.
Aquino had hoped to pass the BBL to seal the peace accord with the MILF, but opposition from lawmakers delayed its passage.
Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Deles had told him that her office would be meeting concerned parties especially the MILF to firm up the mechanisms and the transition for when the peace deal is implemented, Coloma said.
“We need to do all that is possible to ensure the full implementation of the comprehensive agreement… beyond this administration,” he quoted Deles as saying.
Senate President Franklin Drilon said the Mamasapano massacre had made passing the BBL difficult.
“Let’s put the record straight. We were on the way to the approval of the BBL. The committee hearings were going smooth until the Mamasapano incident took place,” Drilon said.
More than 60 people—including 44 police commandos—were killed on Jan. 25, 2015 when the PNP Special Action Force clashed with Muslim rebels, including some belonging to the MILF, which was talking peace.
“We did our best but you can operate only in a political environment conducive to the passage of this bill,” Drilon said.
“Unfortunately, after the Mamasapano incident, the environment became very toxic. I can say that I think the BBL is the 45th victim in Mamasapano,” he said. With Sandy Araneta and AFP