MILF: Palace 'diluted' Bangsamoro draft

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 07 2014 03:04 PM | Updated as of Jul 07 2014 11:04 PM

MANILA - Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal said Malacanang sent back to him a “diluted” draft of the Bangsamoro Basic Law.

Iqbal, who is also the chairman of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC), said the copy bored the "remarks and comments from the OP (Office of the President), which heavily diluted the original proposal coming from the BTC."

He said if the “diluted” proposal becomes a law, it would be worse than the law that created the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

"A lawyer of the MILF, commenting on the remarks of the OP on the BBL, said that when a law is crafted out of it, (that) would be worse than the Republic Act No. 9054 that created the so-called Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, which in every bit is an administrative arrangement. No less than the President called the ARMM as a 'failed experiment,’” he said.

Iqbal said the draft was submitted to Malacanang in April, a month after the government and the MILF signed the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro.

He said Malacanang returned the draft to the commission on June 23.

The 16th Congress has only 2 years left, but Malacanang has yet to submit the draft law to them. President Benigno Aquino III said he wants the BBL submitted to Congress in time for his State of the Nation Address (SONA).

Iqbal fears the challenges ahead will be daunting.
He sees the peace agreement will be "overshadowed by bickering, blaming and shaming” unless the stakeholders "come to the timely rescue and prevent foreseeable collision of approaches of the two parties."

He said the MILF’s proposal is actually “simple and straightforward.”

"They are finished and settled. It is therefore nonsensical to raise them anew. However, all those, which are not expressly provided but fleshed out by the BTC, as part of its mandate, could be the subjects of subsequent engagement between the Parties. If reasons and consistency prevail, there is no way this controversy cannot be settled," said Iqbal.

Iqbal feels like he has been in the same situation before.
“But I don't think we are in a hopeless situation. I don't think the parties will allow the situation to degenerate into something we do not like. I still have confidence on both sides' determination to overcome the perceived hardships ahead of us," he said.

AQUINO VISIT TO JAPAN

Iqbal noted the draft was returned ahead of President Aquino’s visit in Japan where he spoke before delegates of a peace forum.

He said it was a "timely occurrence at the precise moment when many a member of the BTC and the MILF is irritated, if not infuriated, by the almost total disregard of the proposed BBL crafted by the BTC."

He slammed a government office for not defending the "essence of this historic document.” Instead of inhibiting from the review, the office “virtually led the review team of the OP to overhaul almost the entire proposal of the BTC.”

Whether or not Congress passes the law, the MILF will pursue the Bangsamoro people’s right to self-determination “at all cost.”

"The MILF will also leave no stone unturned in exposing the true state of things surrounding the BBL, which must be faithful to the letter and spirit of the CAB. Truth must be pursued and error must be shunned. More urgently, the MILF will continue to capacitate our people, including building of institutions, linkages, networks, and alliances, so that they will have greater clout and power in asserting their right to self-determination," added Iqbal.