Duterte calls for special session in Congress on BBL
MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday said the Philippines must remain united even as he pledged to ask Congress to hold a special session for a proposed law meant to create a Bangsamoro political entity with enhanced autonomy in the predominantly Catholic nation.
Duterte on Monday attended the Bangsamoro Assembly in Maguindanao where various stakeholders gathered to express support for the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), a proposed measure that grants greater autonomy to the Bangsamoro region.
Speaking in front of a largely Muslim crowd, the President vowed to hasten the passage of the law, saying it will heal the “historical injustices” suffered by the Moros, who had waged a separatist rebellion since the late 1960s.
"I will now stake my condition. I will work very hard for it. I will ask Congress to [hold] a special session just to hear you talk about this in Congress," he said.
"Sabi ko ito sagrado ito. Importante ito." (I said this is sacred. This is important.)
He also said the war cannot go on and “your children cannot kill my children.” He added the passage of the BBL must ensure that no one is left behind.
"We have to have a solution. If I were to have a choice, then it should be [in] my time, kung pwede lang and we can work out a way out of this quagmire," he said.
While he vowed to push for the passage of the BBL in Congress, Duterte also spoke of the need to maintain a united Philippines.
"I will only work with one thing in mind: There must be one nation for all and one republic for all, a Republic of the Philippines for all of us, Moro and Christians alike,” he said.
The BBL is the enabling measure of the peace compact signed by the Philippine government and the MILF in 2014. It was crafted by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission which formally turned over the draft measure to Malacañang last July 17.
The executive branch has already transmitted a copy of the BBL to Congress.
In his speech, Duterte said he supports greater autonomy for the Moros as this will improve the lives of the Moros.
“You must be allowed to enjoy all your natural resources,” he said, adding the national government will only take a fraction of it as its share.
Duterte said that in his proposed special session in Congress, “all should be there to present their platform,” acknowledging that other Moro groups, such as the Moro Islamic Liberation Front faction led by its founding chair Nur Misuari, is not supportive of the BBL.
“We will work out if it’s not in consonance with each other. At least Congress and the Filipino people should be given a day to hear you out on what you intend to do,” Duterte said.
The President also sought for more patience as the passage of the proposed measure could encounter some delays due to the complexity of the issue.
“Of course it entails delays. Alam niyo, it takes forever to move. Somebody has to push it because there are thousands of concerns,” he said.
The President also cited the need to pass the BBL to stem the rise of violent extremism in the region, as analysts fear another failure to pass the BBL could force young Moros to turn to the Islamic State, which recently attempted to establish a front in the Philippines but was defeated by government forces.
The passage of the original version of the BBL during the previous administration was scuttled because of the Mamasapano clash, where 44 elite cops were killed by the MILF and other Moros. It also faced questions on its constitutionality.
Also present during the Bangsamoro Assembly were MILF chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim and MNLF chairman Yusop Jikiri.
In his speech, Murad said the government and the Moro groups must unite together to fight a common enemy, the violent extremists.
“New enemies are emerging and a perverted ideology devoid of national agenda that concerns itself only with the destruction of perceived enemies without regards to rules of war and welfare of the people has been sowing fear and leaving a trail of destruction across the Middle East. It has reached our shores and has showed its ugly head in Marawi City and has left what was once trailing Muslim City into ruins,” Murad said.
“We feel the obligation to assert for the enactment of the basic law not because it will win us votes but because it presents us rare opportunity to be part of peacemaking.”