Iqbal: Watered down BBL violation of peace agreement

By Inday Espina-Varona, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 12 2015 06:15 PM | Updated as of Aug 29 2015 01:40 AM

MANILA - Passage of a diluted Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) would violate the comprehensive peace agreement signed by the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the rebel group’s chief negotiator said at a peace forum today.

Mohagher Iqbal stressed the MILF would not accept a watered-down law on self-determination because it would be a betrayal of all the years of struggle and negotiations.

“Let us be clear. We will not accept anything that will give us
something less than ARMM (Autonomous Regional in Muslim Mindanao) or even something similar,”Iqbal said at the forum hosted by the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP), the Moro-Christian People’s Alliance and the Pilgrims for Peace.

The MILF, he added, will not accept anything that gives control over
the development of natural resources, including those that produce
energy, to the national government. He also said the Bangsamoro should get the bigger share of the proceeds of development.

Iqbal said he personally conveyed this message to leaders of the House of Representatives.

'ACID TEST'

Reminding the audience of the hundreds of thousands of lives lost through decades of conflict, and millions of internally displaced people, Iqbal warned: “The more delay or denial of the right to self-determination of the Bangsamoro people, the more costly it shall be to both sides."

Iqbal, who also heads the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTW), said the international community is closely monitoring the rocky process of the BBL in Congress.

If the government does not fulfill its commitment to the Framework
Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), third-party monitors and the international community will know whom to hold accountable, Iqbal said.

"Kung may gera, we have moral ascendancy," he stressed. "Di tumupad ang gobyerno, di pipirmahan ang exit agreement." (If war breaks out, we have moral ascendancy. Government’s failure to fulfill its commitment means there will be no signing of the exit agreement.)

Iqbal slammed House Bill No 5811, the output of the Ad Hoc Committee on the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law, for disregarding the pains and efforts to negotiators from both sides of the conflict.

"It is glaringly obvious that a lot of critical items, provisions and
legitimate intent in the source documents have been dissipated in the new house bill," Iqbal said, referring to the FAB signed on October 15, 2012 and the CAB signed March 27, 2014.

This goal is an "acid test" to Filipino statesmanship and will be the
basis on whether Mindanao will have a chance for peace or be mired in conflict, he said.

NO 'PUPPET' BODY

Iqbal and other speakers, including Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares and Amirah Lidasan of the Suara Bangsamoro, rejected ARMM as a model for the new Bangsamoro political body should not be less or similar to the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

“It is as if we are to say those 18 years of hard and long
negotiations are wasted only to accept something which we rejected
several times,” Iqbal said.

In unusually strong language since the BBL debates started in
Congress, Iqbal said: “We cannot afford a BBL that does not represent the true aspirations of the Bangsamoro as a people. We have suffered enough. We have been continuously suppressed and denied our right to self-determination.”

He said the current House version of the BB should be rejected as a
mere palliative.

"The situation calls for a resolution and not mere management of the Mindanao conflict," Iqbal said.

Colmenares said House Bill 5811 betrays the government’s strategy to pretend to give but grab back most of its promises.

"Bigay-bawi law ito," he said, slamming the refusal of Congress to allow the Bangsamoro full control to determine their own development path, including the utilization of natural resources.

"Preferential powers is a farce," Colmenares said, noting how national agencies would have to approve development plans. “That is a sop. Transnational corporations will run roughshod over the rights of the Bangsamoro, in complicity with the national government.”

Lidasan described ARMM as the fruit of a process where the government is allowed to define the right to self-determination.

“We get a puppet government, where representation is limited to the local arms of national parties and where their interests are extensions of the national government’s interests.” Lidasan said.