AFP, MILF hold dialogue on Bangsamoro law

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 03 2014 05:41 PM | Updated as of Aug 04 2014 09:05 PM

MANILA -- The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) are holding a dialogue with their Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) counterpart amid delays in the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), which will establish a new political entity in Mindanao.

AFP Public Affairs Office Chief Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala said military commanders are asking for patience and understanding from the MILF about the delay in the submission of the law to Congress.

Earlier reports said MILF commanders are growing impatient over the delay, and that some are even feeling betrayed by the Aquino administration after a final peace agreement was signed last March.

The Bangsamoro Transition Committee submitted to Malacanang the draft law in April for review prior to submission to Congress.

Malacanang returned the document two months later.

Government and MILF peace negotiators convened a 10-day meeting starting Friday in Davao City to come up with a revised version of the law as the original version reportedly has "contentious" issues.

Zagala said military commanders have assured the MILF of their full support of the BBL.

On the possibility that this may develop into a security problem, Zagala said: "We want to stay positive. That (violence) is the last thing we want. What we really want is for the BBL to succeed."

"We don't want to talk anything about it (violence), about it being negative, or contingencies or whatsoever because we are really fixed on this (success of the BBL and peace process). The last thing we want is that our MILF brothers will think that we are not supportive," Zagala added.

Meanwhile, MILF vice chairman for Political Affairs Ghadzali Jaafar declined to comment on the BBL.

"It's better for the government and the MILF to continue the path of peace, which they have already invested so much, rather than go back to where they started,," MILF said on its website.

"If they persevere and remain committed to solve the Bangsamoro question, no obstacle -- God willing -- can stop their way. 'If there is a will', said an old adage, 'there is a way'," it added.

It stressed that there is no reason to give up after the timetable to submit the BBL was not met. Malacanang initially said it was targeting to submit the BBL to Congress shortly after President Aquino's State of the Nation last July 27.

In his address, Aquino asked for Congress' understanding, noting that if the BBL can be legislated before the end of the year and hold the necessary plebiscite, this would give the Bangsamoro Transition Authority one-and-a-half years to show positive change.

"His (Aquino) limited reference to the BBL is simply an economy of words appropriate to the true state of the current discussion of the BBL. Of course, not everybody was happy about the President’s limited reference to the BBL and how it could become a reality," the MILF said.

"We understand their positions, because most are coming from other standpoints. But as partners in the peace-making, the MILF has to be very objective in assessing the situation in reference to the difficulty confronting the Parties. We cannot ask for more from the President regarding BBL in his SONA," it said.

The MILF said the "road ahead still offers some promises" and "one good determining factor is that both parties have expressed willingness to travel the extra miles to be able to produce a mutually agreed version of the BBL."

"All what is needed is a little time more; and more importantly, both sides must be truthful and faithful to the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro and its annexes, which is the basis of the BBL," the MILF also said.