Duterte warns of war in Mindanao if BBL, federalism not pursued

Dharel Placido, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 18 2018 06:19 PM

MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday again warned of dire consequences if government fails to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) and shift the country’s form of government to federalism.

Duterte stressed that the BBL, which is pending in Congress, and charter change are key to addressing the “historical injustices” committed against the Moros.

“I am urging everybody to understand, it’s about time the historical injustices committed to the Moros be corrected. Kung walang mangyari sa BBL, there will be war in Mindanao. Mamili kayo,” Duterte said in a speech during the launch of the Overseas Filipino Bank in Manila.

The President said the failure to pass the BBL and shift to federalism would frustrate Moro groups.

The passage of the BBL is being pushed by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the largest mainstream Moro rebel group in the country. A product of years of peace talks, the BBL seeks to establish a more powerful and autonomous region for Moros in Mindanao.

A version of the BBL under the past administration had failed to pass due to provisions seen to be unconstitutional. 

Aside from the MILF, the government is also engaging several factions of the Moro National Liberation Front in talks for a lasting peace in Mindanao.

Duterte praised MNLF’s founding chairman Nur Misuari for “listening” to him.

“I hope I can deliver, but the final decision will be made by the people of the Republic of the Philippines,” the President said.

The President warned that disgruntled Moro groups might ally themselves with the Islamic State if the government fails to pass the BBL.

Government forces recently defeated Islamic State-inspired terrorists in Marawi City following a 5-month battle. 

Mindanao remains under military rule as Duterte had sought to extend his initial martial law declaration in the region, triggered in May by the Marawi firefights, citing remaining security threats. 

The siege had drawn concerns that the international terror network was seeking to establish a base in the Philippines. Government officials said passing the BBL has become even more important due to threats posed by the Islamic State.

There are currently six versions of the BBL pending in the House of Representatives and the Senate.

The MILF is pushing for the version created by the 21-member Bangsamoro Transition Commission, which is now pending in the House of Representatives as House Bill No. 6475, filed by House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and several other representatives.

Duterte’s allies in Congress, meanwhile, are pushing to amend the 1987 Constitution, which shall trigger the change in the country’s form of government.

But there appears to be a deadlock in Congress as its two chambers do not agree on whether or not they should vote jointly on the proposed amendments.

Critics also fear that Duterte and his allies were only seeking to perpetuate themselves in power with their moves to amend the charter.