MILF concerned if no BBL before federal shift

Christian V. Esguerra, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 13 2018 07:22 PM

President Rodrigo Duterte greets former chief Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) negotiator Mohaqher Iqbal during a meeting at the Malacañang Palace, September 14, 2017. Albert Alcain, Malacañang Photo

MANILA— The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) made it clear on Tuesday that the government should “comply with its obligation” to implement their 2014 peace agreement ahead of a federal shift.

Former chief MILF negotiator Mohagher Iqbal made his group’s reservations and frustrations known in a meeting with the Malacañang-appointed committee drafting a new federal constitution.

“Sa parte ng MILF, talagang we ask government to comply with its obligation kasi dun po sa pagpasa ng BBL (Bangsamoro Basic Law), mayroon pa kaming titulo, we are entitled to it kasi mayroong agreement na pinirmahan,” he told the consultative committee.

(On the part of the MILF, we ask the government to comply with its obligation because passing the BBL, we are entitled to it because there is a signed agreement.) 

“Samantalang sa pederalismo, while we respect and we support (it), we cannot ask government to comply kasi wala naman kami sisingilin sa gobyerno kasi wala namang pinirmahan.”

(While we respect and support federalism, we cannot ask government to comply because we did not sign anything under it.)

The BBL is the enabling measure of the 2014 peace pact that aims to establish an autonomous Bangsamoro entity. 

Iqbal, who heads the MILF panel implementing the peace accord, said it would be “easier” to pass the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law than to overhaul the system of government toward federalism.

The consultative committee is also preparing for a scenario where the BBL might not be passed before a federal constitution is enacted, said lawyer Randolph Parcasio.

“Kung mayroon nang BBL (If there would already be a BBL) before the ratification of a new constitution, then what would be the phrase of the constitution? What provisions will be provided in the constitution considering that a BBL has already been ratified?” he said.

“But if there’s no BBL, then how do we implement fully the right to self-determination of the Bangsamoro people? This time all windows are open. All opportunities are open.”

 VERY PATIENT

One con-com member suggested that the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) also prepare a BBL version that would consider the implementation of the peace accord under a federal constitution.

Ghazali Jaafar, who headed the BBL drafting committee, said a new version could be done but insisted the MILF was focused on the present version now pending in Congress.

“We have been very, very patient for many, many, many years but there is an end,” he told reporters. “We will just keep to ourselves when is the end.”

Asked if he was making a threat, he said: “It’s not a threat. But it’s reality.”

MILF leaders defended the current BBL over possible constitutional questions raised by some con-com members such as former Senate President Aquilino Pimentel Jr.

A BTC member noted the version had been cleared with legal experts during the drafting, among them members of the 1986 constitutional commission.

But besides being a legal document, the BBL is a political solution with the foremost intention of solving the Bangsamoro problem, Jaafar said. 

“When we decided to fight, it’s not because we considered the government of the Philippines as an enemy or we intended to defeat the Armed Forces of the Philippines,” he said. 

“If we arm ourselves, I think it is because of necessity after exploring all peaceful means to address the legitimate grievances of the Muslims. We had to do what we did.”