MANILA - Former president and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has withdrawn her authorship of a proposed measure that seeks to create a new Bangsamoro region, as she threw her full support behind the Bangsamoro Basic Law backed by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza said Arroyo informed him of her decision to withdraw authorship of the proposed Basic Act on the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region on Tuesday evening, just as President Rodrigo Duterte was having a meeting with MILF officials.
“She said she would withdraw authorship of her previously signed bill to fast-track the approval of the new version [of the BBL],” Dureza said in a statement.
The MILF leads the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) which crafted the BBL. The group is pinning its hopes on Duterte for the passage of the measure that will grant greater autonomy to the Bangsamoro region, ahead of the country’s shift to a federal type of government.
The MILF had criticized Arroyo for coming up with her own legislative proposal on the Bangsamoro, saying the only acceptable version is the BBL since it was based on a 2014 peace agreement signed between them and the government.
DUTERTE TO USE ‘RESIDUAL POWERS’ TO FULFILL BBL COMMITMENT
Duterte met with MILF chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, BTC chair Ghazali Jaafar, and MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal on Tuesday, a day after airing concern over how the proposed BBL can unite an ethnically diverse Bangsamoro region.
The President has been repeatedly stressing that failure to address the concerns of Bangsamoro people, who are rooting for his administration to pass the BBL, might lead to more trouble in restive Mindanao.
Heeding Duterte’s wishes, congressional leaders have promised to pass the BBL by the end of May this year.
Dureza said that during the meeting, Duterte reiterated his vow to “assist even to the extent of relaying to both chambers of Congress his determination to help push for the passage of the BBL that is compliant with the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro and as close as possible to the new draft law submitted by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission.”
“In the event this does not take place in Congress, he said he would go to the extent of even exercising his residual powers thru administrative directives to fulfill this commitment,” Dureza said.
Murad, for his part, said failure to pass the BBL within Duterte’s term might dash hopes it would be passed in the future.
“If this does not get done during the presidency of President Duterte, we seriously doubt if we can do it at all in the future. President Duterte is now our only and last card,” Murad said.
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 MILF fighters and other private armed groups. It also faced questions on its constitutionality.