MANILA – A commission tasked to create a proposed measure that will enable the creation of a Bangsamoro political entity is now ready to submit its draft to the Office of the President, an official said Thursday.
Irene Santiago, head of the government implementing panel for the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace accord, said the 21-member Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) finalized its draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) last June 6.
Santiago said, the commission hopes to submit the draft to the Office of the President in the middle of June so that President Rodrigo Duterte would be able to review it and endorse it to Congress in time for his second State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 24.
“[We] are hoping and planning that the President will mention that in the SONA and say, ‘This is a priority bill for me,’” Santiago said in a press briefing in Davao City.
“I have no doubt he will [certify the bill as urgent],” she added.
The proposed measure will push forward the breakthrough Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), signed by the Philippine government and the MILF in March 2014.
The consultative body is chaired by the MILF with 11 members, while the government has 10 members, including three representatives from the Muslimin Sema faction of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).
Duterte’s predecessor, Benigno Aquino III, had hoped to pass the measure during his term, but a bungled anti-terrorism operation in Mamasapano, Maguindanao last January 2015, where MILF fighters figured clashed with government troops, prompted critics to question the Moro group’s sincerity.
The incident also opened the MILF-backed BBL to intense scrutiny, with legal experts, including former magistrates, saying the proposed measure contained unconstitutional provisions. Aquino's term ended without the Congress, then dominated by his allies, passing the bill.
Santiago said the new draft BBL was based on the original BBL, but she said there were some changes to it that made it "better".
“I found that everybody was very pleased with the draft that they made,” she said.
The Duterte government is also pursuing parallel talks with the Nur Misuari faction of the MNLF. All these efforts are being carried out alongside the government’s push to establish a federal form of government.
Santiago said, the talks with the Misuari faction only cover the three remaining items in the tripartite review on the implementation of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement between Manila and the MNLF.
Misuari does not want any involvement in MILF’s peace deal with the government. In 2013, Misuari, disgruntled by the government's dealing with the MILF, laid siege to Zamboanga City and declared independence from the government.
Santiago said, while the Misuari faction of the MNLF is holding separate talks with the government, the MILF-backed BBL can address the unresolved issues in the implementation of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement.