MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte said he is open to modifying the Bangsamoro Organic Law, but the Palace stressed this does not mean that the measure was rushed.
Duterte said he is open to modifying the Bangsamoro law to ensure peace in Mindanao.
“In every conflict sa buhay ng tao lalo na ‘yung giyera, ang kawawa diyan ‘yung inosente --- babae, bata… So you try to think it over kasi napirmahan ko na ang [BOL],” Duterte said in a speech in Zamboanga City last Thursday.
(In every conflict in the life of the people especially during a war, the innocent ones are the most affected - women, children…So you try to think it over because I’ve already signed the BOL.)
“I have no expectation. Baka hindi magustuhan ng lahat. O ‘di tignan natin kung kayang i-modify, palitan. Hindi kaagad magsabi na ma-disappoint, mag-giyera kaagad.”
(I have no expectation. Other may not like it. Let’s see if we can modify or replace it. One cannot wage war just because he is disappointed.)
Duterte issued this statement in Zamboanga City, which has historically opposed its inclusion in Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Duterte only issued the statement to entertain possible complaints against the law, even as the period of consultation was long over.
“The general sentiment of the President is, if there are those who want to object because of the specific provisions, we are open to reviewing,” Roque said in a press briefing.
Roque also said Duterte’s statement should not mean that the law was rushed.
“It was not rushed. It has been there. It’s been pending. It took us almost a year to discuss the BOL. There’s been substantial consultations,” he said.
“Nothing is perfect and of course the BOL as signed into law is a result of compromise. All the President was saying was, if you have specific complaints, we are open to discuss these complaints with the view of possibly amending further the law.”
The Bangsamoro Organic Law is the product of years of negotiations between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the Philippines’ largest Muslim separatist group.
Duterte's predecessor, Benigno Aquino III, forged the peace agreement with the MILF in 2014 but failed to get Congress to pass the law when he stepped down in 2016.
The 16th Congress halted debates due to public outrage over the deaths of 44 police commandos in a botched anti-terrorism raid in Mamasapano, Maguindanao in January 2015, where some MILF members were accused of involvement.
Some provisions in the Bangsamoro law's earlier versions also faced questions on constitutionality.
Duterte, the first Mindanaoan president, breathed new life into the Bangsamoro law, as he expanded the Bangsamoro Transition Commission which then went back to the drawing board and produced the proposed measure that the 17th Congress tackled and passed.