Submit citizens' council report on BBL asap – Rodriguez
MANILA, Philippines – With time running out for the passage of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) before the 2016 elections, the chairperson of the ad hoc committee on the bill in the House of Representatives asked President Benigno Aquino III to fast-track the submission of a citizens council report to Congress.
Cagayan de Oro Representative Rufus Rodriguez welcomed the creation of a citizens' council that would help the public understand the proposed Bangsamoro law in the aftermath of the Mamasapano tragedy.
However, he said the body should produce recommendations within three weeks before the House resumes deliberation on the bill.
"My only request is that if possible, that it would come out with recommendations on or before April 20 when we resume deliberations and certainly we would also invite them to come and have more exchanges with our committee," Rodriguez said
Rodriguez was one of the guests during the celebration of the one-year anniversary of the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro between the government and rebel group Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) – the basis for the BBL – in Intramuros Friday, March 27.
The commemoration came two months after the bungled police operation in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, that killed 66 Filipinos, including 44 elite cops, 17 MILF rebels and 5 civilians, placing the fate of the peace process in jeopardy. (READ: A year after peace deal signing: Prospects for Bangsamoro law)
Close to two months after the tragedy, the Senate and the police Board of Inquiry (BOI) released separate reports on the tragedy - both raising questions over the President's approval of a flawed plan to arrest wanted terrorists in Maguindanao. The MILF also released its own report that contradicted some of the Senate and BOI findings, especially on the accountability of their men.
"I think we are practically wrapping up the episode of the Mamasapano incident as far as the reports on what happened. The only thing left to do is wait for the Department of Justice report on who is responsible, Rodriguez said.
Getting back on track
Despite the political fallout from Mamasapano, MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal said the MILF is not giving up.
"Now, the BBL is battered but it's not yet down. I think there is some sort of recovery. After all, we can't blame outburst of emotions. That natural for human beings. I think we are recovering," Iqbal said.
"With the pronouncement of the President this afternoon that a sort of a group is being formed, I think this would help push the peace process, especially the BBL in Congress," he added.
In a recent forum in Cagayan de Oro, Iqbal said the MILF would not disengage from the peace process no matter what the outcome of the BBL in Congress would be.
Maguindanao Governor Esmael Mangudadatu echoed Rodriguez's call to launch the citizens' council for the BBL as soon as possible.
"It has to be done early. It has to be done fast. You know, there's only one year left before the elections," Mangudadatu said.
The House ad hoc committee on the Bangsamoro bill aims to put the measure to a vote when session resumes in May so it can move to the plenary and be passed by June. The Senate, meanwhile, is set to resume deliberations on April 13.
The proposed law seeks to create a parliamentary form of automous region in Muslim Mindanao with greater political and fiscal powers than the current one in place. But aside from the political fallout post-Mamasapano, the bill also faces constitutional questions.
It is the product of a peace deal born out of 17 years of negotiations that aims to end more than 4 decades of war in Mindanao. – Rappler.com