Makati Business Club to Congress: Don't dilute BBL
MANILA, Philippines – The Makati Business Club (MBC) on Friday, March 27, urged Congress not to water down the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) as they called on lawmakers to resume discussions on the measure as soon as possible.
"To enhance the prospects for peace in Mindanao, we urge Congress to resume discussions on the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) at the earliest time," the MBC said in a statement.
It added: "Consistent with the position released by 14 esteemed framers of the Constitution last 9 January 2015, MBC shares the belief that the Constitutional principles of genuine human development, social justice, and lasting peace underlie the CAB and, ultimately, the proposed BBL. In this context, we respectfully urge Congress to not allow revisions that would contravene these values nor run against the aspirations of the Filipino people to attain a just, harmonious, and progressive Philippines."
Friday marked the first year anniversary of the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) between the government and rebel group Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) – the basis of the law now stuck in Congress amid a deadline that is getting tighter by the day.
Deliberations on the BBL were suspended following the bungled police operation to arrest wanted terrorists Zulkifli bin Hir (Marwan) and Abdul Basit Usman in Mamasapano, Maguindanao that killed 67 Filipinos.
After the release of separate reports from the Senate, the police Board of Inquiry and rebel group Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the House and the Senate agreed to resume deliberations in April even while session is on break for the summer.
Even before the Mamasapano tragedy, the proposed law has faced constitutional questions from legal luminaries. Proponents, meanwhile, maintain that it falls within the confines of the constitution.
The BBL aims to create a parliamentary form of autonomous government in Muslim Mindanao with more teeth than the current one in place.
House ad hoc committee chairperson, Cagayan de Oro Representative Rufus Rodriguez, said the chamber will ensure that it will not pass an unconstitutional law. The committee is set to delete provisions which it deems unconstitutional, including those creating autonomous auditing, election, civil service and human rights bodies for the Bangsamoro.
Amid the uncertainties, the international community reiterated anew its support for the peace process.
In a statement, the Canadian embassy said it continues to remain committed to supporting the Bangsamoro peace process.
"We remain supportive of the passage of a Bangsamoro Law and we recognize the diligent efforts of all sides to bring about an era of opportunities for the people of Mindanao," the statement read.
A total of 78 international and local groups earlier pledged their support for the peace process.
Plight of evacuees
In the aftermath of the Mamasapano tragedy, the military launched an all-out offensive against the breakaway Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), partly to hunt for Usman.
The operation has displaced over 100,000 individuals in 15 municipalities of Maguindanao, international aid agency Oxfam said.
Oxfam sought to place the spotlight on the plight of evacuees and highlighted the need for long-term solutions.
"The BBL is a foundational pillar of the CAB, and the peace and transition process as a whole. It will also bring benefit, not just to the people of the Bangsamoro, but to all Filipinos. A longer-term perspective must be taken by everyone, supporting interventions that will strike at the roots of conflict, poverty, and inequality in Mindanao," Oxfam said.
It took 17 years of negotiations before the CAB was signed as the armed conflict in Mindanao drags on for close to 5 decades.
The proposed Bangsamoro autonomous region is targeted to be established before Aquino steps down from office in 2016 but it first has to hurdle Congress and be ratified in a plebiscite. – Angela Casauay/Rappler.com