By TYRONE A. VELEZ
September 11 2014
DAVAO CITY – Will the Bangsamoro Basic Law now submitted to Congress bring the peace for Muslim Mindanao?
Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Zarate, who comes from Davao City, said his party and other members under the Makabayan coalition will study the draft.
“Whether this draft will finally put an end to the Bangsamoro’s quest for self-determination or will it merely appease and pacify the Moro Islamic Liberation Front are among the questions that need to be answered,” said Zarate.
Members of the House of Representatives said this remains to be seen as Congress will debate and decide until the year end on the draft law that will carve a new autonomous region in Mindanao.
On Wednesday morning, Presidential Peace Adviser Teresita Deles and Bangsamoro Transition Council chair Mohagher Iqbal presented the draft law to Senate President Franklin Drilon and House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte in a ceremony in Malacañang witnessed by President Benigno Aquino III.
Aquino delivered a speech urging Congress to examine and pass the law “as soon as possible”.
The law will formalize the creation of a new autonomous Muslim region called Bangsamoro to replace the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
This law would also concretize the Framework Agreement of the Bangsamoro signed two years ago between the government and the MILF, which has waged nearly two decades of struggle for Muslim autonomy.
Congress has only 50 working days remaining for the rest of the year, but Cagayan de Oro Representative Rufus Rodriguez said the timeline is “doable” if lawmakers are open to discuss the draft with the intention to bring peace in Mindanao.
“We need to approach this legislative proposal with the intent to end decades of fighting that have caused massive displacement of families in Mindanao. Let us provide democratic space so that all voices would be heard during the public hearings including those from the Moro National Liberation Front, the BIFF, indigenous tribes, Christians, and other sectors,” Rodriguez said.
Public hearings and plenary debates are expected to take place to examine the Constitutionality and applicability of the law, which will create a parliamentary form of government and will define wealth-sharing on utilization of resources.
Zarate urged the Moro people and Mindanaoans to look whether the draft law could truly address issues in Mindanao.
“For the Bangsamoro, for Mindanao, for the country to attain genuine peace and development, the root causes of poverty, under development and exploitation in all its facets must be addressed, ” he added.
Zarate,however, warned that natural resources in Moro areas are already being eyed by the national government for business investments, way ahead of the signing of the law.
“At this early stage, the Aquino administration is already peddling these resources by signing into economic agreements that would tie the future Bangsamoro government to foreign interests, like Malaysia.”
“While a new organic law is yet to be passed by Congress, this early we have to be on the look out over attempts to place the future of the Bangsamoro in the hands of people who will profit greedily from the further liberalization of our economy and privatization of our basic services,” Zarate added.
These concerns were also raised by the Moro organization Suara Bangsamoro.
Jerome Aba of Suara Cotabto chapter added that residents in North Upi and Datu Blah in Maguindanao province reported of mining activities in their towns which province officials denied.
Aba also raised concerns on how much of the contents of the draft law would remain intact as it faces scrutiny in Congress.
“We wonder whose BBL would be passed in the end, the BTC version or the Malacañang version?” Aba asked.
“Let us remember last June, the original draft made by the BTC was returned by Malacañang to the BTC with 298 revisions and comments,” said Aba.
The 97-page draft BBL was submitted to the president on April 22, but was returned back to the BTC two months later with revisions from the palace legal advisers.
What followed were three series of workshops from both government and MILF panels to finalize an agreeable draft. Last August, presidential executive secretary Paquito Ochoa stepped in to resolve some of the hitches in the draft.
BTC Deputy Chair and MILF peace panel member Robert Maulana Alonto reportedly said the MILF “had compromised enough” on the revised final draft of the BBL, which is now 118 pages long and is comprised of 18 articles.