Aquino submits draft Bangsamoro law to Congress

September 11, 2014 at 9:13 am

LEGISLATIVE MILL. President Benigno Aquino III submits the Bangsamoro Basic Law to Congress September 10, 2014. File photo by Malacañang Photo Bureau

MANILA, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) – This is the main “antidote to radicalization” in Mindanao.

This, according to, Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal, who also heads the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, as President Benigno Aquino III on Wednesday, September 10, submitted the proposed law creating a new autonomous government in Mindanao to Congress leaders.

In a ceremony attended by close to 200 guests, Aquino personally handed over the Bangsamoro basic law draft to Senate President Franklin Drilon and Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr.

The Bangsamoro bill provides a legal framework for the final peace accord signed by the government and MILF in March after 17 years of negotiations aimed at ending 4 decades of war in Mindanao.

 

The mood was festive inside the Palace, with President Benigno Aquino III himself optimistic about the creation of the Bangsamoro within his term.

While the transmission of the draft took longer than expected, Aquino said the “long and thorough process,” was to ensure “every detail involved in fulfilling our shared desires for the Bangsamoro region.”

“I assure you: The Bangsamoro Basic Law was crafted to be fair, just, and acceptable to all, whether they are Moros, Lumads, or Christians,” he said.

The submission of the basic law came at the backdrop of commemorations of the anniversary of the siege of Zamboanga by MILF’s rival group, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), as well as reports of increased terrorist activity in the Philippines.

Iqbal said he is confident the creation of a new autonomous government would be enough to curtail radicalization in Mindanao.

“We’re here in Malacañang with no less than the President handing the Bangsamoro Basic Law to Congress. I think this is the main antidote to whatever radicalization there might be,” Iqbal said.

“The reality that nothing happened (between the MILF and the government) since we started negotiating until the crafting the Bangsamoro basic law…So, I don’t believe there is growing radicalization. So people can also imagine the situation. There will be radicalization to a certain extent but not to the extent that it will create a problem,” he added.

Next stage

The crafting of the proposed law marks the next stage of the peace process that will open discussions to more public scrutiny once the full text of the bill is made public.

To fast-track deliberations, the House has formed an ad hoc committee to to tackle the measure. Belmonte and Drilon are aiming for the passage of the Bangsamoro bill – a top priority of the Aquino administration – by March 2015.

In an interview with reporters after the turnover ceremonies, Iqbal refused to comment on whether he was satisfied with the target deadline.

“It is my firm belief that the wisdom of the House and the Senate will come up with a legislation that is faithful to the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law,” Iqbal said.

Efforts to arrive at a “mutually acceptable” draft pushed back the submission of the basic law to Congress by 4 months from the original target of May, after the MILF accused the government of diluting the first draft of the law submitted by the MILF-led Bangsamoro Transition Commission to Malacañang for review.

At the core of discussions are the constitutionality of the measure, one of the issues lawmakers are also expected to focus on once Congress starts deliberating the measure.