philstar – ‘Revised Bangsamoro law protects national interest’

By Christina Mendez | philstar

philstar-new-logoThe peace agreement proposing autonomy for the Bangsamoro people was based on generated fears and suspicion when government negotiators excluded other parties and dealt solely with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), according to Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.

During his sponsorship speech of the proposed Basic Law on the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region (BAR) yesterday, Marcos said the Senate version of the basic law protects national interest and reserves powers enshrined under the Constitution to the national government.

“The basic law addresses the first and most important prerequisite to peace – the definitive end to armed conflict – by providing an efficient, verifiable program of disarmament and demobilization, overseen by an independent monitoring body, and providing the needed financial and social assistance to former fighters to become peaceful and productive members of society,” he said.

Marcos, who chairs the Senate committee on local government, said the panel moved to “strike down any provision that is clearly in conflict with (the) letter and spirit” of the Philippine Constitution.

Noting the history of secessionist armed struggle in Mindanao, Marcos said the committee deemed it essential that the proposed law would never be a vehicle for the establishment of an independent state.

He said the committee also believed that the autonomy of the constituent local government units of the BAR, as defined in the Local Government Code of 1991, as amended, should not be diminished.

The panel placed importance on the principle of checks and balances in all aspects of governance in the BAR, saying this was the main cause of failure of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

It also stressed the need to prioritize peace and order in the autonomous region, which should remain the primary responsibility of the national government through a structured Philippine National Police.

Under Senate Bill 2894, Marcos noted that decommissioning shall continue to be implemented and supervised by the independent decommissioning body, albeit with enhanced functions and auxiliary support from the government.

MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal and members of the government peace panel were present at the Senate plenary session hall yesterday.

Marcos also questioned yesterday why Malaysia was allowed to be a facilitator in the peace agreement between the Philippine government and the MILF when it is “not a disinterested party whose only goal is to aid the creation of peace.”

The senator noted that Malaysia “stubbornly refuses to recognize our rightful claim to Sabah” and that it had, “at least in the recent past, given shelter and aid to separatists and terrorists against the Filipino people.”

“Malaysia’s involvement only raises suspicions about the loyalties of those in the new Bangsamoro region and raises justifiable fears of the ‘Balkanization’ of our land, and the irretrievable loss of our rightful territory in Sabah,” he said.

But he admitted that this “cannot be undone now.”

Still hopeful

Malacañang remains hopeful that the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) would be passed in its original form, despite the support of a majority of senators for the substitute bill over the Palace-backed version.

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda clarified, however, that they have not yet read the copy of the substitute bill that Marcos filed and 17 senators signed.

Still, Lacierda said that from the outset, the government has “taken all the stakeholders into consideration.”

“Even if we had negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the perspective was to make sure that no one would be left behind,” he stressed.

What Lacierda could only say at this point is that the measure will be deliberated upon in the plenary. “I’m sure that everyone will act, taking into view their own appreciation of what is best for the country.”

 Meanwhile, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) said it accepted an invitation from the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) for the conduct of preliminary talks with the government peace panel.

Rev. Absalom Cerveza, MNLF spokesman, said the tripartite meeting would be held in Manila in the first week of September.

“We will attend the meeting for possible exploratory talks” on the final implementation of the 1996 peace accord, Cerveza told The STAR in a phone interview.

He clarified, however, that the meeting would not involve ongoing deliberations on the proposed BBL.

He said he would be representing MNLF chairman Nur Misuari during the meeting, as the latter “cannot travel to Manila because of some legal problems.”

Misuari has a standing warrant of arrest in connection with the 21-day Zamboanga siege in September 2013, which resulted in the deaths of hundreds of people.

In an earlier resolution, the OIC called for the synchronization of the 1996 MNLF peace accord and the government-MILF Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro.

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