THE Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) was originally dawn up by negotiators of the previous Aquino administration with the leaders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). It was, however, so objectionable in the eyes of so many quarters that the Aquino administration ended without the BBL being approved by Congress.
The bill was based on an agreement that had been drawn up in less-than-open hearings and discussions with the MILF, to the exclusion of the other major Moro organization, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) as well as other Mindanao communities. Constitutionalists denounced provisions they deemed to be violative of the Philippine Constitution. In the Senate, Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s committee drew up an amended version of the bill. In the House, quorum became a problem as many congressmen appeared unwilling to be a party to approval of the BBL as it was.
Further efforts to enact the BBL were overtaken by the presidential elections in May, 2016, which elected President Duterte, one of whose campaign planks was a federal form of government under which a Moro autonomous region would have considerable fiscal autonomy within a territory centered on the present Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
Last Sunday, speaking in Davao City as he prepared to leave for Japan, the President appealed to Congress to expedite approval of a new BBL law drafted by a Bangsamoro Transition Commission, supported this time by both the MILF and MNLF. There would be a further transition to even greater autonomy later when a federal system of government is adopted in the coming Constitutional Assembly.
Mindanao has just been through the traumatic experience of Moro separatists led by the Maute Group, supported by the international Islamic State, occupying Marawi City for over five months. The rebels wanted to set up a territory of the Islamic State caliphate, with their leader Isnilon Hapilon as “emir.” Had the major Moro organizations – the MILF and the MNLF – joined in the rebellion, there might be no liberation of Marawi to this day.
In his speech in Davao, the President said the MILF and MNLF are now together behind the new BBL. But they have grown impatient over the long delay in congressional action, he said, and so he appealed to Congress to expedite its approval.
All concerned leaders of the nation will have an opportunity to examine the new BBL draft to ensure that the objections to the previous one – particularly the constitutional ones – have been fully answered and overcome.
The BBL may also help Congress when it moves on to the bigger mission of amending the Constitution, with the Bangsamoro territory’s autonomy set up as a possible model for the other autonomous regions of the country under a federal form of government.
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